Editorial: Lawmakers should repeal football stadium funding

Lawmakers were summoned this past fall to Carson City and asked to pitch in $750 million toward financing a $1.9 billion domed football stadium that would house the Oakland Raiders and the UNLV football program.

The Raiders and the NFL would add $500 million to the pot and Las Vegas casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson’s family would tip in another $650 million.

Since then Adelson has walked away from the deal, taking his money. He was miffed at the fact the Raiders’ owner never told him before hand about a proposed lease agreement with the stadium authority that legislators created to handle the “publicly owned” stadium.

The lease proposal envisions the Raiders paying $1 a year in rent, and the team owners pocketing all revenue from tickets, events, naming rights, etc., as well as having total control over the use of the stadium by UNLV and the Las Vegas Bowl.

“In addition to being discouraged by the surprise submission, I was deeply disappointed for the disregard the Raiders showed our community partners, particularly UNLV, through the proposed agreement,” Adelson said in a statement given to his Las Vegas newspaper. “It was certainly shocking to the Adelson family,” the statement also said. “We were not only excluded from the proposed agreement; we weren’t even aware of its existence. … It’s clear the Raiders have decided their path for moving to Las Vegas does not include the Adelson family. So, regrettably, we will no longer be involved in any facet of the stadium discussion.”

It is high time lawmakers, now meeting in regular session, reconsider the state’s commitment of room tax money to this harebrained, half-baked scheme to enrich billionaires.

Instead of sticking tourists with a 0.88 percent hike in the room tax, lawmakers should let them keep that money to spend on food, drink and gambling, which net nearly 10 times as much in tax revenue.

Sam Boyd, where there are more people on the field than in the stands.

Sam Boyd, where there are more people on the field than in the stands.

Now, we are reticent to suggest that the proponents of this stadium deal are so Machiavellian as to have plotted this from the start, but …

Lawmakers should note that there is no stadium price tag in the bill they passed, and the stadium backers flatly refused to consider capping public funding at 39 percent of the cost of construction. It was $750 million or no deal. The cost of the stadium when first proposed was a mere $1 billion. It ratcheted up from there. What is to stop the Raiders from building a $1 billion stadium, tapping the taxpayers for three-quarters of the tab and getting the state to make the estimated $900 million in road improvements needed to access the stadium?

Besides, does UNLV really need a new football stadium, when it can’t fill the one it has? One that has adequate traffic access off a major freeway and abundant parking. Why is there a need for a stadium on or near the campus, when 93 percent of students live off campus? And never mind the problems it might create for air traffic into McCarran International Airport.

A stadium is a liability, not an asset. It is an insatiable maw that swallows tax money in perpetuity.

The Kingdome in Seattle was repaired in 1994, costing more than $50 million in 20-year bonds, which were paid off in 2015. The stadium was imploded in 2000.

Renovate Sam Boyd Stadium if that is needed and forget this domed stadium boondoggle. If Adelson can take a hike, so can the state.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

15 comments on “Editorial: Lawmakers should repeal football stadium funding

  1. Bruce Kester says:

    Thomas…. Give us an estimate of how much tax payer money has been spent on this project to date.
    Private money, legal fees, architectural expenses, etc. aside, I can only imagine how much city, county, and state money has been spent so far. Roll into that the money Oakland has spent in all endeavors to keep the Raiders there and a million here and a million there starts to look like big money.

  2. Steve says:

    IF this left legislature does anything to pull that money from the stadium, it will do so in such a way as to KEEP the tax.
    In fact Aaron Ford is already drooling all over it!

  3. John Smith says:

    Writing something similar.

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Don’t forget the $900 million to improve roads for the stadium.

  5. I’m sure Ford can find a way to spend more of our money.

  6. deleted says:

    “Our”? I thought this money came from tourists?

  7. Into “our” tax coffers to be spent in whatever way lawmakers decide. Gaming taxes and sales taxes paid by tourists are also “our” money.

  8. I will note that many Nevadan’s do not live in Las Vegas and have to travel there for medical or other reasons. If they must stay overnight, they are paying the tax. The Assembly could have exempted Nevadans when they passed the law by simply having them produce a drivers license when checking into a motel and not being charged the tax. They did not do that one small thing.

  9. deleted says:

    That’s a fine idea Shepard.

  10. Bill says:

    Government should never get into the business of building stadiums for private businesses and should really not build them for public schools or universities.

    There is the initial expenditure and then the upkeep, repair, remodel and then inevitable replacement.

    At the risk of being labeled a heretic, there should be some discussion on eliminating most athletics from public schools and colleges. Where, in my social contract does it say that I, or any other citizen should pay for more than the basic services expected from government. Subsidizing a professional football team or devoting public time and money, in the millions of dollars on sports complexes and coaching staff and support might free up money better used for classroom space and teaching staff.

    This tax is now in place and will only reluctantly be repealed if at all. The appetite for tax revenue is as insatiable on the part of public servants as heroin is for an addict.

  11. Steve says:

    Good minds think along the same lines.

    Alan Snell writing for The Nevada Independent

    “I have covered stadium deals in Denver, South Florida, Seattle and Tampa Bay and have tracked others around the country. I’m unaware of any sports facility where the person who triggered the stadium subsidy process and paid for the subsidy lobbying backed out of the deal after the public was on the hook for the dough.”

    With the principle out of the deal the whole thing should be scrubbed and the room tax repealed.


    (Looks to me as though Jon Ralston is doing good with The Nevada Independent)

  12. Steve says:

    Hype to keep it alive?

  13. […] the Nevada Department of Transportation estimates it will take $900 million to improve the roads to access the most likely stadium site. Don’t think for a minute that the billionaire Raiders […]

  14. […] guessed at cost, the taxpayers will be ponying up nearly 40 percent of the cost. If comes in at the original estimate of $1 billion, the taxpayers will pick up 75 percent of the tab, plus the $900 million in road improvements for a […]

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