Adelson wants $1b Vegas stadium funded by “public-private partnership,” possibly to lure Raiders

The University of Nevada Las Vegas’s plans to put off further discussion of a new campus football stadium until 2017 just got upended yesterday, as Sands casino company owner Sheldon Adelson announced that he wants in on building a $1 billion domed stadium for UNLV — and plans to meet with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis about possibly having his team play there.

Adelson should be familiar to anyone with an interest in national politics or the journalism industry: He’s a major Republican campaign donor who has had all the GOP presidential candidates competing for his sweet, sweet cash endorsement, and recently bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal while hiding behind a Connecticut newspaper publisher who curried favor with his new boss by writing positive articles about him under a pseudonymous byline.

It may or may not be connected, but the Review-Journal’s story on Adelson’s proposed stadium contains some of the more hilariously credulous statements about a stadium proposal that have been seen in these parts in some time. Let’s begin:

Andy Abboud, Las Vegas Sands’ senior vice president of government relations and community development, said Thursday that Las Vegas needs a modern stadium with at least 65,000 seats to drive additional tourism to Southern Nevada…

“We are moving forward with the stadium concept with or without an NFL team,” Abboud said Thursday. “We see a lot more opportunities — conference championships, bowl games, NFL exhibition football, boxing, soccer, neutral site games, and music festivals. There is an entire segment out there.”…

Abboud said the project would be a “public-private partnership” in which Las Vegas Sands or the Adelson family would contribute an unspecified large portion of the financing.

Okay, sure, it’s Abboud saying all those things, not the R-J. But still, letting stand unchallenged the notions that 1) Las Vegas — Las Vegas — is missing out of tourists because it doesn’t have a 65,000-seat football stadium, 2) stuff like boxing and music festivals is going to represent a significant amount of income for a domed football stadium, and 3) an amount of money can be simultaneously “large” and “unspecified” is pretty dismal journalism. You couldn’t even pick up the phone and call one person not involved in the deal to see whether any of these claims are remotely realistic? Maybe we should check that byline again…

15 comments on “Adelson wants $1b Vegas stadium funded by “public-private partnership,” possibly to lure Raiders

  1. Leave it to the U.S. to invent welfare for billionaires and billionaires who dare to ask for handouts. Was it Churchill who said the U.S. will do the right thing after exhausting all other options? Haven’t we exhausted all the other options yet?

  2. Being a Las Vegas resident, there is no way this stadium will receive public funding. The MGM ruined that scenario by publicly financing their arena. Not to mention, people here still remember the insane amount of money Adelson spent in 2012 on the Republican party (excess of $200 million). The man used to have one of the sharpest business minds, but has gotten senile and sloppy as of late. The purchase of the local newspaper was a very bad business deal and a blatant attempt to sway public opinion in his favour in regards to a massive lawsuit against Sands.

  3. If Davis plays his cards right with Adelson, not only will he get a new stadium, he could be the front runner for president in 2020. “Davis in 2020. I’ll do for America what I did for the Raiders.”

  4. Jay, you know they’re going to use public money because the stadium will be for UNLV too. Vegas was about to spend public money on an MLS stadium nobody wanted, but people like football, and this should kill any future MLS proposals. I don’t see how Vegas isn’t coerced into giving at least $200 million. (Not saying they should- but let’s not act surprised.)

  5. Please let there be a SuperBowl or a College Football final in Las Vegas, that’d be something. Maybe the Raiders could play half their home games there.

  6. Where I live has been duped into several “Public-Private Partnerships” for sports teams and it curiously always seems like the public “partner” pays all the costs to build the stadium while the private “partner” keeps all the money it generates.

  7. I’ve been hesitant to bring this up since he’s a very divisive figure and there’s a lot of potential for things to get off track and out of scope for this site but this post does seem to be a good place to bring up the subject of the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency and what that means for stadium funding.

    For those who don’t remember, Donald Trump owned an USFL team so he’s familiar with professional sports. The USFL, while technically the winners in their lawsuit against the NFL, were really the losers of that case. In recent years Congress has talked more and more about the anti trust exemptions that have been handed out to professional sports teams. The NFL isn’t an organization anyone in Congress wants to end up the enemy of so anyone in the government who is going to take them on needs to be assured there will be a kill shot or risk retaliation through campaign finance. Donald Trump upsets the status quo here because he doesn’t need to worry about the team owners giving money to his opposition and having been on the “losing” side of a lawsuit against the NFL, has no love for the organization especially after being rebuffed on later attempts to purchase an NFL team. If Congress decides to look into the increasingly ludicrous amounts of public money flowing into pro sports, they’d likely be able to find cover from the White House.

    Stadium funding in general is a local or state matter but there are federal entanglements beyond the anti-trust exemptions. The parking lot bridge for the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium is getting a large portion of its funding from federal transit dollars. Then there are the games with muni bonds that the feds don’t currently tax. Add in interstate funds for upgrading roads near stadiums, the secret money from the Armed Forces for shows of patriotism, etc and it starts adding up. If the federal government wants to treat professional sports leagues in the same way it treats any other average industry, it could be quite the financial blow.

  8. 1) Lots of places in Las Vegas struggle on non-event weekends. Even if a dome only draws 4 big events per year, that’s only $15 million per event to pay off $60 million/year in debt service. That’s only $300 per person for a crowd of 50,000. And if Adelson follows through with funding part of it (I’m not holding my breath), then debt service could be even lower. 2) At least one music festival per year would use the dome. They may not draw 50k, but they draw five figures. Boxing would be rare unless/until a new Manny Pacquiao comes up.

    I think a big part of this is that Adelson wants an arena to compete with MGM’s new arena. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up pitching a project that can somehow be configured for 15-20 thousand seat shows. I think he just can’t say that right now because he wants convention money and UNLV money for the dome.

  9. Alex the situation is different because where the stadium is located is in Clark County, who oppose any public funding. The City of Las Vegas political leaders are completely inept, so much so that they are willing to fund a minor league baseball stadium outside their city limits; whereas the county has repeatedly said no. Not only that, but the genesis behind the MLS stadium fiasco was that some of the land the would-be stadium who have lied is owned by the Goodman family. Now in regards to UNLV playing there: they are issuing bonds backed by the State of Nevada in purchasing the acreage. Adelson will make his plea for some form of tax break in the form of the reallocation of his company’s portion of the hotel taxes that currently goes to the LVCVA. The backstory behind Adelson and the LVCVA is its own topic.

    There are a lot of moving parts and politicking going on in Vegas right now. There are billions at stake from venues, convention facilities, casinos, resorts, utilities, infrastructure, and transportation. I will say this: the Rams moving to LA changed everything. LA is the one city Vegas is afraid of, insomuch it could take large-scale events away. Prepare for a serious arms race from a municipal standpoint.

  10. Don’t forget that you need to pay the players/artists, hot dog guys, and nacho cheese distributors out of that $300/person, too, so it’s not all net profit.

    And I don’t know about Vegas needing yet another arena. Is Jackie Robinson’s crazy retractable-roofed thing still alive, or did that finally get left on the side of the road to die?

  11. To be fair, I’m not sure how you can fact-check any of the claims. At this point it seems like the plan is something scrawled on a cocktail napkin. “It’s going to be big and we’ll play football in it” is probably the extent of the current plan.

    Also, something has become clear: Mark Davis is looking for a specific type of stadium home. He absolutely needs a city that’s name has two words. I mean he got turned down for Los Angeles so 2 weeks ago he was moving to San Antonio, last week to San Diego and this week to Las Vegas.

    Why bother getting into details? Davis still needs to work through Fort Worth, El Paso, Oklahoma City, Virginia Beach, Little Rock, Fort Wayne and Des Moines before he finally settles on Santa Clara.

  12. Scola has hit on something big. I expect folks around my home town of Iowa City are going to be seeing a lot of Mark Davis and his entourage. Within a short drive are Cedar Rapids, North Liberty, West Liberty, Lone Tree, Cou Falls, and the probable front runner, West Branch: home of the Herbert Hoover presidential library, and the future home of the WB Raiders.

  13. Jay, I don’t read much about minor league baseball other than Neil’s extensive coverage of the Yard Goats. Inept politicians are everywhere, that’s not unique to Vegas.

    However, I don’t see how Vegas is afraid of LA; if anything, both cities are more afraid of water shortages. The real issue is NFL is afraid of Vegas. Professional teams of all leagues are breaking bread with DraftKings/FanDuel pseudo-gambling money, but perpetuate dogma from last century, as if they’re unaware that 99% of all sports bets in this country take place outside of Nevada.

    Vegas can offer what Oakland won’t, Money. Whether it’s (hopefully) private Money from Sands or that Vegas corruption that makes money appear when they want to contrive an MLS stadium proposal & makes the money vanish when it doesn’t pass.