Las Vegas unveiled some star power at a pep rally Monday to pump up its stadium plan for the Raiders. Like, who doesn’t like Howie Long? Any political consultant knows you can’t go wrong with a popular Pro Football Hall of Famer out front for you.
Long makes perfect sense for Las Vegas, especially when you look at some of the other characters they’ve got to work with over there.
Take the state’s governor, for instance.
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People over here probably remember Nevada’s Brian Sandoval as the guy whose administration put mentally ill people on the bus going anywhere to get them out of his psych ward in Las Vegas. To save his state some money, they shipped them off, with limited supplies of meds and not much to eat, to the rest of the country. Some of them wound up on the streets of Sacramento and the Bay Area.
Now Sandoval wants his state to spend $750 million to help pay for a Raiders stadium in Las Vegas.
My efforts are just trying to get people, the various parties, together, and more importantly, getting the community and the business community together. I’ve had a number of people who have said they’re trying to find ways to play their role. We’ve had elected officials that have said they will play their role.
Ronnie Lott, on his role in the attempt to keep the Raiders in Oakland
Sandoval’s people on the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee voted last month for the state to finance a $750 million cut of the stadium’s $1.9 billion price tag, along with hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson’s $650 million and Raiders owner Mark Davis’ $500 million. Sandoval has scheduled a special session of the Nevada Legislature to OK the deal. It begins Monday in Carson City.
Las Vegas may have Howie Long, the former Raiders defensive end who used to sack quarterbacks for a living and who is now an analyst on Fox Sports’ NFL pregame show on Sundays.
Oakland, however, has an equally credible Hall of Famer working on its behalf.
More than a cheerleader, Ronnie Lott is an active participant in trying to make a deal happen for Oakland. He’s been making the rounds in the East Bay this year, chatting up the business community to assess its interest in helping to bankroll a new stadium for the Raiders in Oakland. He’s working under a 90-day memorandum of understanding with the city.
“My efforts are just trying to get people, the various parties, together, and more importantly, getting the community and the business community together,” Lott said in an interview Tuesday. “I’ve had a number of people who have said they’re trying to find ways to play their role. We’ve had elected officials that have said they will play their role.
“Sometimes it takes two people to get together, and hopefully three or four more to join in, and you have to have that kind of momentum to make it happen.”
Lott made his reputation through the devastating hits he used to lay on receivers and running backs who entered his air space during his playing days with the 49ers and Raiders. Looking at Las Vegas, Lott isn’t out to put a shoulder into anybody. He spoke admiringly, even, about their attempted Raiders grab, comparing it to Mayor Kevin Johnson’s work to keep the Kings in Sacramento. He sees Las Vegas and Sacramento as two cities that established a paradigm whereby elected officials reached out to private monied interests and rallied their populations. He said Oakland needs to do the same if it wants to keep the Raiders.
Stories broke earlier this year about Lott partnering with an Atlanta developer, Egbert Perry, to establish a private-sector role for keeping the Raiders in Oakland. Late last month, Perry moved on his own to make a $167 million offer to buy the Oakland Coliseum complex. The city rejected it.
Lott could not explain Perry’s solo action, but he made it pretty clear he thought the proposal was a little short, offering barely half, or less, of the $300 million to $400 million that Lott believes private interests must invest to get an Oakland stadium project done.
Sometimes it takes two people to get together, and hopefully three or four more to join in, and you have to have that kind of momentum to make it happen.
“The transaction has to be such that it is not just a land purchase, but that it also encompasses the requirements of what it takes to build a stadium,” Lott said.
With Davis already pledging $500 million to the Las Vegas deal, it’s not unreasonable to think the Raiders’ owner couldn’t contribute that much to an Oakland stadium plan. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the city is willing to put $100 million to $300 million into infrastructure improvements at the Coliseum site for a stadium project mixed in with a massive new commercial complex.
Despite his apparent parting of the ways with Perry, Lott said he still feels “comfortable and confident that the resources are there” from the private sector, in the East Bay, to pick up a significant portion of a stadium tab.
Lott’s time may be limited to create some movement for Oakland, with his 90-day agreement with the city scheduled to expire in late November. But there’s no guarantee in Las Vegas, either, even with Long leading the cheers. The Nevada Taxpayers Association is opposed to the state’s funding of the deal. So is the Culinary Union, the largest in the state.
The city of Oakland, meanwhile, has NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on its side. No matter what the Nevada Legislature does, it only takes the vote of nine of the NFL’s 32 owners to stop the Raiders from going to Las Vegas, according to Goodell’s math.
This fight is just getting underway.