Las Vegas knows better than anybody that the only sure bet is to control the house. Only this time, in Sin City’s attempt to snatch the Raiders, it’s the NFL that flings the cards out of the chute. And it looks as if the league wants the Raiders to stay in Oakland.
You’ve got to wonder how Sheldon Adelson feels about this. Adelson is used to being the house, at least at the Venetian Hotel and Casino, which he owns. He’s also used to getting his way, although he threw down $92 million to help GOP candidates defeat President Barack Obama in 2012 and lost on that one. There is a good chance he’ll feel just as empty when the Raiders’ situation is resolved – hopefully with them still in Oakland. The team and the city are meant for each other.
Adelson is in for $650 million to move the Raiders to Las Vegas. The team’s principal owner, Mark Davis – despite telling Raiders fans last year, “As God as my judge, I’m with you all” – has committed $500 million to building a proposed $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat stadium off the Strip. It should be an interesting verdict.
Last week, an 11-member Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee panel voted to shove in $750 million to the cause, which also was interesting. Adelson, who is reportedly worth $30 billion, has successfully battled to keep from paying $2.8 billion in estate taxes over the years, according to Bloomberg News. He doesn’t have a problem, however, with the room taxes his customers will have to pay to help finance Nevada’s end of the transaction if the Silver State legislature approves it.
As mayor, I’m putting tremendous effort in terms of time and energy into keeping the Raiders in Oakland. Despite what it may look like in the press, Oakland absolutely stands a fighting chance to keep this team.
Libby Schaaf, Oakland mayor
For a lesson in free-market economics, Adelson may want to check in with the left-wingers in San Francisco. They got a baseball stadium built there without public money, and they’re about to do the same with a basketball arena. Oakland, in its pursuit of options to keep the Raiders, also is relying on the prospect of private money, like Adelson’s in Las Vegas. Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and his partner, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, are on the case in Oakland, fronting a group of mostly African American investors.
The story first broke back around Super Bowl 50 that Adelson and Davis were flirting with each other. Maybe the Raiders’ owner forgot his pledge last October in front of God and Oakland at the Paramount Theater after the NFL’s public hearing on franchise relocations.
Since then, the story of a Raiders move to Las Vegas has rolled like a freight train, and Las Vegas was ready to spike the ball in the end zone after scoring the $750 million approval by the tourism committee. That is until NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell halted Nevada’s momentum last weekend.
In Minneapolis for the Vikings’ first regular-season game at their new stadium, Goodell told the media that Las Vegas still had a ways to go to take the Raiders away from Oakland. For one thing, the commissioner pointed out, it needs the votes of 24 of the NFL’s 32 franchise owners.
More than the math, Oakland fans loved the rhetoric:
“Well, you never want to see a community lose their franchise twice,” Goodell said, referencing the Raiders’ 1982 departure for Los Angeles before the team returned in 1995. More to the point, Goodell said, “I think we can do it in Oakland.”
It’s been a thrill to work with the Lott group. Rodney Peete and Ronnie Lott are both seasoned business people, NFL experts, and truly good community-minded human beings.
Libby Schaaf, Oakland mayor
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf liked the sound of that. It was even more pleasing that the NFL backed Goodell’s words with action. On Sunday, the league dispatched its executive vice president, Eric Grubman, to Oakland for the Raiders’ home opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Grubman then stuck around to attend a series of meetings earlier this week with Schaaf and a variety of East Bay business people.
“As mayor, I’m putting tremendous effort in terms of time and energy into keeping the Raiders in Oakland,” Schaaf said in an interview in her office Tuesday. “Despite what it may look like in the press, Oakland absolutely stands a fighting chance to keep this team.”
Despite Davis’ public embrace of Las Vegas, he has maintained back-channel contacts with Oakland. You may remember that shortly after his first meeting with Adelson, Davis hired former 49ers chief financial officer Larry MacNeil to serve as his liaison to Oakland. MacNeil was the 49ers’ lead guy in the planning and construction of Levi’s Stadium.
Of course Oakland will have to put up a little something to keep the Raiders in town. Schaaf said the city’s end probably will be in the low nine figures – $100 million to $300 million in “infrastructure enhancements” to leverage a massive commercial project that would encompass a new stadium at the very-conveniently located Coliseum site served by BART, Amtrak, an elevated airport trolley and the Nimitz Freeway. One thing Schaaf said she won’t support is a hit on the city’s general fund.
The public contribution and Davis’ NFL cash still leave a possible Oakland project short by several hundred million. Schaaf is banking on private money to close the gap. Can Lott and Peete find it? They’re looking. According to the mayor, Lott attended some of the meetings this week.
“It’s been a thrill to work with the Lott group,” Schaaf said. “Rodney Peete and Ronnie Lott are both seasoned business people, NFL experts, and truly good community-minded human beings.”
It also helps to have the house on your side.