Davis pledges $500m toward Vegas stadium, could actually ask taxpayers to pay entire $1.4B cost

Here it is, the big Oakland Raiders Las Vegas announcement you were waiting for since it was first leaked at the beginning of the week:

[Raiders owner Mark] Davis told an influential tourism committee gathered at UNLV that the Raiders would put up $500 million toward the stadium if Nevada legislators approve public funding for the project and other NFL owners allow the team to relocate…

“We do want to be your partners. We’re not coming in looking for a free handout,” Davis said. “I want to tell you what I told Gov. Sandoval a few weeks ago: Together, we can turn the Silver State into the Silver and Black State.”

That’s not exactly the catchiest slogan, but never you mind about that. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what Davis (and billionaire would-be Vegas stadium builder) Sheldon Adelson) are offering, and what they’re asking for:

  • The stadium would now cost $1.4 billion, up from $1.2 billion just a couple of months ago, presumably because if it’s hosting an NFL team it’s going to need a snazzier eternal flame.
  • Davis’s $500 million pledge would include $200 million in NFL G-4 money, plus $300 million out of his own pocket.
  • As for the other $900 million, $750 million of it would be from hotel and rental-car taxes (down slightly from $780 million in the last proposal), and the other $150 million would be in mystery “private funds.” Since we haven’t mentioned Adelson yet, and he has $150 million in loose change in a jar in his kitchen, maybe he could bring that.

That’s the deal as presented in the headlines today. What’s being largely overlooked is this, which appeared way down in the 18th paragraph of the Las Vegas Sun’s story:

The companies would also want a tax increment district in the area around the stadium. Details would still need to be ironed out, but Majestic executive Craig Cavileer said the district would help the stadium’s private backers get a return on their investment.

This is potentially huge: “tax increment financing,” for those who need a reminder, involves kicking back increased property and/or sales taxes from an area around a development project, to help pay the project’s costs. We obviously have no idea how much money it could provide — depending on how big you draw the district, it can generate an almost unlimited amount of tax revenue — but if Adelson and Davis are looking at this as a way to provide a “return on investment,” that means it’s going to go to reimburse their $650 million in costs, not state taxpayers’ $750 million. In other words, if enough TIF money can be agreed on, the private costs could be as low as zero, with the entire $1.4 billion nut either provided by tourist taxes or by TIFs.

It’s an incredible bit of media legerdemain to turn a request for potentially the largest NFL stadium subsidy in history into headlines about a promise to put up half a billion dollars in private funds — props to Davis’s (or more likely Adelson’s) PR strategist for coming up with this one. And that’s before even getting to Davis’s “commitment” to Las Vegas, which as I predicted Wednesday comes with a whopping out clause, in that if he gets an offer he likes better, he can always have the NFL vote against the move, and say, “Hey, sorry, they wouldn’t let me go to Vegas, I tried.”

Not that I expect Davis or the NFL to turn down this deal if it really includes both $750 million in cash plus additional TIF subsidies, because who would turn down a new $1.4 billion stadium essentially for free, regardless of what market it’s in? We still have to see if the Nevada legislature is crazy enough to approve it, but this is no longer merely a leverage deal: It’s an attempt at the biggest public cash grab in NFL history, which if Davis can pull it off despite currently having zero other legitimate bidders for his team’s presence would seriously move him up the rankings of evil supergeniuses with questionable haircuts.

Mark Davis definitely going to announce plans to use Las Vegas as Raiders move threat

We have another “Mark Davis is gonna say something about the Oakland Raiders and Las Vegas on Thursday” report, this one with sources that are, if not named, at least identified a bit beyond the earlier rumors:

Davis’ appearance Thursday – and the commitment he is expected to make – could be a difference-maker. Davis will leave no doubt his franchise will pursue relocation to Las Vegas if the stadium project is approved.

“It’s huge because the committee sees (the Raiders) as serious,” a source close to the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told this newspaper. “And if (the committee) approves the funding, there will be no stopping the train.”

Meanwhile, there is growing sentiment within the NFL that fellow owners are opening up to Las Vegas and granting Davis his wish to move there should he request it.

“It would be a good home for them,” said a high-ranking NFL source.

This pair of anonymous quotes — in particular the one identified as being from the NFL — give us a bit more of a sense of what’s going on here. Davis is clearly shopping around for a better stadium deal than he has now in Oakland (which isn’t a bad stadium deal, mind you, but it’s not as good as all the other teams that have brand-new stadiums that were largely paid for by someone other than them), and if Las Vegas ends up building a stadium, he wants to shake that tree now while the tree-shaking is good. And the league office is at least tacitly giving him the go-ahead to do this, because why the hell wouldn’t they? Having stadium offers in pocket is the lifeblood of the industry, almost as much as buying the silence of brain-injured players, plus it helps out a friendly local billionaire, and you never know when you’re going to need one of those.

Now, does this mean the Raiders are actually moving to Las Vegas? Not by a longshot, at least not yet. First off, Nevada still has to approve the $780 million in subsidies that billionaire Sheldon Adelson is looking for, and that phrase right there is why it’s likely to be an uphill battle. But even if the stadium is approved, “pursuing relocation to Las Vegas” is no guarantee of relocating to Las Vegas — Davis could change his mind if he gets a better offer from elsewhere, or the NFL could change his mind for him, or (most likely) he could change his mind and then have the NFL deny him approval to move (or place an exorbitant relocation fee on it) to provide him with plausible deniability if he decides he’d rather move to Los Angeles or San Antonio or Walla Walla or wherever.

Las Vegas wouldn’t be as terrible a location for the NFL as for, say, hockey: Sure, Vegas’s TV is smaller than West Palm Beach and the only people with any spending money there are tourists, but football is the one sport where local TV deals don’t matter, and with only eight games a year maybe the Raiders could sell themselves as a destination theme vacation or something. I’m not saying it’s a good idea — staying put in Oakland, even in an older stadium, could well be better — but it’s not completely crazy. And as far as creating leverage goes, it makes perfect sense. Plus Davis can make a side trip for a haircut!

Some sportswriters say they totally heard the Raiders are moving to Vegas, no really, a guy said it

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is following up his appearance at a Nevada state legislative hearing two weeks ago on a new Las Vegas football stadium with an appearance at another meeting of state officials this Thursday, and … and that’s really all we have to go on, but certain football writers, citing “sources” in one case and their own brains in another, are still off to the races:

And from a Twitlonger by Joe Arrigo:

Here is what I can confirm and KNOW in regards to the Raiders and a move to Las Vegas.
The Sands Group (who is attempting to build the stadium) is meeting this Thursday to discuss (and potentially approve) a new stadium for the UNLV football program and the Raiders.
Mark Davis, the Raiders owner, will be in attendance at the meeting on Thursday and speak at the meeting as well. Davis is ready to commit to moving the Raiders to Las Vegas at the meeting Thursday if they approve the new stadium.
The Raiders would move in 2017 or 2018 and play at Sam Boyd stadium until the new stadium is built. Davis already has toured the stadium with Tony Sanchez and the UNLV president and AD, and is on board with playing there temporarily.

Cole is an NFL columnist for Bleacher Report who specializes in Q&A’s with current players, which doesn’t seem like the best way to get the inside scoop on whether the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. [UPDATE: Cole would like you to know that “whatever dude, I’ve been on the stadium/LA issue for 10 years.”] Arrigo, per his Twitter bio, is a high-school wide receivers coach, and a former radio host, and runs a UNLV fan site, which makes “Q&A reporter for Bleacher Report” seem like Bob frickin’ Woodward.

Since we’re here, though, here are the reasons why it’s extremely unlikely that Mark Davis will be moving the Raiders to Las Vegas anytime soon:

  1. The Raiders still have second dibs on sharing the Los Angeles Rams‘ new Inglewood stadium, if the San Diego Chargers pass it up. The Chargers probably won’t — their campaign for a new stadium in San Diego is currently somewhere between “longshot” and “train wreck” — but it’d be nuts for Davis to throw away the option before he sees what becomes of it.
  2. Notwithstanding Joe Arrigo, the Vegas stadium is not going to be approved this Thursday. First off, this isn’t even a meeting of the state legislature, but of something called the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, a group of political and business leaders convened by the governor to examine possible tourism initiatives and report back this summer. Secondly, there’s the little matter of the $780 million in public subsidies that billionaire Sheldon Adelson wants for his proposed stadium, which is going to take a while to put together, if it gets any traction at all.

Still, media events like this aren’t meant to signify anything real, they’re meant to provide a sense of “momentum” to stadium projects — so Davis and Adelson and the NFL must be just thrilled that NBC Sports’ Mike Florio is reporting exactly that. In an age where people are famous for being famous, getting credited with momentum for leaking news to the press that you have momentum is probably the next logical step.

NFL commissioner waves around well-worn Super Bowl promise to boost Chargers petition drive

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did what commissioners do on Saturday, promising San Diego a Super Bowl if it approves a new stadium for the Chargers. Well, not promising exactly:

“I’m confident that if they can get a stadium built here, the owners will want to support it with a Super Bowl,” Goodell said. “I think that’s what this community deserves, and we’re all going to work to try and find a solution.”

Yeah, you can totally take that promise to the bank. Not that San Diego wouldn’t get a Super Bowl with a new stadium — they hold them every year, after all, and it wouldn’t be too hard to work San Diego into the rotation at least once — but Goodell’s appearance was far less “announcement” than “media event,” designed to help kick off the Chargers’ petition campaign for $1.15 billion in city spending on a new stadium and convention center annex. A Super Bowl also wouldn’t much help in paying that off, as innumerable economists have found, but at least it might be a pleasant distraction, maybe?

Chargers renderings of proposed stadium show off state-of-the-art Photoshop lens flare

San Diego Chargers vaportecture porn, everybody!

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.48 PMLow_Corner_from_Northwest_credit_MANICA_t1200x62016th_Street_Ground_Level_credit_MANICA_t1200x620chargers4_t1200x620Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.10 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 2.37.21 PM Architect David Manica called the building “soft, friendly, of San Diego,” “like a natural evolution of the downtown architecture.” To this end, it will be surrounded by fluffy clouds, and have beams of light streaming up from the field, either because of a state-of-the-art lighting system or because once the stadium is complete, Jesus will return to perform the Super Bowl halftime show.

There’s also a park that’s described by the San Diego Union-Tribune as “over an earthquake fault,” presumably to get around that pesky “don’t build stadiums on top of earthquake faults” law. That building that appears to be embedded in the stadium wall is the “historic Wonderbread building” currently on the site, which “would be preserved and integrated into the 16th street facade of the project and would be home to local restaurants, cafes, or other active retail components,” addressing the don’t tear down a historic 1894 factory building concerns. Plus a semi-retractable roof, so the boats don’t get wet from all the San Diego rain!

The architects were quick to describe these drawings as “conceptual,” which means “don’t think the actual stadium is necessarily going to look like this” as well as “I can make it longer if you like the style.” It looks fine enough as stadiums go, though I expect that roof will be the first thing to go if costs need to be trimmed. That’s if San Diego voters agree to give it $1.15 billion in bonds in the first place, of course, which remains a longshot, though maybe “old building embedded in outer wall, plus fireworks!!1!” will be enough to win a few more votes.

Architects explain Washington NFL stadium moat as “gentle transition,” are just trolling us now

Want to know why Washington NFL owner Daniel Snyder’s proposed stadium design has a moat around it? Here’s why it has a moat, courtesy of a Washington Business Journal article titled, “Now we know why Dan Snyder’s stadium has a moat“:

According to Bjarke Ingels Group, the water feature would provide separation between the tailgating area and the stadium (as opposed to a fence or wall), while a series of bridges would act as new gates. “Access becomes a gentle transition between the tailgating and game,” reads the description. If you remember the tunnels from RFK Stadium to the parking lots, it’s not too far removed from that … except for the water part. And as was already revealed in one of the renderings (click through our gallery, above), the moat would in fact double as a wave pool in the summer and an ice rink in the winter.

Um, guys? That doesn’t actually explain why the stadium design has a moat, unless maybe it’s “the Bjarke Ingels Group architects have never been to a sporting event, and think that walking across a narrow bridge with 70,000 other fans to get from tailgating to the game would be a ‘gentle transition.'” Also possibly “the Bjarke Ingels Group architects have never been to D.C., and don’t realize that if it ever snows there, people will more likely be cowering in their homes than going out to ice skate on a frozen moat that will probably plunge them to their deaths at any second, because this isn’t Minnesota, people.”

On the other hand, here it is one month later, and we’re still talking about that damned moat, instead of about who on earth would actually build this thing when the team just got a new stadium 19 years ago. It’s all about the misdirection.

Proposed Chargers stadium could sit atop an earthquake zone

What was the one missing element that the San Diego Chargers stadium mess needed? I’m going to go with earthquakes:

“One thing I haven’t heard anything about (unless I’ve just missed it) is the fact that the proposed downtown stadium site is in the middle of a California Earthquake Fault Special Studies Zone (aka Alquist-Priolo Zone). …In general California law prohibits building structures meant for human occupancy within 50 feet of an active fault. Has any consideration been given to this in the downtown stadium design?”…

A major strand of the Rose Canyon fault runs through East Village, [three San Diego geologists] remind. … The proposed convadium footprint is “literally, right in the center of the (Rose Canyon) fault zone” as determined by a 25-year-old California Geological Survey, [geologist Diane] Murbach told me.

I would quote more, but these are pretty much the only sentences in San Diego Union-Tribune news columnist Logan Jenkins’ column that don’t include terrible “our fault” or “shaky ground” puns, so I’ll spare you those. It’s entirely possible that this isn’t a huge deal, as the Chargers insist, or it could end up being a striped bass-sized controversy that scuttles the whole plan. If the plan doesn’t fall apart of its own weight before November, that is. It’s increasingly difficult to tell whether this “convadium” business is an idea so crazy it could never happen, or just crazy enough to work.

People in Minnesota are already struggling for words to describe ugliness of new Vikings stadium

Sure, you’ve seen renderings of the Minnesota Vikings‘ new stadium set to open this fall. But unless you live in the Twin Cities, you probably haven’t seen it with your own eyes — Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray has, though, and he’s happy to describe it for you:

That stadium gives off a dark vibe.  Sheathed in black. Knife-edged. Towering.

Ugly.

No, ugly is too quick to the keyboard. Not charming. That’s it. It is not charming. It looks like a hangar for the bat-winged flying machines of evil alien forces. It was supposed to resemble a Viking ship, I thought, but the only vessel shape that comes to mind is a bloated Noah’s Ark, and I am sure the architects and the Wilfs didn’t imagine that.

“Bat-winged flying machines of evil alien forces” — now there’s what the XFL needed to stay in business.

Here’s the latest image of the stadium, via the Vikings’ construction webcam. Post your own fun descriptors in comments!

MinnesotaVikings_20160414111633

Mark Davis to speak at Nevada legislature about moving Raiders to Vegas OMG OMG OMG

Stop the presses! Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is going to speak to the Nevada state legislature about moving his team to Las Vegas!

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meets April 28 at UNLV to review tourism-related projects for possible state funding. A 65,000-seat stadium in the Strip resort corridor is among the projects under consideration for recommendation to the Nevada Legislature. Davis will be at the meeting to address the stadium plan and the Raiders’ potential move, a source confirmed Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

Presses all stopped? Good. And now start them back up again, because that’s all we have — for all we know Davis is just going to say that Las Vegas would work well with his brand like he did two months ago. He’s certainly doing a good job of creating leverage, plus headlines for the newspaper owned by the billionaire seeking $780 million in public money to help him build an NFL-ready stadium in Las Vegas. Synergy!

So would Davis ever really move the Raiders to Vegas? It’s not as crazy as it would be in other sports: Local TV market size doesn’t matter much in the NFL, so moving from the Bay Area to the nation’s 42nd-largest TV market isn’t such a huge deal. On the other hand, the Rams‘ move to Los Angeles is a sign that market size does matter even in the NFL in terms of things like PSL sales and naming rights. But Vegas is a kind of a special case, with lots of people who don’t live there spending lots of money. Except that hardly any of them are likely to be Raiders fans, so they’re not likely to put up big money for season tickets or anything. But Mark Davis is Mark Davis, and he doesn’t have a lot of other great options…

I’m still putting my money on “leverage ploy,” because that’s usually what these things are, but there are enough moving parts here that we can’t totally blow this off as a bluff. Set your watches for April 28, and we’ll see what happens.

Chargers stadium plan hits snags, sportswriter loses mind

Big things are happening with the San Diego Chargers‘ stadium push, and chief Chargers fan Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune is freaking out, man:

I’m fighting the urge to simply stop writing. This is insane floating on ludicrous lost in a sea of nonsense.

One could argue that that second sentence alone should be argument that Acee stop writing, but anyway, WTF exactly is going on? Here’s WTF:

That’s all a big mess, and the only thing 100% clear is that the Briggs-Chargers coalition, which seemed like a bit of a crazy idea to begin with, is already starting to fall apart, with Acee, at least, now openly advocating that the Chargers throw Briggs under the bus and proceed with their own convadium initiative. Which would probably require a two-thirds supermajority (since it would allocate hotel taxes directly to the Chargers project), which means it would almost certainly never pass, which means…

If you’re prone to conspiracy theories that Spanos is just creating a disaster so he can throw up his hands and move to Los Angeles at the end of the year, today’s a day for you. On the other hand, dueling political interests can easily create disasters all by themselves, so maybe no special plotting was required. I just hope that this all ends with the Chargers opposing their own ballot measure, because we haven’t had one of those in a while.