Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2019

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Why Raiders, L.V. Stadium Authority are struggling with community benefits plan

Raiders' Stadium Renderings

Copyright 2017 LV Stadium Company, LLC

Rendering of the proposed Las Vegas Raiders Stadium.

Bringing the Super Bowl to the Strip felt like the easy part for the Raiders and Las Vegas Stadium Authority board on Thursday.

On an afternoon when Raiders President Marc Badain said the Super Bowl might be less than seven years away from arriving in Las Vegas, a tense discussion about the community benefits plan required of the team by Nevada law instead highlighted the board’s regular meeting.

Raiders Executive Vice President Dan Ventrelle offered a passionate defense of the plan as board members questioned why the team did not include numeric goals for the number of women and minority-owned businesses that will build and operate the stadium. Board chairman Steve Hill said the impasse on that issue between the Raiders and authority staff took shape a couple of months ago.

“Sometimes if you don’t put things in writing and you don’t have concrete objective targets, despite your best efforts or your best-faith efforts, sometimes you don’t quite hit the mark,” board member Ken Evans said.

Ventrelle pointed to specific targets offered by the team for workforce participation by women and minorities — 38 percent of total work hours in constructing the stadium and 55 percent of total work hours in operating it. He also reminded board members that the community benefits language in Senate Bill 1, which authorized $750 million in tax money for the $1.9 billion project, does not require the Raiders to include any numbers.

“That document does not contain a single hiring target, does not contain a single numerical metric, does not contain a minority hiring target,” Ventrelle said.

After exchanges between Evans and Ventrelle, board member Tommy White expressed frustration and attempted to bring the proposal to a vote, saying issues could be resolved after construction begins.

“We’ve got hundreds of people that want to go to work, but we’re sitting here beating this document up. And I know there’s a lot of board members on this board that would like to get past this document and start working on more serious documents than this one,” White said.

The board could not vote on the plan Thursday because its posted agenda listed it as a discussion item. The law does not give the authority the power to ratify the community benefits plan, as Ventrelle said in responding to one question, but both sides would like board approval in a spirit of cooperation.

Ventrelle characterized the team’s inclusion of the specific workforce targets and a set of guidelines for ensuring strong participation by women and minority businesses as the Raiders desiring to be good community partners. He said expecting more than two “variables” — or commitments — “is an out-of-market expectation” that goes beyond what community benefit plans in other cities include.

“That’s OK, we’re fine with that and happy to commit to three variables,” Ventrelle said.

After the meeting, Raiders President Marc Badain stood behind the plan.

“We’re proud of the largest minority participation/involvement percentages in any community benefits plan or community benefits agreement in any stadium project in the country,” Badain said.

Board chairman Steve Hill said that despite the limits imposed by Senate Bill 1 on his group’s ability to negotiate the community benefits plan, he sees a path to resolving the outstanding issues. Hill favors the specific numeric targets for minority and women businesses that the Raiders have resisted.

“I don’t know that I need bargaining power at this point as much as just a willing partner, and I think we have that,” Hill said. “The Raiders are trying to make this the best community benefit plan they can. We haven’t had to try to leverage each other yet and I wouldn’t necessarily anticipate that we’d have to.”

The board next meets in December and Hill hopes to bring the community benefits plan back for review at that time.

Badain and Hill will have plenty of time to discuss the plan when they travel Tuesday to Houston to continue their pitch to host games in the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the Raiders stadium. That progress joined potential Las Vegas dates for the Super Bowl and NFL Draft as major news in Badain’s brief presentation to the board.

Badain said the draft could arrive in Las Vegas as early as 2019 or 2020, while the team is shooting for a Super Bowl in Las Vegas in either 2024 or 2025. The next Super Bowl without an announced home is 2023.

Badain and Hill will participate in the second round of World Cup bidding in Houston, as Las Vegas is one of 25 American cities under consideration to be included in the unified North American bid to host soccer’s crown jewel. The final bid will be submitted to FIFA, the sport’s governing body, in March.

The Raiders stadium project is expected to be completed by July 2020, in time for the team to play that NFL season in Las Vegas. The effort will officially break ground in a Monday ceremony at the stadium site located near Interstate 15 and Russell Road.