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.

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.

Raiders could go to Vegas if stadium is built, reports paper owned by billionaire seeking stadium cash

The Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas rumor mill is kicking into high gear: First you had bazillionaire Sheldon Adelson hinting that he’d meet with Raiders owner Mark Davis about playing in a new Vegas stadium (so long as Adelson got $780 million in public money to help build one), and now it’s “multiple sources” saying the Raiders could play some exhibition games or even one regular-season game a year in Vegas to “build their fan base” if a new stadium is approved.

Davis wouldn’t comment, so it’s pretty likely that these sources are from Adelson’s camp — especially when you consider that the report comes from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by Sheldon Adelson, who has previously thought nothing of arm-twisting his newspaper employees to write what he wanted about his personal business dealings. (Though maybe he’s just such a lovable guy that they do it without being asked. Who knows?) Either way, it helps Davis, too, who gets to use Vegas as a threat in his ongoing stadium negotiations with Oakland, and maybe San Antonio or any other cities he plans on threatening to move to. A savvy negotiator creates leverage, and what better way to create leverage than to own your own newspaper? Corporate synergy is a beautiful thing.


Unpaid Forbes writer says Oakland stadium deal imminent, then hurriedly backspaces over it

So this is weird: Last Saturday, according to a report on SBNation’s Oakland Raiders blog, sports agent Leigh Steinberg wrote on Forbes’ we’ll-let-just-about-anyone-post-here-for-free site that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was close to announcing a deal for new stadiums for the Raiders and A’s:

The A’s have threatened to go to San Jose, the Warriors to San Francisco, and the Raiders to multiple locals. This would have a devastating impact on the morale and economic climate of Oakland. Now, there appears to be an opening, under the leadership of Mayor Libby Schaaf, to innovatively revitalize Oakland and solve the needs of all three teams. Mayor Schaaf is expected to make a dramatic announcement regarding the Raiders situation early next week.​

That’s not what it says now if you go to the actual Forbes site, though, where that last sentence about the “dramatic announcement” has been deleted.

No explanation or acknowledgment of the change appears on either Forbes or SBNation, not even in comments (yes, I read through an SBNation comments section, this is what I do for you folks), so no way to tell whether somebody at Schaaf’s office called up Steinberg (or Forbes, if they bother editing their unpaid contributors) to say “knock that off” or if he just thought better of alleging things that weren’t going to happen. There are still two days left in the week, so I suppose Schaaf might yet surprise us all with news that Mark Davis has found $500 million under the sofa cushions and Lew Wolff has agreed to build a stadium elsewhere than the Coliseum site. I wouldn’t be holding your breath, though.

Raiders to pay extra $2.5m in rent to public this year, after county shows it can too haggle

We now know how much that undisclosed rent increase was that the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority was able to extract from Raiders owner Mark Davis as a condition of not making his team go play in the street for the 2016 season, and it’s either a lot or a little, depending on whether you go by percentages or actual dollar amounts:

The NFL team’s lease for O.co Coliseum in Oakland and a training facility in Alameda includes a steep increase from last year’s rent of $925,000: It’s now $3.5 million for both venues.

Yes, the Raiders will now be paying more than triple their rent from last year. On the other hand, even triple the rent is only another $2.575 million, which isn’t much for a team with annual revenue of $285 million. Plus, it’s only for one year (unless Davis decides to drag his feet about where to play while waiting for the San Diego Chargers to determine whether they’ll be the second team in Los Angeles, in which case he can renew), so … it’s nice to see that the public stadium authority pushed back and made some demands instead of rolling over and giving Davis an even sweeter deal. But I still would have loved for them to say, “Re-up for a decade, or take a hike,” if only to see what Davis’s response would have been.

Wolff to Davis: Don’t blame A’s for Raiders’ stadium headaches

Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff responded late Friday to Raiders owner Mark Davis calling his team the “elephant in the room” (oh, I see what he did there) and saying Wolff had “tied our hands behind our back” with his ten-year lease on the Oakland Coliseum:

“The A’s signed a 10-year lease at the Coliseum because we are committed to Oakland. Mr. Davis has said he is fully committed to do a new football stadium in Oakland and there is nothing in our lease that precludes Mr. Davis and the Raiders from building on the Coliseum site. As we stated yesterday, the A’s are aggressively working with the city to evaluate venue sites in Oakland. Our efforts are fully focused on Oakland. Although the Coliseum remains the main focus of our venue efforts, we are also evaluating potential sites throughout Oakland. We are confident our efforts will continue to move forward and we will share our progress throughout the process.”

Nothing that precludes the Raiders from building a stadium except that both team owners really want development rights to the whole Coliseum site. So we’re back to being treated to “get offa my lawn” nastygram wars, which should be resolved either the minute Davis finds some other city to give him the stadium money that he’s struck out on getting from Oakland, or never, somewhere in there. Or maybe Davis and Wolff will figure out a way for them both to share the Coliseum space, and Davis will find a way to pay for a new stadium with his own money, and … yeah, I can’t really see that happening either. The best bet for both teams staying in Oakland long-term might be if Wolff picks another site, and Davis settles for a remodeled Coliseum at a more affordable price or something after the entire rest of America wakes up and decides it doesn’t want to build him a football stadium. What Vegas odds do you think I could get on that one?

Raiders owner agrees to new one-year lease in Oakland, blames A’s again for his stadium problems

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis has agreed to a new lease at the Oakland Coliseum for the 2016 season, and for anyone hoping the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority would drive a hard bargain with Davis since he has nowhere else to play this year, nope, that didn’t happen: It’s just a one-year lease with two one-year team options, meaning the Raiders can leave anytime after 2016 that they want to, but can also stay put if they so choose without having to renegotiate. The authority did manage to get an (undisclosed) rent increase, but otherwise public officials pretty much gave up any leverage they had over the team, presumably hoping the resulting warm fuzzies will encourage Davis to build a new stadium with several hundred million dollars he conjures into existence with a wave of his hand.

The lease deal, which still needs to be ratified by the Oakland city council and Alameda County board of supervisors, at least accomplished one thing: Davis has stopped complaining about Oakland again, and is now back to blaming his lack of a new stadium on his other favorite nemesis, A’s owner Lew Wolff:

“There’s an elephant in the room, and that’s the Oakland A’s,” Davis said after Thursday’s press conference. “They have to make a commitment to what they want to do.”…

“They signed a 10-year lease while we were negotiating with Oakland officials), and it kind of put somebody right in the middle of things,” Davis said. “There isn’t much you can do. They’ve tied our hands behind our back.

“Now it’s up to the A’s to make a declaration of what they want to do. If they don’t do that, I don’t see how we can make a deal.”

Signing a 10-year lease seems a pretty strong commitment, but presumably what Davis means is “Hey, Oakland, make Lew Wolff pick one side of the room and stay there, and we’ll build a stadium on the other side, if there’s room, and if we find money somewhere, maybe.”

Realistically, nothing is getting built in Oakland anytime soon, and probably not at all until either Wolff or Davis can force the other out of town, thus clearing the way to control all the Coliseum property themselves. Since it’s far easier to find viable NFL sites than MLB ones — thanks to that whole thing about local cable revenues, and hence local cable market size, not mattering for the NFL — it’s likely to be the Raiders who blink first and end up in San Antonio or Las Vegas or Kankakee or even sharing digs with the Rams in Los Angeles, if San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos succeeds in getting stadium cash out of his city and forgoes the right to move to L.A. Tune back in around November, and in the meantime, try not to stare too hard at the tea leaves, you’ll strain your eyes.

Mark Davis recognizes Sacramento exists, film at 11

Okay, just one more this morning, in the interest of full disclose and because it has Mark Davis in it:

Raiders Owner Mark Davis Talks Sacramento


Raiders owner Mark Davis says he has talked about a Sacramento Raiders stadium, but beyond that he won’t offer specifics.

“It’s just, it’s been talked about,” Davis said. “I’m interested in finding the Raiders a home.”…

We asked what about Sacramento appeals to him.

“Well they just built a new arena, they’re building one, and Kevin Johnson’s a heck of a guy,” Davis said. “I get along very well with him. I talked to him the other day. Not about a stadium but we talked.”


So at a press conference (sorry, “red carpet exchange with reporters”), a TV reporter from Sacramento asked, “What about Sacramento?” and Davis answered that he’s not ruling anything out, as he’s said before. Except for St. Louis and Santa Clara, because he’s totally ruling those out, even though they’re the two most likely candidates, or at least the two best stalking horses to get a bidding war going. Mark Davis is a weird guy, have you noticed?