As Raiders unveil stadium pics, reporters told to ask subsidy questions, keep answers secret (UPDATED)

I have a big stack of news items that I’m going to be playing catchup with all week, but I’m still on the road one more day, so that infodump will need to wait till Tuesday at the earliest. Instead, here’s the latest rendering released by the Oakland Raiders ownership of a possible new stadium in Las Vegas: raiders-vegas-stadium-frontAs stadium watchers and journalists alike immediately noticed, this bears a striking resemblance to the stadium that the Raiders and San Diego Chargers were going to build in Carson, California:
raiders-carson-rendering-08-26-16There’s even the return of the giant Al Davis eternal flame that was originally proposed for Carson, then scrapped because it was just so stupid:

raiders-stadium-vegas-flameWhy cut-and-paste old designs into a new site, especially when you don’t even know which Vegas site it might be? Momentum, duh: This enables Raiders owner Mark Davis and his investment partners Sheldon Adelson and Majestic Realty to make it feel like this thing is going to get built, look, we have pictures of it, rather than having the Nevada public’s main image be of a pile of burning money. It’s the same reason why Davis filed for the trademark “Las Vegas Raiders” and released new stadium spending estimates stressing his own share of costs, even if they were misleading (he’s still failing to mention the roughly $250 million in tax increment kickbacks that Majestic has insisted are necessary for the project) and failed basic math (of a now-$1.9 billion total cost, the state would kick in $750 million in hotel-tax revenues and the private developers would put up $1.25 billion, which wait, what?).

If this stadium does happen, those almost certainly won’t be the final spending numbers, and these almost certainly won’t be what the stadium looks like. But it’s a lot easier to make a deal look like a fait accompli when you have hard numbers and actual drawings, even if those are just things you made up knowing you’ll change them later. It’s the clear plastic binder all over again.

And all this is aided and abetted, meanwhile, by having one of the stadium developers own the biggest newspaper in town, which allows for media manipulation like this jaw-dropping one revealed by Ralston Reports:

Reporters for Sheldon Adelson’s newspaper have been told to ask candidates if they support public money for the stadium proposed by the Las Vegas Sands chairman but that the Las Vegas Review-Journal will not actually publish the answers.

This astonishing request was made in a memo two weeks ago from Assistant City Editor Don Ham:

All of you who are handling state Senate, state Assembly and Clark County Commission races for the tab should make sure to ask this very timely question of the candidates. This question is NOT going to be added to the question asked of candidates for the online election package, though. Should public money, in the form of room taxes, be used to build a proposed stadium in Las Vegas. Why or why not? Any questions, see me. Thanks.

The leading theory here is that Adelson, who owns the Review-Journal, is intent on using the paper’s reporters to gather intelligence on where candidates stand on his stadium subsidy proposal, without actually using any of that information to, you know, inform readers. This would be far from the worst abuse of power by Adelson involving his newspaper holdings, but only because he’s set the bar so very high.

UPDATE: The Review-Journal’s managing editor writes in to say that the stadium questions were too for publication, just for publication in a different part of the paper. I’ll add further updates if I can ferret out whose interpretation of events makes a damn bit of sense.


21 comments on “As Raiders unveil stadium pics, reporters told to ask subsidy questions, keep answers secret (UPDATED)

  1. Buy up a local newspaper so you can sway (swindle?) the public into dropping at least $750 million on the world’s most grandest-est circus venue ever. That’s a hell of a life goal if you’re an aspiring sociopath.

    • Not even the GoodFellas would want that association. Let alone, the GoodFeathers

      Once again, any wonder why they are still acting like the RAIDERS OF THE LOST CAUSE. And why do I have this suspicion that after the novelty of the team in Vegas has passed, there will be a huge tarp on the upper deck of the ballpark? Like what what was on Mt. Davis this past Saturday night….the same one the folks at CBS were being coy about having in the long shots of the stadium.

  2. My favorite part of the article:

    “Not to be difficult, but we’re not negotiable,” [Sands president Rob ] Goldstein said at the meeting, via the Associated Press. “If we can’t get 750 [million], we respectfully thank you but we’re going to move on.”

    I would rather have a billionaire who is asking for a hand out to be up front about it that throw hints in here and there.

    The “correct” math is here in a Executive Review of the deal:

    https://www.scribd.com/document/322188605/Raiders-Las-Vegas-presentation

    FINANCIAL SOURCES AND USES

    SOURCES
    Team (Debt, PSLs and NFL G-4 Program) $500
    Public Investment (39%) $750
    Private Investment $650

    TOTAL SOURCES $1,900

    USES
    Stadium Construction $1,325
    Land, Infrastructure and Site Costs $375
    Practice Facility $100
    Contingency $100

    TOTAL USES $1,900

    I think the newspaper calculated the Sands investment at $750 instead of $650.

    I didn’t see any TIF financing mentioned in the preso, unless it is festering under the skin and will rear it’s ugly head to pay off the Raiders or the Sands.

    I don’t recall, but it Davis giving up any ownership of the team to entice the Sands? I can’t believe they are doing this out of the goodness of their heart.

    • Well…

      As I have said numerous times, there is no money in the G-4 fund. The owners have to go to the NFLPA and ask for them to replenish the fund through reduction of salaries as per CBA. Good luck getting them to agree to any financial concessions when Goddell is on the warpath and the general consensus being football players are underpaid relative to the nature of the profession (they are). Also, Las Vegas is one of the poorest and least educated populaces in the country. How in the hell is Davis going to generate $100 million in PSL sales when a much more affluent and educated populace in Atlanta can’t even raise that?

      This is how arrogant yet clueless how Sands executives are: according to Adelson, he is cutting the check from his personal wealth. Yet, you have a Sands executive stating give us $750 million or else. If Adelson is using his own money. what function does this executive serve? If Adelson is fronting the private money portion, what function does Majestic have?

      There is something else that was telling and I’m surprised they allowed it to slip. “New” tax revenues will only total around $16.5 million per year. Estimates on bond payments is around $50-60 million (depending on interest rates). Captain Math tells me that is a difference of $35-45 million. Who’s going to make up the difference? Yet when you tell uneducated Las Vegans this, they scoff, saying the tourists will be paying the bill; not realizing the money will be raised through the issuance of bonds and backed by taxpayers.

      I’ll give Davis credit: he couldn’t have picked a better market to peddle this ridiculous proposal to.

      • Jany…not questioning..just wondering….
        Can you point to a source on the exhausted G4 fund?

        And I know I saw that $16.5M tax figure someplace too, but can’t locate it. Depending on the terms (length & int%),you are correct on the bond payments. If there is such a big gap…hello TIF or general fund.

      • New Tax Revenues will generate almost 54 million based on 95% occupancy rate. So I am wondering how you came to 16.5 million from 155k rooms at 95% occupancy paying an average 1 dollar, per room, per night, 365 days a year.

        You might want to step back and check your math. The tax is set at 1.5X coverage of the bonds. For the public to be on the hook it would take an occupancy rate in the 60% range. Even in 2008/9 occupancy was in the 80% range.

        • I haven’t seen the annual hotel tax revenue projections, so I can’t say whether it would be $16.5m a year or $54m a year. Either way, though, “the public” would be on the hook, as last I checked, hotel taxes belong to the public.

          • I tried to hunt for the tax revenue projections, but couldn’t find it. I found a schmancy PPT with hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades on it (is that required on all presentations done in Nevada?) that seems to detail incremental tax projections due to the presence of the stadium, but not for funding the stadium:

            https://www.scribd.com/doc/310516697/Las-Vegas-NFL-Stadium-Fiscal-Analysis-For-Oakland-Raiders-Mark-Davis-SNTIC-Meeting-April-28th-2016

            Oddly, or coincidentally, the only blank slide in the 90 page presentation is page 83….wait for it….:”Funding Model for the Stadium” There’s a fine-print TBD there.

            This article says it would be a 1% tax: http://www.reviewjournal.com/opinion/columns-blogs/ed-graney/cheering-las-vegas-raiders-easy-funding-stadium-tad-less-so

            I did find an estimate from the Gov’s office on the ROI for investors:

            “With $750 million in public money and $650 million in private funds, the investors could receive an 8.78 percent return on investment under the model. If those amounts were reversed, the return would be 5.66 percent — right on the edge of an adequate return for a business investment, said Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

            Aguero also tested a return based on different numbers of events. The 8.78 return on investment for 46 events would drop to 4.02 percent if just 36 events were booked, but increase to 12.71 percent if 56 events were scheduled — more than one per week.”

            Glad the investors might be able to squeeze blood out of a turnip. Too bad its at the expense of taxpayers.

          • As long as it’s at the expense of Vegas taxpayers, and not Oaklanders, I won’t complain.

          • Still, the sooner the Davis Crime Family relocates to Vegas, the better it will be for Oakland taxpayers.

    • I think TIF was an intentional omission. It would defer the “private investment” but as a number would be an estimate, it would come in over time, and most importantly it doesn’t help the sales pitch of Adelson and the Raiders, they chose to simply ignore it.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me with these renditions how even when the seats in the stadium are all full there’s still so many people milling about on the concourse and outside the stadium.

  4. I find this rather funny. The original concept had the city name in letters that look to be about 5 stories tall. For whatever reason this new rendition drops the city name entirely but the artist apparently felt the need for some sort of additional large lettering beyond just the team name so “North Entrance” oddly becomes a major focal point with individual letters the size of cars.

  5. You can either baffle them with bullshit or dazzle them with brilliance – the brilliance of this proposal is how much bullshit Adelson and Davis are shoveling by controlling the message via Adelson News Network

  6. Neil, your “clear plastic binder” link only leads to one of your own articles that attempts to explain the concept via a dead link. Curiosity got the better of me and I found the reference myself. Just in case you want to update the link (as it is a delight) http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1989/10/31

  7. Just got this in email from the Review-Journal’s managing editor:

    Your post of Aug. 29 (“As Raiders unveil stadium pics, reporters told to ask stadium questions, keep answers secret”) is completely unfair and inaccurate. You presented the wild speculation and opinion of a single biased blogger as fact. You made no attempt to corroborate the opinion of that blogger. And you made no attempt to contact Las Vegas Review-Journal management to get an explanation and context of what was written in a leaked email message before publishing content that smears an entire news organization.

    The conclusions in Jon Ralston’s blog post from August 26, 2016 (“RJ editor to reporters: Ask candidates about public stadium funding but not for the newspaper”), presented as fact, have no basis in reality. Ralston, the author of the blog post upon which your content was based, deliberately ignored language in the email to support a conspiracy theory that, like your own post, had no corroboration.

    It goes without saying: We completely deny any allegation that our reporters are collecting information for our owner and not for readers. We completely deny any allegation that we will not publish what our reporters learn about the positions of legislative and County Commission candidates on public funding for a domed football stadium. Your allegations are not only completely false and completely unfounded, but completely stupid. In fact, we already have talked to lawmakers about the prospect of a stadium special session and reported the position of at least one lawmaker who opposes the use of tax dollars for a stadium:

    http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/stadium/no-special-session-yet-las-vegas-stadium-lawmakers-say

    For reference, here’s Don Ham’s Aug. 11 email, which formed the basis of Ralston’s rant:

    “All of you who are handling state Senate, state Assembly and Clark County Commission races for the tab should make sure to ask this very timely question of the candidates.

    This question is NOT going to be added to the question asked of candidates for the online election package, though.

    Should public money, in the form of room taxes, be used to build a proposed stadium in Las Vegas. Why or why not?

    Any questions, see me.

    Thanks.”

    Ham’s reference in the first paragraph to “the tab” is to our print tabloid general election voter guide, which will be included in our Sunday, Oct. 23 edition and posted online. For these voter guides, which we have produced for every statewide primary and general election going back decades, reporters interview candidates for a specific office (for example, Assembly District 13) about campaign issues and their backgrounds. The purpose of the section is to provide voters with information that helps them make decisions about whom to support.

    The fact that Ham brought up “the tab” indicates to reporters that the question he wants asked is for publication. Nowhere in this email does it say we won’t publish what they report, or that we will keep secret what they report, or that reporters are to provide their findings directly to editors but not include the information in the stories they file.

    When Ham wrote “This question is NOT going to be added to the question asked of candidates for the online election package, though.” he was referring to our online Voter Guide, which is a completely separate product from “the tab.” The “online election package” Ham was referring to can be found through our home page navigation bar at reviewjournal.com by hovering over the “Election 2016” bar and clicking on “Voter Guide.” The direct URL is:

    http://www.reviewjournal.com/voter-guide-2016

    The content under this section is completely different from “the tab” because it is provided by the candidates themselves, not produced by our reporters. For an example, scroll down to Assembly District 13 and click on the link for Paul Anderson. You’ll see a 60-second video that we allowed each candidate to film, some personal and professional information, a description of the elected office they’re running for, a map of their district, key endorsements, and their responses to three policy/issue questions selected by editors in early spring. In legislative races, we decided to ask candidates about the recreational marijuana initiative, the background check initiative, and about K-12 education. In County Commission races, the questions are “What is the biggest challenge facing Clark County?”; “If elected, what would you do to address that challenge?”; and “The 2017 Legislature is expected to consider one or more proposals to allow municipalities, including counties, to increase property taxes to bring them closer to levels they were at before the Great Recession. Is this a good idea? Why or why not?”

    When Ham wrote “This question is NOT going to be added to the question asked of candidates for the online election package, though” he was referring to these three questions in our finished online Voter Guide. A lot of work went into creating and coding these pages, then getting digital questionnaires to candidates, then uploading all their responses to these pages. It involved newsroom assistants, web developers, reporters and our data editor. We consider these pages a finished product. These candidate pages have been on our site, unchanged, since well before the June primary election. We decided against adding the stadium question to the pot, background check and K-12 questions asked of legislative candidates, as well as the questions asked of commission candidates, because we will report candidate answers on the stadium issue in our print voter guide, which also will appear online. Aka “the tab.”

    We expect you to update your blog post with our response, and we expect you to change the headline on your post to something more accurate. The clause in the headline that reads “reporters told to ask subsidy questions, keep answers secret” is the opinion of a single biased blogger, yet you have not attributed it to him and you have presented his allegation as undisputed truth.

    Thanks for your attention to this.

    Glenn Cook
    Managing Editor
    Las Vegas Review-Journal

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