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May 19, 2019

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Tourism chief: Raiders will spur growth of sports medicine in Las Vegas

Preview Las Vegas Event

Steve Hill addresses the audience during the Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual Preview Las Vegas event at the Cox Pavilion on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016.

Nearly a year after Steve Hill told an audience at the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance’s annual update to hold out hope that the Raiders stadium deal hadn’t fizzled, he took the stage at this year’s outlook with a far different message.

Hill said the Raiders, who in February looked like they would go elsewhere, would not only boost the Las Vegas economy directly but would help fuel a major new development sector for Southern Nevada.

“The medical school at UNLV, tied to that sports industry, is I think maybe the largest economic opportunity Las Vegas has,” Hill said.

In the 11 months between Hill’s LVGEA speeches, the Raiders deal came together, the Vegas Golden Knights began their season and captivated the city with a record-setting performance by an expansion team, and the Las Vegas Lights minor league soccer team was formed.

Along with being home to two NASCAR races, the National Finals Rodeo, top-level boxing and mixed martial arts matches, Las Vegas is “obviously turning into one of the sports capitals of the world,” Hill said.

Last year, Hill found himself in a much different position when he spoke at the outlook event — in more ways than one.

Then, he was the director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which he left to become the chief operating officer for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. He started his new position this week, and was succeeded at GOED by former Nevada state legislative leader Paul Anderson.

Hill’s February appearance also came at a painful time, just after it was revealed that Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson had withdrawn from the deal and would not contribute $650 million in funding, which at that time was considered critical for the $1.9 billion stadium project.

Things got worse when, a day after Adelson pulled out, a backup plan to obtain the funding from Goldman Sachs went off the tracks.

So Hill’s message at that time was a weak one: essentially, keep your fingers crossed.

“They are confident they can secure the funding necessary to move this project forward, and they remain committed to making this project happen again,” he said of the Raiders.

A month after his speech, however, the Raiders secured financing from Bank of America, and the deal was finalized.

This year, Hill’s speech came as officials were working smoothly toward a February deadline of approving all of the agreements needed to finance and build the 65,000-seat stadium.

Meanwhile, the first group of students at UNLV’s medical school has completed the first half of its first year of studies. UNLV officials are continuing to secure private funding to couple with $27 million approved by the state Legislature in 2015 to construct the medical school facility.

Once the Raiders are established and the medical school is built out, Hill said, the city has the opportunity to become global sports medicine leader.