UNLV president tells board meeting on stadium: Never mind, check back in 2017

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas released a report on Wednesday identifying two possible sites for a new 45,000-seat football stadium, with plans to submit them to a university board meeting yesterday. That was the plan, at least, until the start of the meeting itself, when acting UNLV president Don Snyder did this:

UNLV acting president Don Snyder called an audible Thursday, delaying the proposed $523 million campus stadium project by two years.

Snyder’s move came at a University of Nevada, Las Vegas Stadium Board meeting called to finalize a proposal to send to the Legislature for consideration early next year. Instead, the project will go to state lawmakers in 2017.

He said the university is now working on too many issues, such as creating a medical school, to ask state support for the proposed stadium.

“All these things take time and energy,” Snyder said. “The medical school is the top priority. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to also know there are other demands in the community like schools and police officers … It’s more important to do this right than to do it fast.”

It’s not clear what led Snyder to put a hold on the stadium talks at the last second, though it’s reasonable enough to assume that he’d taken the temperature of the room and realized that his stadium plan was going nowhere. Now he can sit back and work on the plan for a couple of years behind closed doors, and either drum up more support (and money) for the project, or let it die quietly.

This would also, come to think of it, be an excellent time for the local media to do some research into whether a 45,000-seat football stadium for a low-profile NCAA program makes much sense. But my money’s on everyone going back to sleep until the press releases start flying again.

Las Vegas MLS stadium would cost public 41% of price, or 75%, or 45%, or who knows, really?

The city of Las Vegas has finally released some details on how to fund that MLS stadium for a nonexistent MLS team that Cordish Cos. wants to build because it has an option on some land and doesn’t know what else to do with it. According to that newspaper that just laid off half the sportswriters I know and let them learn about it on Twitter, here’s the scoop:

The stadium would be located in the city of Las Vegas’s downtown Symphony Park area and the total project cost, including interest on bonds, would be $410 million. Sixty-nine percent of that would be privately funded and 31 percent would come from public sources. The statement says that the public funding would mostly come from taxes collected on tourists and from public infrastructure funds.

Okay, that’s a little vague, but at least it spells out the split: 69% private, 31% public, which — wait, what’s that, Las Vegas Review-Journal?

The city of Las Vegas would be responsible for more than $150 million — or more than 75 percent — toward the cost of a $200 million, 24,000-seat soccer stadium in Symphony Park that would be built for a possible Major League Soccer team, according to a term sheet obtained Tuesday by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The term sheet contradicts a press release distributed Tuesday by the city and its two private soccer stadium partners, which stated, “59 percent of these (stadium) costs would be privately financed.”

The Review-Journal later goes into more detail, which explains that the $150 million public subsidy isn’t quite that bad: The team would pay about $4 million a year in rent and shares of non-soccer revenue, which would cut the public’s total cost to, let’s call it maybe $90 million. (That “total project cost” of $410 million was apparently bulked up with future interest payments and the cost of acquiring an expansion team in the first place, which is major-league-level chutzpah, at least.) Though there’s also no detail on who would pay operating costs for the stadium, so that $90 million could easily go back up again.

This whole mess will be presented to the city council next week, at which point it will likely proceed to three months of public hearings, with an actual vote slated for around December. In the meantime, we can look at the pretty pictures, which apparently involve a translucent roof and spotlights and all kinds of other stuff that seems unlikely to look that glitzy considering what $200 million typically buys you in a soccer stadium, but let’s ooh and aah anyway:

Oh, and all this is, of course, contingent on Vegas actually getting an MLS team, which is no sure thing given that there’s only one expansion slot left and tons of cities angling to fill it. But I guess if Minnesota is announcing it’s figured out how to divide up the rent from any future MLS team, Las Vegas has to do something to show that it’s ready, too, if only to stay even in the battle of press releases.

[UPDATE: Vegas councilmember Bob Beers writes to point me to his blog, which has a more detailed explanation of the stadium funding plan. In short: The city would put up $41 million in cash (some of it provided from sales taxes redirected, as discussed back in June, from a “Sales Tax Additional Revenue” district, i.e., a STIF), plus $115 million worth of bonds. Those bonds would be repaid via $3 million a year in park maintenance funds, plus $4-5 million a year in payments from the team — which would come out of soccer team profits (if there are any), and would otherwise presumably have to be covered by the city. In other words, we yet again have a scenario where an MLS team could be guaranteed to cover any losses before it would have to start paying for its stadium debt. It's almost like these guys compare notes, you know?]

Vegas official pushes soccer stadium as “multipurpose,” because rodeos and stuff

Talks have heated up in Las Vegas about building an MLS stadium, if by “talks” you mean elected officials insisting that it’s not an MLS stadium at all:

Call it a “soccer stadium,” and Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin volunteers to correct you.

“You really want to call it a multipurpose stadium,” Coffin says.

The “multipurpose” gambit, of course, is to get people off the track of thinking, “Wait, we’re going to spend how much for a stadium for a team that would only play 17 home games a year?” The problem is that a 20,000-seat open-air stadium is going to face competition from Vegas’s 20,000-seat indoor arenas for things like concerts, leaving … well, Coffin mentioned “rodeos, lacrosse, major high school football games or neutral site college football games for small schools,” all of which are possible, but none of which are big money-makers.

And that’s the part of the deal that still hasn’t been resolved: the money part. Cordish Cos., the developer looking to build a soccer stadium because it has an option on the land and a basketball arena didn’t fly, has been vague about its financing plans thus far, except that a bunch of public money would likely be involved. There’s a competing MLS plan, from New York money manager Jason Ader, who I got to be on Nevada Public Radio with on Tuesday — he said all kinds of nice things about funding a stadium with no public funds on the European model of having supporters (i.e., fans) buy shares in the club, but as I tried to point out, MLS is not La Liga, so that’s going to be … what’s worse than an uphill struggle? A 100% vertical struggle?

Anyway, say it all together with me: “Multipurpose stadium.” “Multiepurpose stadium.” It is not a balloon!!! It’s an airship!!!

UNLV scales back stadium plans, hopes casinos will let it have half a billion dollars now

It looks like the University of Nevada-Las Vegas is giving up on building a domed football stadium — at least the domed part. UNLV acting president Don Snyder announced yesterday that the school would be scaling back its plans to only a 45,000-seat stadium with “sun shades.”

The reason? The casinos didn’t want the competition:

[University regents Cedric] Crear and [James Dean] Leavitt have drawn push-back from resort industry representatives such as MGM’s [Rick] Arpin, who said at a recent meeting that a domed stadium could “cannibalize” events from other Las Vegas venues. MGM and Anschutz Entertainment Group are building a 20,000-seat, $375 million arena near New York-New York, scheduled to open in 2016.

At the same meeting, Paul Chakmak of Boyd Gaming Corp. noted, “The resort industry is not asking for a stadium to be built.”

Whatever the reason, a non-domed stadium would cost an estimated $523 million instead of $833 million, so that’s got to be a plus. (It also couldn’t host indoor events, which is what Crear and Leavitt are griping about, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine what indoor events would be worth spending an extra $310 million for.) Snyder says about $100 million could be raised via naming-rights and luxury suite sales, which only leaves $423 million via sales tax hikes or, you know, something. One hurdle at a time.

Vegas MLS stadium plan includes $28.6m shortfall, another $60m in dubious revenue projections

The developers hoping to build a soccer stadium in Las Vegas have released a two-page term sheet outlining how the finances would work. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the split would be 74% public, 26% private, but city officials say once negotiations are finished it would be closer to 50/50.

It’s good that Vegas city officials are admitting that negotiations aren’t done, because man, is that one mess of a term sheet. As I noted in the Sun article, the stadium operating agreement gets just one line — “further legal review is needed” — which means that there’s no way to tell who will get revenues from naming rights and other stadium revenue streams, nor who will pay annual operating costs of the arena. As I also noted to the Sun’s reporter, but it didn’t make the published story, the plan includes $4.3 million a year in proceeds from “non-MLS events” — a figure that even the term sheet acknowledges is “on the aggressive (high) side” and which is probably downright crazy given the number of 20,000-seat venues already scattered around Las Vegas or in the works. And there’s no backup plan for what would fill that gap — which would cover about a third of the costs of the $200 million stadium — if the non-MLS profits don’t materialize.

Add in that there’s already a $28.6 million funding gap that needs to be filled, and this is not the most ironclad stadium financing plan ever seen. Hopefully there will be more actual numbers before the city council is set to take its first vote on the plan on August 20.

UNLV stadium board member: Big ol’ sales tax hike would foot stadium bill nicely

When the University of Nevada-Las Vegas proposed building a $900 million football stadium back in February, school president Don Snyder said he would “look creatively” for ways to fund it. “Creatively,” it now appears, means asking for county-wide sales and hotel tax hikes:

A UNLV stadium board member, Regent James Dean Leavitt, proposed Wednesday that the Clark County sales tax and the lodging room tax be increased slightly to help pay for an on-campus domed stadium of 50,000-55,000 seats.

Leavitt said University of Nevada, Las Vegas students should also pay a suggested $100 toward a “perpetual fund” for major university projects such as a stadium or medical school.

Raising the county sales tax by 0.25% would generate an estimated $79 million a year in new revenues, while a room tax surcharge of 1% would generate $44 million a year; since $900 million in bonds would cost something like $60 million a year to pay off, this would certainly cover the bill. As to why Clark County would want to do such a thing, presumably Leavitt believes that stadium consultant’s nonsense about $500 million a year in economic impact from a new stadium, even though the actual operating profit is estimated to be just $13.9 million a year — or way, way less than the stadium bonds would cost to pay off.

Anyway, plenty of other members of the stadium board are opposed to one or the other of the tax hikes, so this will probably now enter the haggling stage for the time being. But with the board set to make recommendations to the state legislature by the end of September, it’s fair to say that we can see what direction this thing is heading in.

Las Vegas soccer stadium developer says he knows a guy who says he can get an MLS team

Justin Findlay, the guy who is working with Cordish Companies to build an MLS stadium in Las Vegas so that Cordish can keep its expiring option on downtown land open, says that he can so totally get an MLS franchise for Vegas if he only gets a stadium. How does he know? The MLS deputy commissioner totally winked at him:

He was encouraged after entertaining MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott this week in Las Vegas. Abbott met with Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and other city officials, toured downtown and got a sense of how MLS would work in Las Vegas.

Although league officials won’t comment on expansion possibilities, you can argue the MLS brass wouldn’t have traveled to Las Vegas if it wasn’t in serious consideration.

“Hearing right from the horse’s mouth, this is really a possibility,” Findlay said. “We just have to convert on our plan. There are no reasons why these big, big dreams can’t happen.”

On the one hand, MLS brass are likely fine with touring pretty much anyplace that’s potentially going to build them a stadium, because why not? (It’s also not like anyone ever passes up a business junket to Vegas.) On the other, MLS is clearly willing to throw teams at pretty much any city with a stadium, and with only one more franchise left to be assigned in the league’s planned expansion through 2020, might as well get the bidding war heating up. Worse comes to worst, if you have too many cities (and owners) offering to throw money at you, there’s nothing stopping you from expanding beyond 24 teams — or maybe seeing if David Beckham would like to settle in Vegas instead.

Cowboys/Yankees-owned consultants project giant impact for UNLV stadium, because of course they do

Last week was pretty busy, so let’s check if we missed any stadium news items in all the excitement over giant impaled light switches and whether the Oakland A’s will be evicted. Okay, here we go:

Study: New UNLV stadium could pack $511 million economic punch

I should just get right back in bed, shouldn’t I? But let’s soldier on:

The study is by Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, a subsidiary of Legends Hospitality, which in turn is jointly owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. (Legends was set up to run concessions at their new stadiums.) CSL is also UNLV’s paid consultant on how to get a stadium built, which would seem an unprecedented conflict of interest, except that they just did pretty much the same thing for the Los Angeles Angels.

If all that doesn’t give you qualms — and it clearly doesn’t bother the Las Vegas Sun, as they never bother to mention any of these facts in their article — we can proceed to the projections, which are that an open-air stadium hosting an estimated 27 events per year would have a $231 million annual direct economic impact, whereas a domed stadium would have a $511 million annual impact. And tack on about another 50% for indirect economic impact as well.

There are a number of ways to properly convey the insanity of these figures. We could, for example, look at the stadiums projected 50,000-seat capacity and do some simple division to determine that each and every event-goer would have to spend an average of $171, mostly at games of a college football team that is currently giving tickets away for free, in order to generate that crazy money. (It’d be $378 per person in a domed stadium.) Or we could wonder how many people would really visit Las Vegas just to see a UNLV game (or stadium concert or soccer match or whatever else this place would host) as opposed to those already in tow because it’s Las Vegas who would take in a game while there. Or we could compare CSL’s figures with this handy quote from an article today in the Wisconsin Reporter on the Milwaukee Bucks arena plans:

Major League Baseball reports Miller Park generates an estimated annual economic impact of $355.7 million. Nearly 60 percent of Miller Park attendees travel from outside the metropolitan area and spend $327.3 million a year, the MLB report says.

Milwaukee Area Technical College economic instructor Michael Rosen thinks those numbers are largely exaggerated.

“This is almost double the most successful stadium, Camden Yards in Baltimore, where less than a third of the crowd at every game came from outside the area and the net gain to Baltimore’s economy was roughly $3 million a year,”  Rosen said in an opinion piece published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  “Not much of a return on a $200 million stadium investment and not close to $327 million.”

The important thing to remember here is that “economic impact” numbers are garbage: All they measure is the total number of dollars changing hands in your city, which, as Holy Cross sports economist Victor Matheson memorably put it, could be like “an airplane landing at an airport and everyone gets out and gives each other a million bucks, then gets back on the plane. That’s $200 million in economic activity, but it’s not any benefit to the local economy.”

What you want are actual revenue numbers, and CSL already gave us those last month, when it determined (through lord knows what kind of math) that a UNLV stadium would turn a $13.9 million a year operating profit, which would barely be enough to pay off a quarter of the construction cost. There would, no doubt, be some new tax revenues as well — after you filter out the people who’d be in Vegas regardless — but it’s clear we’re looking at a much smaller figure than $511 million at this point.

Still, that’s the headline that the Las Vegas Sun chose to go with. Guess they were afraid of falling behind in the local stupid article competition.

Las Vegas council votes to create TIF district for soccer stadium, has no clue what it would cost

TIFs! The Cordish Companies’ Las Vegas soccer stadium plan has got TIFs!

The first baby step of creating a tourism improvement district on the 59 acres downtown at Symphony Park was approved with scant discussion by the Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday.

If a proposed soccer arena goes nowhere, so does the district.

If the arena goes forward, then the district would shift existing sales and use taxes which go to the state and retain them in the local improvement district, explained Bill Arent, director of the Economic and Urban Development Department.

How much the district would collect in sales and use taxes, nobody’s saying, nor what it would do with the money. The Las Vegas Review-Journal notes, “Without specifics, there was little discussion by council members about the tourism district creation.” But they still voted for it, because there’s always time to ask questions later, right?

UNLV stadium would turn $14m annual profit, if you ignore how to find $714m to build it

Anybody want to read a stupid article? Sure you do! Here, let’s start with the headline:

UNLV stadium could generate up to $13.9 million in profits, report says

As a refresher, that’s the domed college football stadium that University of Nevada–Las Vegas wants to build, and wow, that would be a pretty impressive profit for a stadium costing several hundred million dollars at a school whose football team can’t win games or draw flies. How would it manage that, exactly?

An enclosed stadium would create $23.1 million to $26.3 million in total annual income, while total expenses to operate the retractable-roof or domed venue would be $11 million to $12.4 million, according to the draft prepared by Dallas-based consultant CSL.

Meanwhile, an open-air stadium would generate $15.9 million to $18.1 million in total annual income, while expenses would be $8.9 million to $9.9 million, according to the report.

So, wait, it would just generate $13.9 million in operating profits, then? In other words, not counting the cost of building the damn thing in the first place? How much would that be, anyway?

The consultant also tweaked the proposed costs for the retractable roof stadium, ratcheting it up to $714 million from a previous projected cost of $682 million.

The last previous projected cost I recorded was $900 million, but no matter: Either way, we’re talking about close to $50 million a year in debt payments, which would eat up that $13.9 million in profits and then rampage across the university’s budget like you know who. Unless, of course, the university finds a way to fob off the construction costs on somebody else, which is just what UNLV is trying and so far failing to do.

Anyway, surely this stupid article somewhere mentions that the stadium would need to be paid for, which overall would leave it awash in red ink, right?

“It’s nice to see that the (proposed UNLV) stadium is in the black.” said [stadium board member Kirk] Hendrick, chief legal officer for Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Las Vegas-based MMA fight show and promotion company. “Otherwise, it would be a short conversation.”

Stupid article.