Just Vegas, baby: NFL stadium plan passes second major hurdle

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With the absolute minimum number of members voting “aye,” the Nevada Assembly Friday passed the football stadium/convention center construction bill.

The measure requires a constitutional two-thirds majority because it raises the Clark County room tax. It passed the Assembly 28-13.

The measure, complete with a dozen minor and clarifying amendments, was sent back to the Senate, which quickly concurred, sending the bill to Gov. Brian Sandoval who said he will sign it Monday.

That concluded the business of the 30th special legislative session, clearing the way for adjournment. Adjournment happened shortly after 1:30 p.m.

The next step in the process is in the hands of the NFL owners who will take up whether to approve the Raiders’ application to move from Oakland to Las Vegas. Owners must approve the move by a three-fourths majority.

The final vote came unexpectedly quick after Assembly Whip Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, moved the question. With no objections from either side, that eliminated what most expected to be two hours of debate from both sides.

Those speeches instead came after the vote when members including Democrats Elliot Anderson of Las Vegas and Teresa Benitez Thompson of Reno rose to explain their no votes.

Thompson said one key in her mind was “there was never any serious consideration of profit sharing.” The operators of the stadium will keep all the profits from the enterprises operating in the stadium instead of giving the county a share.

Amber Joiner, D-Reno, echoed those comments saying government won’t get any ticket admission money, naming rights money or other profits generated by the stadium.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said he opposed the plan because of the financing.

“It was all profit on the private side and all cost and liability on the public side,” he said adding no business person would sign that deal.

Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, held off the vote Thursday night amid reports supporters were six votes shy of 28. He called them to the floor after 9 p.m. believing they had the necessary votes but that was quickly put off when the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a report it said showed nearly $900 million worth of street and highway improvements would be needed to accommodate the stadium.

NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon came to the legislature at midnight to clarify the report, that those projects were already in the pipeline before the stadium project was out there. He said those projects were created to address traffic increases. He added some of those projects are planned for more than a decade in the future and have nothing to do with the stadium.

He added NDOT won’t be asking for more money because of the stadium project.

Senate Bill 1 would provide up to $750 million in room tax money to help build a domed 65,000-seat football stadium and another $420 million to expand and renovate the Clark County Convention Center. To pay off the stadium bonds, Clark County’s room tax rate would increase by 0.88 percent in the resort corridor and a half percent for other properties within a 25-mile radius of the Clark County offices.

Funding for the $1.9 billion stadium also will come from Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson — $650 million — and the owners of the Raiders — $550 million.

“It’s exciting,” said Andy Abboud, chief lobbyist for the casino mogul Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, after the surprise vote. “But this is really about jobs, and I think at the end of the day people saw this as a fantastic economic stimulus package.”

Nine Democrats and four Republicans opposed the bill, which made unlikely allies out of people on the far left and far right of the political spectrum.

The public contribution will be larger in raw dollars than for any other NFL stadium, although the public’s share of the costs — 39 percent — is smaller than for stadiums in cities of a similar size, such as Indianapolis, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

“I would like to thank Gov. Sandoval, the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, and the members of the Nevada Legislature on this historic day,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement. “All parties have worked extremely hard to develop and approve this tremendous stadium project that will serve as a proud new home for the entire Raider Nation.”

Defenders of the stadium say Las Vegas’ outsized tourism economy, with 150,000 hotel rooms and 42 million visitors each year, is different than other markets that are more dependent on locals.

“If we take the visitor component out of our economic impact model, it is negative,” said economist Jeremy Aguero, who helped develop the deal. “I do not disagree with the analyses that have been done ... It’s inappropriately applied here.”

Proponents project 451,000 new visitors will come to Las Vegas as a result of the stadium, ushering in $620 million in economic impact. That’s based on the stadium hosting 46 events, including 10 NFL games, 6 UNLV football games and a variety of concerts, sports and other events.

Laborers and veterans testified they needed the estimated 25,000 construction jobs the project will bring after the industry was devastated in the recession. The stadium is expected to bring 14,000 permanent jobs to the Las Vegas area.

The hotel bill for an average night at a Las Vegas Strip hotel would go up about $1.50 as a result.

Another half percent increase in the room tax would support bonds to add 1.4 million square feet of space to the convention center. The rest of the $1.4 billion cost of that project will be covered by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The other measure before lawmakers was Assembly Bill 1, which raises Clark County’s sales tax a tenth of a percent. That bill easily cleared its final hurdle in the Senate Thursday unanimously. The money will be used to hire more than 460 additional police officers in Clark County with nearly a quarter of those slated for the resort corridor. There were only seven in the Assembly who voted against the plan. AB1 is also on its way to the governor for his signature.

Sandoval described the stadium project as “the beginning of the next chapter of southern Nevada’s continued dominance in tourism, conventions and hospitality and presents an exciting opportunity for UNLV.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis thanked Sandoval and lawmakers saying, “all parties have worked extremely hard to develop and approve this tremendous stadium project that will serve as a proud new home for the entire Raider Nation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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