Billionaire wants $780m in tax money to build an NFL stadium for him in Las Vegas

We now have a hint of how Sheldon Adelson’s “public-private partnership” for a Las Vegas football stadium would work, and it’d probably be better called a “public-public-private partnership,” or maybe a “public-private partnership”:

A domed stadium proposed for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas football team has a price tag of $1.2 billion, and developers would seek $780 million in public financing, according to a document provided by Las Vegas Sands Corp., which is leading a consortium behind the project.

Private investors would contribute $420 million toward the planned 65,000-seat stadium, with various tourist-driven tax sources — commercial conveyance on taxicabs, rental car taxes or hotel room taxes — providing the bulk of the funding.

This is more or less the same funding scheme put forward by UNLV two years ago, except that the stadium price tag has gone up by $300 million since then, so the subsidy demand has as well. Putting in $780 million in tax money would be a stupendous amount of public cash — depending on how you count and whether the stadium would also get property tax breaks (probably), it could end up the most expensive public subsidy ever for a football stadium.

Of course, Adelson’s casino company also provided numbers to justify how this would be a great thing for Clark County to spend money on, telling the newspaper that Adelson owns that “the domed stadium would provide $600 million to $800 million in total annual economic benefit,” which is even more than consultant Convention, Sports and Leisure estimated two years ago.

But, you know, inflation or something. Or maybe just the fact that an extra $300 million in cost means you need an extra $300 million in economic benefit to make it still look good, But surely a consultant owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees would never reverse-engineer figures like that, right?


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…

Manager of local Subway thinks UNLV stadium will help sandwich business, is wrong

UNLV still isn’t even thinking about asking for state money for a new football stadium until 2017 (though it is hoping the buy the land by the end of this year), but that’s not going to stop intrepid Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters from asking local businesses what they think of this stadium that may or may not ever be built on their doorstep:

“It would bring more business all day long,” said Breina Colbert, a 2013 UNLV graduate who is the manager at the Einsteins bagel shop, one of 16 Einsteins stores in Las Vegas.

The district manager for the Subway submarine sandwich shop in the McCarran Village shopping center agreed a stadium next door would be great for business.

“More foot traffic is always good,” said Subway district manager Derek Bushberger, who is also a UNLV graduate. “It would bring people to the area. I’m all for it.”

Let’s do the math here: UNLV football plays six home games a year. There are 365 days in a year. The only way this football is going to bring business “all day long” is if the stadium catches on fire and the university sells tickets to see the ruins.

Okay, that’s not quite fair: There’s supposed to be additional commercial development on the site, too, so maybe that will bring in more 24/7 foot traffic. Let’s see, what do they have planned?

— Four to five quick-service restaurants of 2,500-3,000 square feet each. Possible brands could be Blaze Pizza or Pita Pit.

— Four to five sit-down restaurants of 6,000-8,000 square feet each. Possible brands include Buffalo Wild Wings.

— A UNLV themed restaurant/bar of 6,000-8,000 square feet.

— Entertainment building of 30,000 square feet for a brand such as Dave & Buster’s.

— Ancillary retail of 10,000-12,000 square feet.

So, sure, people might get hungry and want to stop for bagels on the way to … the Buffalo Wild Wings? I guess when your job is running a bagel chain outlet in Las Vegas, you have to find any way possible to give hope to your existence, though “Maybe I can apply for a job managing the Pita Pit!” probably would have been more honest.

Every city in the U.S. still thinks it can get an MLS franchise, and you know what that means

Sacramento Republic FC has chosen a designer for a new soccer stadium if it makes it to MLS (not that it doesn’t already have design renderings — hope you know how to design magical purple glowing radio towers, HNTB!), and the mayor of San Antonio is looking to help bring an MLS team to an expanded stadium in her city even as the local NASL owner is selling his franchise, and some developers in Las Vegas want to convert the 51’s minor-league baseball stadium for an MLS team, and…

…you know what? I’m going to go watch some baseball at the place with the free tickets. If there’s any important stadium news the rest of this week I’ll check in. If it’s just more MLS expansion teams, it can wait till next week.

Meanwhile, enjoy your vaportecture porn:


Vegas officially sticks fork in MLS stadium, in glorious display of city council infighting

The Las Vegas city council voted yesterday to pass a bill barring the city from spending any money on an MLS stadium, heading off an attempt by anti-stadium councilmembers to put the same measure on a public ballot this June, and…

…and why am I even making you read about this, when the stadium plan has been officially dead since last month when MLS said Vegas wasn’t getting an expansion franchise? (Why, that is, aside from the hilarity of pro-stadium councilmembers voting on a bill to block a stadium so that anti-stadium councilmembers can’t hold a public vote on it and thus make it a campaign issue, which actually is pretty entertaining, now that you mention it.) Because with MLS now having two announced expansion targets — Miami and Minneapolis — that face potential difficulties in getting the soccer-only stadiums that the league wants (unless the team can play in an NFL stadium that it owns, or a baseball stadium that’s in a major media market), you have to think that the league is keeping backup plans in mind. Not that Vegas was all that likely to be one, but now its council infighting has ensured that it won’t be, so we can never speak of it again.

Everybody suing everybody else over everything, same as usual

Lawsuit news! Nothing but lawsuit news!

Yeah. I think you can see why I don’t always report on every piece of lawsuit news: There’s nothing stopping anyone from filing suit for any reason, so while it’s often interesting to know what’s being challenged in court (hey, you never know what might succeed), most of it ends up being just a lot of legal fees signifying nothing, and there are more important things going on. Today’s a slow news day, though, so a perfect day to play catchup, and give you all some information for filling out your restraining order brackets.

MLS rejects Vegas expansion bid, $122m stadium subsidy plan promptly evaporates

Looks like Bob Beers can drop that lawsuit over the rejection of his petition drive to repeal Las Vegas’s $122 million MLS stadium subsidy: There will be no subsidy, because there will be no stadium, because there will be no Las Vegas MLS team, by decree of league commissioner Don Garber.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber told Las Vegas officials Thursday the city’s bid for an MLS franchise in 2017 or 2018 was unsuccessful. Sacramento, Calif. and Minneapolis remain in the competition for the 24th MLS franchise.

“Given the timing of our expansion rollout and the uncertainty as to when we might be able to move forward in Las Vegas, we are no longer considering Las Vegas as an expansion market until after 2018,” Garber wrote to Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

No one quite seems to know what that “uncertainty as to when we might be able to move forward” line meant, but really, it doesn’t matter — Garber’s the boss, so he can approve or reject expansion candidates for any reason or no reason at all if he wants.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman still wants to try to get a major-league sports team of some kind, but it apparently won’t be with the Cordish-Findlay development group, which spoke of its stadium in the conditional perfect tense yesterday. So, R.I.P., crazy-expensive soccer stadium that only got approved at all because the developers tricked the city council into giving them more lobbying time to pick off one swing vote. You will not be mourned, but we’ll still be a little sad to no longer have reasons to write about you.

Vegas stadium foes fall short in petition drive, file suit over signature count switcheroo

Opponents of Las Vegas’s deal to give $122 million to developers of an MLS-ready soccer stadium fell short in their petition drive to get a ballot referendum to repeal the plan, getting only about 7,000 verified signatures toward the 8,258 the city determined was needed. So now they plan to go to court over that 8,258 number, since it wasn’t announced until weeks after they’d begun gathering signatures:

Judge Jerry Wiese is set to hear a lawsuit filed by opponents of the $200 million stadium’s financing plan on Feb. 4.

That suit, filed by councilman and staunch foe of the stadium subsidy Bob Beers on Friday, seeks to knock some 6,000 signatures off the number City Hall says is needed to win a spot on the ballot.

An apparent error in the city clerk’s office saw subsidy opponents scramble to come up with around four times the roughly 2,300 signatures city officials first thought would be needed to put the issue to voters.

The dispute is over whether the number of signatures needed is a percentage of the votes cast in the last municipal election, or in the last municipal or county election — if you really want to read about it, you can do so here. Or you can just wait till Wednesday to see what the judge says.


Las Vegas tells soccer stadium referendum petitioners deadline actually today, oopsie

Las Vegas city councilmember Bob Beers is not having a very good couple of months. First one of his fellow councilmembers flipped to cast the deciding vote on a $122 million soccer stadium subsidy after Beers and his colleagues gave the stadium developers extra time to eliminate the need for public subsidies. (Instead they spent the time lobbying the swing vote, because duh.) Then when Beers proposed a referendum campaign to overturn the council vote, this happened:

The opposition group was told it had until Jan. 24 to gather 2,308 signatures to put an initiative on the June ballot seeking to block taxpayer funding for the project.

Then, on Jan. 14, the city clerk informed the group that there was a miscalculation and that it would need 8,258 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Today, Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic ruled that the signatures were due a day earlier than expected. The petition must be turned in 130 days before the election, but Jerbic said Election Day shouldn’t have been included in calculating the due date.

Today, then, will be a race to file the rest of the petitions, and then possibly a race to file a lawsuit against the city for changing the rules midstream. Isn’t democracy fun?

Vegas councilmember proposes public vote on MLS stadium, fellow councilmember says let’s not get crazy here

Las Vegas city councilmember Bob Beers, having seen his opposition to a $122 million soccer stadium subsidy outwitted by the developers’ clever “Let’s ask for two months to eliminate the subsidies and instead use the time to buy off one of the holdouts with parks for his district” plan, is trying a new tack: a petition drive to put a measure on the June ballot deciding whether to revoke the council’s decision:

Ballot language included as part of the petition drive asks voters to stop the city from “giving, lending or investing” any of its revenue or assets to a proposed Major League Soccer stadium in Symphony Park.

Beers and four other members of the newly formed “Parks Protection Committee” plan to start knocking on doors in Sun City in support of that proposition on Saturday. They need to collect 2,306 signatures over the next two weeks in order to get the question on the municipal election ballot.

(Beers actually first tried to get the council to put this to a June vote, but predictably lost by the same 4-3 margin that approved the stadium deal last month.)

Most after-the-fact stadium repeal referendums fail even when approved by voters, since courts have ruled time and again that voters can’t call backsies on money that’s already been spent. (Not that voters don’t keep trying.) What makes the Las Vegas case interesting is that the stadium project can’t go forward until MLS gives Vegas an expansion team, and that likely won’t happen until after June, so this might actually have legs. Councilmember-who-switched-his-vote-in-exchange-for-park-money-for-his-district Bob Coffin worries that a referendum will cause MLS to hand the expansion team to another city, but that’d be pretty silly when the league can just wait out the vote and see what happens.

Meanwhile, my favorite pair of sentences from the Las Vegas Review-Journal piece on all this:

[Coffin] said council decisions should only be taken to the public in “the gravest of circumstances,” such as a tax increase.

Some $90 million in hotel room tax fees would have to be plowed into paying down bonds used to pay for the project’s construction — dollars that are currently set aside for city parks.

So: tax increase = grave. Taking money from existing parks budget that will either have to be replaced via a tax increase or by cutting parks funds = not grave at all! Also, glass on democracy not to be broken except in case of emergency.