Raiders Stadium: Where’s Sheldon?

rendering of stadium

By Alan Snel

Where’s Sheldon?

Nevada’s richest man politically cajoled the state Legislature into blessing a Clark County hotel room charge hike that has already begun generating the early dollars of the $750 million in PUBLIC money toward a $1.9 billion domed stadium at I-15 and Russell Road for the Oakland Raiders.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak — who also serves unofficially as the county’s sports commissioner and Raiders/Golden Knights PR man — alerted the public that the hotel room charge revenues were running ahead of schedule.

By the way, resident stadium watchdog Bob Beers, running for re-election as a Las Vegas city councilman representing the Summerlin area, points outs to LVSportsBiz,com that the public is actually paying closer to $1.45 billion after all the bond repayments on the $750 million are done after 30 years.

But the question remains: where is stadium subsidy honcho Adelson, who took his prior $650 million stadium commitment and bailed on the funding for the Raiders’ new playground.

I have covered a few stadium deals around the country (Denver, South Florida, Seattle and Tampa Bay) and there’s not a single case where the triggerman for the stadium subsidy dropped
out after hooking the public to contribute the money.

The fact that Bank of America has come off the bench as lender to fill in for Adelson’s $650 million gap toward funding the $1.9 billion sports palace has sparked chatter in Las Vegas that the bank giant will snag the naming rights for the palatial venue. And the fact that B of A was waiting in the wings to step in to lend $650 million to the Raiders to pay for the stadium raises the scenario that the Raiders (and the NFL) knew Adelson would be stepping aside.

On the topic of the naming rights, the problem with Bank of America placing its name on the Las Vegas stadium is it already has the naming rights to an NFL stadium that is home to the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, NC. That deal was cut in 2004 for two decades, so the naming rights agreement expires in 2024. It’s valued at $7 million a year — or $140 million for the life of the deal.

Banks are often partners with sports stadiums. So, it’s likely Bank of America will have some type of sponsorship deal at the Raiders stadium — just not the naming rights to the actual venue.

But what has happened to Adelson and why did he drop out five months ago?

Everyone has their own theory.

Adelson said he didn’t like the Raiders’ first proposed lease, so he took his $650 million off the table after his lobbyists push the subsidy bill through the Nevada Legislature during a special session called by Gov. Brian Sandoval (who has received political contribution money from Adelson through the years.) But the truth is that pro teams always ask for all the revenue from publicly-subsidized sports venue during the first round of negiotiations.

So, that brings up the question: did Adelson truly disappear because of the lease?

Or did the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell politely advise Adelson that they were grateful for the $750 million in public money for the Raiders stadium but that his services were no longer needed for the stadium and the Raiders?

There was a whiff of orchestration because Bank of America was jolly on the spot to serve as the new lender.

And the NFL’s Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde approach to gambling might have meant that the league would prefer to not have a casino owner play such a central role in building one of its stadiums or have an ownership stake in one its teams (even though some owners are investors in the DraftKings fantasy sports operations).

But it was strange that when the Las Vegas Stadium Authority approved a 30-year lease with the Raiders, there was hardly an iota of a mention of Adelson during the session. Even the local newspaper owned by Adelson in Las Vegas did not even mention Adelson when it published a story on the stadium board approving the lease.

This is one story about Adelson that has legs for the sole reason that it’s strange that Adelson is no longer mentioned as part of the story after playing such a major role just a year ago.

Alan Snel

Alan Snel brings decades of sports-business reporting experience to LVSportsBiz.com. Snel covered the business side of sports for the South Florida (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel, the Tampa Tribune and Las Vegas Review-Journal. As a city hall beat reporter, Snel also covered stadium deals in Denver and Seattle. In 2000, Snel launched a sport-business website for FoxSports.com called FoxSportsBiz.com. After reporting sports-business for the RJ, Snel wrote hard-hitting stories on the Raiders stadium for the Desert Companion magazine in Las Vegas and The Nevada Independent. Snel is also one of the top bicycle advocates in the country.

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