Things are looking good at Allegiant Stadium: The Review-Journal reported this week that special events at the stadium are surpassing forecasts.
So that should put an end to criticism from those who oppose an additional room tax to provide a $750 million stadium subsidy, right?
The success of the stadium has nothing to do with whether it was a good idea to spend tourist tax dollars there. In fact, you could say its success proves one of the central points of the critics, that no public wealth was needed to build the place.
I have never been afraid that the stadium will remain inactive. I just thought there was no need to pay the taxpayer dip for a multi-million dollar team in a multi-billion dollar league. And I wasn’t the only person to think so: Eighteen state lawmakers — from both parties — voted against the stadium grant in 2016.
Sports teams are among the biggest extortionists when it comes to taking public money out of public hands. They do it to come to a city, they do it when they’re thinking of leaving a city, and they often play cities against each other to get the best deal – for them.
Meanwhile, critical needs in Las Vegas — for education, housing, policing, and foster care, to name a few — are disappearing.
I’m not saying the stadium grant takes away from those needs; it’s not. This was a brand new tax created exclusively for the stadium. And I’ve lived in Las Vegas long enough to know that there’s no way the casino industry has approved a special room tax for schools, public housing, or health care clinics. While these things help community life, they don’t bring tourists to the tables.
Southern Nevada has a long history of donating the store to attract teams to town. The City of Henderson sold 55.6 acres of prime real estate worth $12.1 million to the Raiders for $6.05 million in 2018, a handsome discount. Two years later, the Raiders quickly sold their headquarters building for $191 million and re-leased it.
But wait, there’s more: Henderson also contributed $15.15 million toward the cost of the $26 million Lifeguard Arena, a practice facility for the Henderson Silver Knights.
But wait, there’s even more: The city has invested $42 million in the Dollar Loan Center arena at Green Valley and Paseo Verde parkways, about half the cost of the facility.
Today, the lights of the Dollar Loan Center shine into the night like the midday sun, piercing the surrounding residential neighborhoods and serving as a beacon for southern Nevada’s gullibility when it comes to giving out tax money.
Honestly, does anyone doubt that if the American Badminton Consortium asked Henderson officials for a grant to build their international tournament airfield, they would write checks before the field was finished? It wouldn’t even matter that I just started this organization.
And let’s not forget the 20-year, $80 million deal signed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for the naming rights to the Howard Hughes Corp-owned Summerlin Minor League Baseball Stadium. with for this money? “Las Vegas Ball Park.” Superb, but not in a good way.
Las Vegas is not exempt either. Mayor Carolyn Goodman has pushed hard for a soccer stadium at Symphony Park. The project ultimately failed, but not before the city spent $3.1 million trying to make it happen.
What do all these things have in common? The fact that the teams and organizations that “partnered” with local governments could have borne the expenses without the help of taxpayers.
The classic rationale is that the stadiums and arenas and the badminton airfield will bring tourists and new tax revenue to the city. Forget the fact that many times these projections don’t come true. The real question: should government money go to these projects? Or should it go to things for which the government is exclusively responsible, including schools, police and fire departments, and social assistance, including affordable housing?
And it’s not like we don’t know better! The Vegas Golden Knights play in an arena that was built entirely at private expense with no government assistance. So it can be done.
That’s something to keep in mind the next time a team (hello, Oakland A’s!) comes to town saying they’d just like to move here, if only they could get some help on the land, or building, or naming rights. Nevada taxpayers and tourists have given wealthy sports teams enough.
Contact Steve Sebelius at [email protected] Follow @SteveSebelius.