Proposed Vegas Raiders lease includes “top-tier” clause, this really is the worst ever

I almost included this in the last post, but then I figured it really deserved its own item, because oh man, they’re not really considering this, are they?

The Authority or its designees shall have the obligation to, and shall, provide, perform and take, or cause to be provided, performed or taken, such actions, at the Authority’s expense, either directly or through the Manager, as may be necessary or reasonably advisable to operate and maintain the Stadium and Stadium Infrastructure in a safe, clean, attractive, and first-class manner similar to and consistent with other premier, top-tier NFL facilities (the “Expected Facility Standard”) and in compliance with all Applicable Laws.

That’s from Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis’s proposed lease with Nevada for a Las Vegas stadium, and yes, it’s a state-of-the-art clause, requiring the state to maintain a stadium in “top-tier” condition on its own dime. I.e., the same kind of clause that let the St. Louis Rams escape their lease and move back to L.A. after 20 years.

Now, a couple of caveats. First off, unlike some other state-of-the-art clauses (cough Cincinnati Bengals cough), this one doesn’t spell out a wish list of items like “holographic replay systems” that the state would have to provide if other NFL teams got them. And it’s only about “operations and maintenance,” so doesn’t specifically talk about capital improvements (though it also doesn’t rule them out). And there’s no specified penalty for violating it that I can find, though being considered in breach of contract is never a good thing. And this is only Davis’s proposal, so there’s still room for Nevada’s lawyers to red-line through the worst bits.

That said, don’t ever sign open-ended state-of-the-art clauses, people! At best, this would be an invitation for Davis to, say, declare that he can’t possibly operate a top-tier stadium without a scoreboard that stretches to Utah, and threaten to sue to break his lease and move the team if taxpayers don’t build him a new one. One hopes that even if the local rich guy rejoins the deal, Nevada officials will still balk at agreeing to this — I mean, one doesn’t hope too hopefully, given how eager they were to approve $750 million in tax money for a stadium in the first place, but even that doesn’t justify a blank check for future upgrades, right? Right?

30 comments on “Proposed Vegas Raiders lease includes “top-tier” clause, this really is the worst ever

  1. Neil this thing is just about dead. Local and state politicians are enraged over not only the contents of the lease, but how the entire thing has gone down. Finally they recognize how embarrassing this is making the state and its people look.

    Now that Goldman has pulled out due to its long-standing financial relationship with Adelson (they are his casino’s largest creditor), the state is now saying what I’ve been saying all along: the public contribution is not binding without Adelson’s involvement. This proposed lease Davis submitted is the second worst in the history of professional sports. I love the fact the NFL’s greed and arrogance is finally catching up to it.

    • If you want to say that Adelson’s the 1,000 pound gorilla that can kill the project 15 different ways (negative press from his paper, getting GS to bail when he did, etc.) then you’ll have no argument out of me. If you want to say the public contribution is not binding without Adelson’s involvement, that’s factually incorrect. There are still plenty of ways this could get done, even if they aren’t especially likely at this point. If one of the Fertitta brothers were to leave the casino business for instance, and Davis were willing to sell a portion of his stake in the team, the current approved funding from the state is still in effect and can only go away with the legislature repealing or amending what they approved last year. I have no idea if he’d prefer that to just keeping to team in Oakland or flirting with San Diego, but the option is currently there. In the unlikely event he can find $650 million somewhere else, the state’s commitment stands.

      • Nevada can still kill it by refusing to sign the lease, though. So while the $750m is technically on the table with or without Adelson, if the state wants to back out of it, they can.

        • That’s a fair point and it’s good to see these demands being looked at critically, regardless of how far down this road they got before they started. I’m not one that’s 100% opposed to some public money for some of these projects, but this has been a pretty appalling proposal from day one.

      • You’re not understanding how my hometown works. Members of the Nevada legislature are already talking about backing out of the deal due to what has happened to Adelson. Additionally, there is no way either Fertitta is leaving the casino business. They are in serious growth mode. Not to mention, since Davis is hell-bent on not selling any piece of the team, that caveat eliminates any investor with half-a-brain. People are not going to invest in a business without receiving any skin the game. This isn’t charity. Bottom line is this: the NFL screwed up big time and assumed just because they are the NFL everyone else will roll over (including a multi-billionaire).

        • 1) I’ll defer to you from here on out as it’s obvious at this point that Adelson has several ways to kill this deal regardless of what the legislation says. Mark Davis thinking he could get one by Sheldon Adelson is like if the Corleone family had sent Fredo into negotiate with Sen. Geary.

          2) To my knowledge, the last time the gambling issue came up was when the NFL forced Dan Rooney’s brothers with gaming interest to divest themselves of Steelers ownership. That case had wrinkles of its own as it was mostly just about Goodell getting in the middle of a family feud to make sure that Dan and his son kept long-term control of the team, but the precedent would be there that the League will allow a member of a family with gaming interests to own a franchise as long as the individuals that are in ownership are themselves removed from that end of the business (probably irrelevant as I have no idea if one of them would want to do that, not to mention, as has been pointed out, Davis has shown no desire to sell any portion of the team in the first place.)

  2. You can bet Mark Davis will insist on the same provision regardless of where he goes. I hold out no hope that Alameda County would ever agree to it.

    Allow me to rephrase that: Alameda County has their heads on straight, which is why they won’t agree to this.

    At this point, I think a mental evaluation of Davis is not out of the question. I’m sure the local team that has assembled to keep the team in Oakland would LOVE this provision, but don’t expect it to happen. Davis is going to be at an impasse wherever he tries to go — except Sacramento. Sacramento’s government would be stupid enough to do this.

      • I’m surprised Neil hasn’t mentioned that Sacramento has applied for MLS expansion. Except they fail to say one word about the existing minor league team, which has locals quite upset.

        I have no idea what goes into an MLS expansion application. I have a feeling it involves making stuff up.

          • Okay. I get that everyone wants to bash any notion of Sacramento. To my understanding, the proposed soccer stadium will be privately financed. The problem with constructing a new NFL stadium is the $1 billion+ benchmark established for developing such a concept. I still don’t understand how Stanford University was able to completely renovate their football stadium just over a decade ago for $90 million, and now every new stadium is over ten figures. Granted, Stanford Stadium doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Levi’s Stadium, but its a very good place to watch a football game. Isn’t that the primary purpose for building one?

          • Arco Park is/was the ballpark/stadium that Sacramento started building in the mid 1980’s to lure the Raiders from Los Angeles.The money well ran dry,Al Davis played Sacramento against Oakland,against La Brea tar pits and Sacramento was left high and dry.The original foundation is still in place right next to Sleep Train arena.

          • If the Raiders can keep things in perspective, they can possibly build a new, fully funded stadium at that location in Sacramento without depending on any taxpayer subsidies. If Mark Davis wants to believe his Raiders are on the same marketable footing as the Dallas Cowboys, he will run into another Vegas style roadblock.

          • If Mark Davis had money for a stadium or could get a positive ROI on that stadium he’d have built one already.

            As is he doesn’t so he’s looking for someone to build one for him.

            I’m not sure why Sacramento alters these basic facts in any way.

        • Didn’t see that. Sorry.

          Anyway, it turns out that one current partner applied without the other partner’s knowledge. For some reason, the league decided the application wasn’t valid anyway. I’d bet the internal fight could blow up the whole thing, even the current minor league team.


    • The apple does not fall far from the tree.Absolutely he should have his head examined.They are still paying off the debt on Mt.Davis which was the reason the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995.No reason for any city to give in to Mark Davis or any other greedy owner.Anymore.

  3. Why doesn’t the NFL just demand that all facilities be maintained in the top ten percent of NFL facilities league wide every year?

    Since someone else is paying the cost, why would the NFL care about mathematical impossibilities? Not their problem.

  4. This cements the Raiders will be joined at the hip with the concrete bowl at 66th Ave. No one is going to give the Levis wearing Bowl Cut boy a free edifice. And his borderline mental illness will preclude him from joining Jed in Santa Clara where he belongs. Bottomline: It’s either a decaying concrete bowl vs a renovated concrete bowl . And for the San Diego football writer today…We all know you will miss your cushy job. We understand why you fan the flames of rumor. We’re not buying what you’re peddling. You and Bowl Cut are a joke.
    As for the A’s fans…That JLS event was recon. They led you in with free food and admission. I hope for your sakes they mean business. Or you will rot with Levis wearing Bowl man-child.

  5. Can someone enlighten me as to why Santa Clara can’t come up with a win-win deal for the city, the Raiders, and the 49’ers? My assumption is because one or both of the owners are idiots but perhaps there is another reason?

    • You pretty much nailed it Greg.

      Davis continues to believe he can get whatever he asks for somewhere else. To date that doesn’t seem likely to happen, though I’m sure we’ve got lots of “done deal! Raiders are coming to (insert city here)!” headlines to wade through yet.

      Despite owning an NFL team, he doesn’t have the leverage he thinks he does. He’s also not nearly the negotiator/*%&@^$* his father was. Perhaps some of his troubles stem from ongoing league angst against Davis Sr, but the son has made some serious mistakes of his own too.

      It will be interesting to see what his next “target” might be if/when Vegas folds up the tent… his option in LA appears to be gone. His options in Oakland seem very much diminished. Maybe he hasn’t studied the basic principles of musical chairs as deeply as he should have?

      As for the Yorks, well they just hired a broadcaster with little or no front office experience as their new GM, didn’t they? Need we say more?

      • Davis might flirt with San Diego. They’ll be little public money available. He’d be more open to Mission Valley than Spanos.

      • Unless San Antonio opens up their wallet, I can’t envision a scenario (market size + minimizing out of pocket stadium cost) that’s better for the Raiders than Santa Clara. San Diego can’t/won’t do better than what Vegas has done and there are no other remotely viable alternatives right now. Heck, even Oakland could go away if the city and the A’s wised up and turned their stadium back into the baseball-friendly environment that it used to be (adios Mt. Davis).

  6. My understanding is that the State has passed legislation that promised 750 million. David publicly promised 500 million and Adelman 650 million. BUt those promise were not legally binding. So if Davis wants to build a stadium for 900 million the state will apy 750 million and David 150 million. Is that correct?