If you listen or read any of the mainstream or popular Las Vegas-based blogs, media sites or YouTubers, you may think the deal is off. That the idea of using part of hotel room tax to help get the 65,000 seat domed stadium built is doomed. Fear not, that is merely by plan to have you think that.
Most of those who say it is doomed are only repeating what they need to repeat to keep those free media invites coming from the ivory towers of the Golden Lion, AKA The MGM Resort or through their marketing arm, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
Too many talking heads on TV or on radio need the advertising revenue MGM offers them to ever go against the wishes of the roaring lion. Many of the Vegas bloggers like the free buffets that come with the media pass to each and every Criss Angel revamped show opening so they would never publicly disagree with them. Kind of makes the discussion one-sided, don’t you think?
When you need their approval, you will say what they want you to say and nothing more. The “facts” mean nothing. Sounding familiar?? Let me draw the picture for you.
You have a self-made, successful businessman who is publicly going up against a politically connected CEO of the largest employer in Las Vegas. The battle is not really over the room tax or the stadium, it is over who gets to control the big pot of money the city gets from its share of the room tax pie. The dome is just the tool for Sheldon Adelson to finally get the attention needed on the topic of room tax expenditures and tourism marketing priorities.
Being a supposed “small” player in the room tax debate because he controls so few rooms compared to MGM, his voice over how to spend the money his company sends in has been mute. Only to really look and see what type of rooms his property offers and the level of high-priced conventions are hosted at the Sands Convention Center versus what are held at MGM properties, kind of shines a different light on the topic.
Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Sands Corporation, owners of the Palazzo and Venetian has 7,000 hotel suites and over 1 million square feet of Las Vegas convention space. Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts has over 30,000 hotel rooms and 2 million square feet of convention center space spread over several resorts. Sheldon Adelson is a staunch Republic who wants border controls while Jim Murren recently claimed he was a lifelong Republican (cough-cough), but supports Hillary Clinton and allowing thousands of undocumented “refugees” from terrorist countries to come to America without being vetted.
Jim Murren believes we need to raise the room tax in order to expand and improve the Las Vegas Convention Center complex. A worthy and needed endeavor. He and a lot of his sheep want to say that having a stadium subsidized by the room tax should not be allowed because it would compete with similar arenas that are privately owned. Yet they support the room tax to fund and maintain a convention center that competes with convention centers that are privately owned.
Sheldon Adelson believes as many others do (but fear to say publicly) that Las Vegas needs a 60,000 seat domed stadium to stay competitive with other tourist cities in America and that it would benefit the convention business as well as the sports/leisure side of Las Vegas tourism. Being used by the NFL as well as the UNLV football team and major conventions plus concerts/festivals would bring more revenue to the city.
Just because the people involved are billionaires and “should” pay for it themselves, is not the issue as some want it to be. This is a benefit to the city as much, if not more than it is to the people behind it. Again, you can use the same rational with the convention center. The people behind that (MGM) can afford to build their own, so why should the room tax be used for that? Or for anything the room tax is currently being used for in the tourist corridor??
Problems in Paradise
The problem with the stadium proposal as it sits now (in my opinion) is who is involved and who will become involved if it goes further.
Sheldon Adelson picked up the cause earlier this year. He’s a do’er and a man who knows how to get things done. It had been slowly growing the last few years as alumni from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), started to acquire land near the campus to build a much-needed football stadium. They had the land next to the airport and the campus, but that site has now been discarded for being too close to the runways.
Why Sheldon brought onboard Majestic Realty to handle the land deal and the building of the stadium is beyond me. They do not have a great track record when working with government agencies or tax dollars. They tried a few years back to build a new stadium for the UNLV campus. They started out great until they started to ask for, then demand tax increment financing (TIF). As they pursued that avenue for funding, the costs started to spiral out of control as more things were added to the design. The same thing here, the costs keep getting larger every time they start talking about using tax dollars to round out the financing.
The new location they want to build the stadium on is where Bali Hai golf course sits now. Right next to the airport’s busiest runway! The group behind the stadium also claim to have purchase agreements to buy the vacant land directly across the I-15 from Mandalay Bay for the parking, tailgating, and entertainment.
Bali Hai is owned by Bill Walters. If you didn’t know better, you would think he was related to Senator Harry Reid for all the sweetheart land deals the Clark County Commissioners keep giving him. He currently holds a 99-year lease on the land and wants to change it from a golf course designation to light industrial. Clark County Commissioners seemed like they were about to sign off on that deal before this one came on their radar.
Building it next to the I-15, behind an MGM property and across for the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, is a bad place not just for the politics involved and the fact that part of the land is unusable for building due to airport restrictions, it will mess up the tourist experience at the sign as well as the entry way to the Las Vegas Strip.
The land across the interstate is almost perfect. Still close to the University, easy freeway access and easy to move people over from the Strip to the arena. It does not interfere with the tourist experience on the Strip. Easy to extend the monorail or MGM’s tram from the Strip to the stadium. If you need Bali Hai, use it for parking and the entertainment district. Less building problems and airport interference. You would be able to easily funnel traffic out of the area via three different ways and on to two highways.
The Deal Killer
Right now, the people behind the stadium are asking for $700 million to finish off the $1.9 Billion cost. They want all the parties who would benefit from this to have skin in the game. Fair enough because “we” would control the facility. They have put down a challenge stating that if they do not get the $700 million, they will walk away. Yea, right. Nice challenge but too many people want this deal to happen. From the NFL leadership who need some good PR to Jim Murren who needs to get rid of the free tram in front of the Excalibur and replace it with a money machine monorail.
Jim Murren just doesn’t want to give up the control he has over the room tax fund and the LVCVA. In my opinion, the LVCVA is a bloated organization and needs to be thinned down as well as reined in as far as spending anyways. It needs some serious accountability. $700,000 a year for a CEO is a little overboard for a man who oversees the marketing of a tourist corridor that almost markets itself. Our number one competitor in tourism is Orlando. Their room tax goes into a fund that is spent on all areas of tourism, not just a corridor and not just to the benefit of one or two primary enterprises.
Everyone has deadlines and the Raider people keep bringing up the deadline to get an NFL league vote. MGM keeps coming up with the deadline for a call for a special legislative session. You know what? You have a lot of real good negotiators trying to pee up a rope and see who can pee the furthest. They really want this to happen but each party wants to look like it was on their terms. The deadlines will and can move. Too much tax revenue is at stake. Too many egos are being hurt and need mending and they need closure. We need the stadium and we need it to be built now.
What About Sam Boyd?
The one question I have yet to hear answered is why they have not mentioned selling the current UNLV Sam Boyd Stadium and using that money to offset the need to use the room tax? Sam Boyd Stadium sits 9 miles away from the UNLV campus. Right in the middle of a growing, upper-middle-classing development area. Land prices in that area are now rising and they are stable. The developers are building everything and anything they can right now and almost selling out.
Sam Boyd Stadium is sitting on prime land that can be better used as development than it can be as an empty stadium. Can anyone answer that for me?? Bueller??
I’m going to end it here for now. I just wanted to show there was more to the story than most people are being led to believe. There will be more to report as this moves forward and things change or solidify!
This is a hot topic around Las Vegas and everyone seems to have an opinion on our need to have a stadium that is partly paid for by a room tax. The statements made in this post are the opinions of the author himself, Mark Anthony. I am open to debating and discussing any point made here as a personal opinion, as long as the debate or discussion is civil and polite. I will delete or ban any comments that are not civil or not keeping with the topic.