Commentary: Setting the record straight on Nugget redevelopment project
Based on recent comments in the Nevada Appeal regarding the Nugget project, please allow me to set the record straight. Since this is a community project, it is important that the community understand the facts surrounding this project, which are as follows:
The Nugget is owned by the Mae B. Adams Trust, subject to approval by the Nevada Gaming Comm-ission, which is expected in two weeks. The Nugget could use its resources to grow into a major casino, with its own hotel and amenities, but has chosen to pursue a very different path. Instead, the Nugget will use its resources to better the community of Carson City by overhauling its current economic climate. That effort, combined with the Hop and Mae Adams Foundation, will work to achieve this goal. Internally we call this vision “Community First.”
Community First is not a traditional casino business model, and the vision poses a herculean challenge. Nevertheless, the Nugget, with its hundreds of employees who are citizens of this community, has adopted Community First. After some inquiry and introspection on how to best achieve the goals outlined in Community First, the Nugget asked the Carson City Board of Supervisors for permission to present a public/private partnership to the board.
The project, as presented, will:
• Conform to Carson City’s master plan, Envision Carson City, as passed in 2006;
• Help the proposed Knowledge and Discovery Library become a reality. The library has no actual cash, just a possible 1/8-cent sales tax payment stream that would pay for a portion of the project;
• Further develop the high-tech resources needed for the library to truly be a 21st century resource with the strategy of leveraging that resource for new high-tech industry;
• Focus on developing higher paying jobs that will turn into careers for the Carson City workforce and further diversify and grow the economic base of the community;
• Recognizing that Carson City has little resources to really serve in the traditional role of a “public partner,” thereby leaving a funding gap, position the Nugget to assist the city in resolving the shortfall; and
• Though not allowing the Nugget to become the mega-casino of Carson, still allow the Nugget to continue as a business, providing jobs for its employees, and increase its services and amenities to customers as Carson City prospers.
The project, as presented, will not put Carson City’s taxpayers at risk. It will utilize only the 1/8-cent sales tax from the city and any incremental property tax generated by and within the project itself. In other words, the project will pay for itself; the citizens will not bear this burden.
Progress to date
To date, the following has transpired:
• The Nugget has worked closely with the Board of Supervisors in an effort to create full transparency into this daunting mission. The Nugget has paid, from its own resources, substantial sums for city planning, studies, experts and onsite and offsite consultants, creating a network from Portland to Salt Lake City as well as gaining tremendous help from Carson’s sister city, Boise, Idaho.
• There are many business partners expressing an interest in this project, even though it still is in the preliminary stages. The Nugget’s vision is to create a holistic business incubation system that has a number of elements and parts, including an educational element.
The project, as proposed, will create a “gathering place,” with the library as the centerpiece for the project, and, as designed, a resource toward developing new industry. Northern Nevada Development Authority is helping bring the digital media industry to Carson City. Another partner, C4Cube, has expressed an interest in creating a business incubator in Carson City. There will be additional elements to the incubation as well.
Feasibility studies, funded by the Nugget to verify the path in achieving Community First, show that an economic stimulus, such as this project, will provide a path to economic viability. The studies also show that without any change from the current course, Carson City’s economic outlook is grim.
In moving forward, the biggest hurdle we face right now is that the project will need to be fully financed (100 percent) by a developer who must risk approximately $100 million of its own money during the worst economic times in over half a century. There is no debt guarantee by the city, just its
1/8-cent sales tax revenue pledge, which equates to $26 per family, per year, to fund a portion of the library cost.
There is no money down by the city to assist the developer, which is generally the cardinal public piece in a public/private partnership. In an effort to attract a developer, the Nugget has committed to relieve the developer of having to pay for the land up front. If the project goes forward, the Nugget will donate the land the developer needs to a charitable foundation, the Hop and Mae Adams Foundation, which will then lease the land to the developer in a long-term lease.
The resulting lease payments made to the foundation will then be reinvested into the Carson City community, without the Nugget seeing any of those proceeds.
Once the developer is on board with its needs, all details will be hashed out and shared with the public. Additionally, all the agreements, when available, will be made public and open for comment.
No risk to city
Any comments that Carson City is at risk are false. The Nugget and the Board of Supervisors will not risk this community, unlike some are trying to trumpet. Likewise, any comments that we have not been transparent are false. We have been as forthcoming as possible with the information we have. We are scrambling to get the additional details for all to see, but we need to select the developer before we have further details, since he or she must participate in determining the course going forward.
Carson City’s local economy has declined for years. This community has lost many high paying jobs, with more slated in the future. Unemployment is at 12 percent, and the economic base is declining rapidly. The Nugget and the Hop and Mae Adams Foundation are attempting to break the cycle of economic decline in this community.
Unless we work together to bring jobs to this community, the future will be far less than it could be. If we spend our resources wisely and create jobs for people in this community, there may be resources at a later date for additional amenities, such as recreation centers, if that’s what the community wants. Meanwhile, let’s work together for the benefit of our youth and create jobs. That’s Community First.
If the project is not acceptable, the Nugget will take a different path, retain its land, and invest in its own business plan and development. It will, however, continue to be community-minded. The Nugget knows its reputation in the community is at risk and is doing its best to perform a very difficult task.
As you read and hear what people are saying about this project, I ask you to please note who helps and who makes enacting the vision harder, and ask whether they truly have you in mind. This project will only create the synergy necessary to succeed if the community believes in and supports the merits of this endeavor.
And as we say in the gaming industry, the Nugget is “all in.”
• Steve Neighbors is trustee of the Mae B. Adams Trust, which owns the Carson Nugget. He will be president of the Nugget pending Nevada Gaming Commission approval Feb. 18.