(Chuck Muth) – With all the recent hoopla about the possibility of building a new 65,000-seat domed stadium between UNLV and the Strip, allow me to extol the virtues of the existing stadium in east Las Vegas.
The Sam Boyd Silver Bowl is a perfectly good and an absolutely fantastic facility…
For a high school football team.
But not much else.
There once was a day when big-name concerts filled the Sam Boyd. I remember fondly going to the Grateful Dead concerts back in the 90’s, as well as catching Paul McCartney and Wings. But those days are long gone. There’s a huge void at the Boyd.
Yes, the stadium still hosts some big events – such as the annual Monster Truck Jam Finals and the Monster Energy Cup motorcross. But for how long?
Here’s the thing…
While some continue to pursue diversifying Las Vegas’ economy, the fact is the lifeblood of southern Nevada’s financial health is tourism and entertainment. In that department, nobody does it better. It’s what we do best.
As such, we should “stick to the knitting.” And that means somebody, somewhere, somehow, needs to build a new, modern stadium. Unbelievably, Las Vegas is the only major city in America without one. That’s nuts.
This is no longer a question of if we should build one, but how.
Over recent years all manner of stadium proposals have been put forward for all manner of southern Nevada locations. But the latest proposal by the Las Vegas Sands is the most serious and has the greatest chance of becoming a reality for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is the desire of the Oakland Raiders football team to relocate here.
When the idea of the “Las Vegas Raiders” was first put forward, not too many people took it seriously. Indeed, skeptics suggested that Raiders’ owner Mark Davis wasn’t really serious about moving his team here, but was instead using Las Vegas as leverage to get folks in Oakland to build him a new stadium there.
But Davis laid those concerns to rest at a hearing before the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee last week when he declared, point blank, “We’re not using Las Vegas as a bargaining chip.” He added, “If you build it, we will come.”
That is, as Donald Trump would say, YUGE.
The fact is Las Vegas, unlike probably any other city in America, could probably make a 65,000-seat stadium work even without an NFL football team anchoring it. Again, we’re the Entertainment Capital of the World. All manner of big-name/big-ticket events would fall over backwards to come here – including my favorite, Wrestlemania!
But with an NFL team moving here – subject to approval by a super-majority of NFL owners, of course – then the project makes even more financial sense.
Of course, the devil’s always in the details and much has already been made of the proposed funding formula in which some $750 million will come from taxpayers.
So let’s talk about that…
1.) The precedent of the Legislature using tax dollars to fund big economic development projects in Nevada has, unfortunately, already been firmly established with the taxpayer subsidies for projects such as Tesla’s giga-battery factory in Reno and Faraday Motor’s manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas.
I was opposed to taxpayer subsidies for both of those projects. But Pandora’s Box has been opened and there’s no way to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
At least funding a stadium is consistent with what Nevada’s actual economy is all about and will benefit existing tourism and entertainment businesses in the community.
2.) Acknowledging that it’s taxation without representation, the funding proposal as presently envisioned is that the tax dollars used for stadium construction will come from the room tax on tourists, not “locals” who live here. For those who live by the mantra, “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the guy behind the tree,” this is right up your alley.
And again, using room taxes from tourists to fund a huge capital project that promotes tourism and entertainment makes a whole lot more sense than using that revenue to fund schools – which it currently does and shouldn’t. Indeed, school funding SHOULD be paid by those of us who live here, not those who visit here.
3.) That said, it’s important to note that stadium proponents are not calling for a HIKE in room taxes. Instead they’re proposing a re-allocation of EXISTING tax revenue. Big difference.
The taxpayer-subsidized Las Vegas Convention Center wants to expand and wants to use room tax money to fund that expansion – including extending the convention center over to the Strip where the shuttered Riviera Hotel presently awaits implosion.
A couple things about this…
a.) The convention center competes with private convention facilities owned and operated by hotels and casinos, including the Las Vegas Sands. And because of its taxpayer subsidies, the convention center is able to undercut those private convention facilities, giving itself an unfair advantage.
For those who argue that public tax dollars shouldn’t be used for a stadium, I’d argue that public tax dollars shouldn’t be used for the convention center either. So let’s eliminate the tax subsidies for the convention center and CUT the room tax for our tourists.
Can I get an “amen”?
b.) OK, since that’s not going to happen let’s consider the either/or scenario of using existing tax revenue to either build the stadium or expand the convention center. Along that line, perhaps Abraham Lincoln said it best…
“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere.”
Again, every major resort and hotel in Las Vegas has its own convention and meeting facilities. As such, “government ought not to interfere.” There’s just no reason for government to be competing with the private sector when it comes to convention facilities.
On the other hand, there’s simply no way for multiple resorts to build multiple, competing stadiums.
c.) For those who wish to eat their cake and have it, too, there are options for using existing room tax revenue to fund both the convention center expansion and the Las Vegas Dome.
For example, the convention center could delay or revise expansion plans until after the stadium is built.
Or, as Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak pointed out recently, the convention center could raise its rates to fund its expansion plans and STILL be, not only under the cost charged by private Las Vegas convention facilities, but under what other major public convention facilities – such as in Orlando and New York – presently charge.
Or better yet, the convention center could redirect millions of dollars from its advertising budget and put that money into expansion construction. After all, who on the planet doesn’t already know that Vegas is a destination resort?
And again, why are tax dollars being used to advertise Las Vegas rather than Las Vegas resorts doing their own advertising? Advertising Las Vegas is absolutely something the resorts and casinos can and should do for themselves. As such, “government ought not to interfere.”
So I guess the bottom line here is this: Las Vegas needs a new stadium. Without question. The ideal location is the one proposed near the airport between UNLV and the Strip. And it can be built without a tax hike on residents OR tourists.
So it’s not whether there’s a way to it, but whether there’s the will.
So let it be written.
So let it be done.
Disclaimer: The Las Vegas Sands has been a financial supporter of Citizen Outreach over the years dating back to the 1990s, including hosting meetings, conferences, conventions and other events. Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach and publisher of Nevada News & Views.