Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2019

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Specter of a lost season for Raiders intensifies talks on stadium lease


John Locher / AP

A sign advertises the Raiders football team near a site for the team’s proposed stadium, Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Las Vegas.

The Raiders know the steps along a stadium negotiation high wire well enough to walk them backward and blindfolded.

The seasoned executives on the Las Vegas Stadium Authority board have worked hundreds of millions of dollars in deals.

Their collective savvy at the bargaining table will undergo a major stress test following Thursday’s revelation by the Raiders that their move to Las Vegas could be delayed until 2021 if the lease is not ready for NFL owners to approve at their May 22-23 spring meeting.

“If you miss the May deadline and push to October, we would lose a year,” Raiders President Marc Badain said after Thursday’s meeting. “Everybody wants to get this project going. Everybody wants to get these guys to work, so we want to respect that.”

NFL owners do not meet again until October and the full league membership must vote on approving the Raiders lease. That leads to the league applying pressure on the stadium authority, not just on the May deadline but on specific lease items during negotiating sessions as well.

“The NFL has directly asked us to attempt to have a lease approved by the owners meeting,” board chairman Steve Hill said. “There has been no ‘get this done or else’ type of approach on this request.”

The "or else" piece, though, appears to be the specter of a lost season for the Las Vegas Raiders, a team already without a clear home for 2019 while 2020 also now comes into question.

Badain informed authority officials after the March vote by NFL owners approving the Raiders application to relocate to Las Vegas that the lease needed to be finished by May to satisfy a condition attached to the vote. Hill said Thursday he understood the Raiders desire at that time but that Badain reiterated the point to him in a stronger fashion at last month’s NFL Draft party in Las Vegas.

Authority and Raiders representatives met daily this week and resolved a number of items including lease renewal rights, performance metric structures and financial audit procedures.

“We have made a lot of progress in the last two weeks to get to the point where you saw today,” Badain said. “Both sides gave and compromised on a lot of items. It was time to make some decisions and we did that.”

Badain and Hill both expressed confidence that outstanding issues with the 30-year lease agreement can be solved in coming days. Foremost among sticking points for the authority is ensuring the stadium events company retained by the Raiders brings in enough events to meet tourism revenue projections that spurred the state’s $750 million public investment in the $1.9 billion facility. The state legislation authorizing that funding gives total control of stadium events and their profits to the Raiders.

Board member and MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle raised a point echoed recently by others close to the negotiation: If an event would not make money for the stadium events company but still would bring taxpaying visitors to Southern Nevada, would the company put on an unprofitable event that ultimately benefits the local economy through tourism?

“There are no requirements to do that,” Hornbuckle said. “I simply remain concerned by that.”

The Raiders and the authority compromised on a new section of the lease requiring the events company to provide the authority with quarterly reports on how many events and attendees come to the stadium. Another addition obligates the company to undergo an annual private audit.

The board scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, May 18, to leave itself the option to approve the lease at that point. A May 22 meeting previously was scheduled for the purpose of the board approving its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, but could be used to bless the lease as well.

The Raiders own a lease option to play at the Oakland Coliseum for the 2018 season, but likely will not remain at their longtime home beyond then. Coliseum authority officials want to move on from the Raiders after next year despite owner Mark Davis preferring to remain in Oakland until the team moves to Las Vegas. The coliseum authority and the Raiders remain engaged in a dispute over hundreds of thousands of dollars in parking fees that authority officials believe the team owes.

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