Op-Ed: Boondoggle in the desert – taxpayer costs expected to exceed $1 billion for Las Vegas Raiders stadium
(Johnny Kampis ) – A recent transplant to this Las Vegas from Los Angeles, the Uber driver steers his Toyota Corolla onto to the Tropicana Avenue exit ramp off of Interstate 15, providing a clear view of Las Vegas Stadium rising less than a mile to the south.
Cranes lift beams high into the sky as workers on the ground level toil at their various duties. Construction on the nearly $2 billion stadium – $750 million of which will be funded by taxpayers, with total public costs expected to top $1 billion when factoring in other infrastructure improvements – is continuing at a feverish pace with the goal of completing construction next summer in time for the 2020 football season.
The National Football League’s Raiders (planning to occupy the stadium after it opens) will move from Oakland to Las Vegas. The local University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels will also play there.
It’s easier for locals to think of only the revenue and not the expenses, given that the funding mechanism for the stadium’s construction comes from an increase in lodging rates – a “tourist tax” – not paid for by city residents.
While the Mojave Desert earthquakes in July did not affect the stadium, an out-of-alignment steel canopy truss recently had to be reinstalled.
Don Webb, chief operating officer for Las Vegas Stadium Company, said the truss issue resulted in some construction proceeding out of sequence, with workers installing rails that will guide the playing field into place earlier than anticipated.
“That’s an example of something being taken out of sequence and thrown ahead of where it was originally intended so that we could recover some of the delay on the steel erection,” Webb said. “This normally wouldn’t have been done until we were completely done inside the bowl and working our way out.”
Webb said construction is on schedule, but some question that claim. The website Oakland News Now re-examined the video timeline animation of the construction schedule put forth by officials prior to the project’s start, finding that the video showed the roof’s assembly finished by June 23, 2019.
Estimating the roof was about 75 percent complete on June 23 this year, Oakland News Now projected the project was about three months behind schedule based on the video timeline. Were that to happen, the Raiders have a provision in their stadium contract to stick around in Oakland for two years if the facility is not ready on time.
Obviously, construction can be ramped up and more overtime can be paid to get a job done on time, but Oakland News Now points out the unusual lack of transparency with the Las Vegas Stadium project.
“The Oakland Raiders and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority have failed to issue timely, weekly reports to the media and to social media,” the site wrote. “This under-reporting of construction progress is unusual for large scale public projects in America.”
The Raiders did announce in June it had selected AEG Facilities to operate the 65,000-seat stadium. In addition to Raiders and Rebels games, the facility is expected to house the usual assortment of events that include concerts, festivals, corporate events and other sporting contests. The annual Las Vegas Bowl will move there from Sam Boyd Stadium across town and organizers hope to lure an NCAA basketball Final Four, constructing four locker rooms in the stadium for that purpose.
UNLV is expected to reap the rewards from this taxpayer-funded project. The university recently announced it plans for luxury seating in the stadium. All-inclusive VIP Club Seats will cost between $2,000 and $2,500 per season and include access to a buffet and open bar. But perhaps more important than liquor, these seats include on-site parking, which the Las Vegas Review Journal notes is a premium given the scarcity of lots around the stadium and the lack of a solid plan from officials on how to best get people to it.
Raiders fans will be counting down the days for the stadium to be finished and how many wins their team will have in the coming seasons, Taxpayers will continue to count the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the boondoggle in the desert.
Johnny Kampis is an investigative reporter for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance Foundation.