NFL American football franchise the Oakland Raiders has taken a major step towards relocation to Las Vegas after the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee (SNTIC) voted in favour of a financing package for a new stadium in the city.
The development yesterday (Thursday) marked the first step in a three-stage effort, but is seen as a significant milestone in the city’s bid to secure its first NFL team. The 11-member SNTIC panel voted unanimously to recommend the financing proposal for a $1.9bn (€1.7bn), 65,000-seat stadium that would serve as the new home for the Raiders.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper said the terms of the deal specify that there will be a $750m public investment funded by Clark County hotel room taxes, a contribution of at least $650m from the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. chairman Sheldon Adelson and a $500m pledge from the Raiders.
“I think everybody wins in this,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told the Review-Journal. “We’re just really excited. A lot of thanks to everybody on the SNTIC because they put in a lot of hard work. It was a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and that’s how things get done. But we still know there’s a lot of work ahead of us.”
This work will include the SNTIC’s recommendation moving to Governor Brian Sandoval, who could elect to call a special session of the Nevada Legislature to vote on the financing plan. The Associated Press news agency said project backers are keen for a vote as soon as possible so they can take the proposal to NFL owners ahead of their January meeting and potential team relocation vote. The Raiders’ relocation would need the backing of 24 of the NFL’s 32 team owners.
Sandoval said he would start reviewing the recommendations, and emphasised that Las Vegas needed to continue evolving to retain its place as a tourism hub. “I will not move forward until all questions have been resolved,” he told the AP. “I am hopeful the work completed by this committee will serve as a roadmap to Southern Nevada's unrivalled and continued success.”
Commenting on Thursday’s vote, Clark County Commission chairman Steve Sisolak told the Review-Journal: “I think it moves Las Vegas to a whole new level. Now that we’ve got an NFL team hopefully coming to Las Vegas says a lot. You don’t get this chance very often. It’s putting us on the map with other major cities. People from around the world will be coming here to watch professional football. It’s an exciting time for Las Vegas.”
Sisolak credited Bill Foley, the owner of Las Vegas’ recently awarded expansion franchise in the NHL ice hockey league, for paving the road to potentially secure an NFL team. The NHL will expand to Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season after billionaire businessman Foley was awarded the competition’s 31st franchise in June.
The Raiders have long been unhappy with their current O.Co Coliseum home, which they share with MLB baseball team Oakland Athletics. In February, the franchise signed a one-year lease extension to remain at the Coliseum for the 2016 season as the team continues to seek a new permanent home stadium in the city.
The agreement secured the immediate future of the team in Oakland, with the Raiders having previously been in contention for relocation to Los Angeles. The O.Co Coliseum deal also includes one-year extension options for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
The Raiders, along with the San Diego Chargers, in January lost out to the St. Louis Rams for relocation to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. The Raiders retain an option to join the Rams in Los Angeles should the Chargers decline their first option.