By ALAN SNEL
Are you trying to figure out how an NFL stadium project in Las Vegas can cost $1.9 billion when others around the country come in slightly north of $1 billion?
Or, are you wondering how much public money (principal plus interest) will actually have to be raised during the next three decades to pay off a $750 million public subsidy that is being gifted by the public to the Oakland Raiders so that they can build their palatial NFL palace in Sin City?
Or are you curious about how much authority does the Las Vegas Stadium Authority actually have over the Raiders under the state bill that is enabling the NFL team to build its stadium (thanks to your public dollars) on 62 acres along Polaris Avenue at Russell Road and I-15?
Don’t bother asking the Oakland Raiders and their execs. You, the public, will likely not get many answers. In fact, at the last stadium authority board meeting on June 8, nobody from the Raiders was even there. And when LVSportsBiz.com reached out to stadium architect David Manica, he said he was instructed to not talk with the media and to forward inquiries to a team media director who has not returned a call or email today.
But you do have a local Las Vegas guy with deep roots who has more data on the Raiders stadium project than just about anyone. And he’s willing to dole out the answers along with complimentary M&Ms and fruit-flavored vitamin water at his pleasant southwest valley headquarters.
Meet Jeremy Aguero, the fact-filled stadium consultant and Dr. Data who supplies the local stadium board members with everything they would ever want to know about how the Raiders will build their sleek, fix-domed, 65,000-seat mega-playground that will have natural grass rolled into the joint.
The 43-year-old fourth-generation Las Vegan literally wrote the law that is guiding the process behind the Raiders building the venue with stadium authority oversight. Aguero is principal analyst with Applied Analysis, the 20-year-old firm that he founded and that is being paid up to $25,000 a month by the stadium authority for work as needed.
That $750 million public contribution to the Raiders’ estimate of $1.9 billion for the stadium?
Well, actually about $1.2 billion — $750 million plus interest — will have to be raised during the next 30 years, Aguero said, thanks to the revenues generated by the state Legislature-approved hotel room fee increase of 88 cents for every 100 bucks spent on a room along the Strip.
Repeat: the true dollar amount the public will raise for the stadium is about $1.2 billion and not the $750 million that is oft-reported in the media because there’s interest to be paid on the bonds that will be issued by Clark County in early 2018.
Aguero is quick to point out that even before the first bond is issued next year, the stadium authority will have raised $40 million-$50 million in hotel room fee revenues — a nice head start that will lower the principal to a mere $700 million or so.
How did Aguero, who earned his UNLV undergraduate degree in 1996 before also receiving his law degree at the same university, write the language behind the bill approved at the special session?
Well, he digested all the information churned out by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee during its 16 months of action and then he read lots of NFL stadium agreements for venues for teams such as the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys.
And yes, he listened to the Oakland Raiders and their execs.
“They had opinions on several provisions,” said Aguero, who, you might argue, had a flair for the understatement with that quip.
And there was input from state legislators, too, he said.
Thing is, the Raiders’ representatives won’t be talking to you — the public —
about their stadium funding and financials.
But they will be chatting with your representatives on the stadium authority board.
Just not in a public meeting room where you can actually hear what the Raiders’ suits have to say.
Instead, the Raiders’ bosses and consultants will be talking to individual authority board members in private, behind-closed-door meetings so that the authority board members do not violate the open meetings law.
Aguero says the Raiders’ strategy of meeting stadium board members out of the sunshine is standard operating procedure because the NFL club will be discussing financials or business practices of a proprietary nature.
“The idea the stadium board is circumventing the open meetings law is inaccurate,” Aguero told LVSportsBiz.com. “Briefings happen all the time.”
To get the Raiders’ thoughts on the matter, LVSportsBiz.com reached out to Raiders’ senior director of media relations, Will Kiss, with a voice message and email, but did not hear back.
Steve Hill, the governor’s economic development right hand man and stadium authority board chairman, said don’t worry about the Raiders interacting with the local community.
“The Raiders are committed to engaging the community,” said Hill, the former owner of a concrete, sand and gravel supply company for more than 20 years in Las Vegas.
To prove his point, Hill pointed out the Raiders stadium contractors — Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis and McCarthy Building Companies in local Henderson — met prospective subcontractors and suppliers at a meeting in Henderson Thursday to discuss the 31-month stadium building project.
The contractors aim to start moving dirt later this year and open the stadium in June 2020. (Which brings up the topic about where the Raiders will play in 2018 and 2019. If you think the Raiders could play in Sam Boyd Stadium in 2019 or even both years, there would likely have to be stadium upgrades to accommodate NFL games.)
It’s nice the Raiders stadium contractors met the locals who are hungering for stadium work.
Only problem is the stadium contractors are not actually Raiders owner Mark Davis and team President Marc Badain.
Not exactly ”engaging the community.”
Potential local sub-contractors, vendors and suppliers are drooling over potential contracts. Many pack stadium authority meetings and seek out Hill and other board members after meetings to pass out business cards.
Hill — along with Aguero — also noted locals realize the true dollars needed for the public contribution to the stadium. They said people know the public money needed to be raised to pay off the $750 million commitment will also include interest, which brings the total to well over $1 billion.
“It’s like buying a house for $250,000,” Hill said, noting people know there’s a purchase price plus loan interest.
In other stadium tidbits, Aguero also mentioned:
— The $1.9 billion stadium project price tag came from stadium development advocates that had included the Adelson family (who have since dropped out of the stadium development); Goldman Sachs, which was the Adelsons’ consultant; CSL stadium consultant Bill Rhoda; and the Raiders. Aguero noted the Raiders are responsible for first $100 million in the project and the land, which cost $77.5 million.
— The Stadium Authority must approve the stadium design and a variety of other agreements, such as a development deal.
— The Raiders and the stadium authority could potentially contribute money to a joint account, but the logistics still need to be ironed out. The sources of money flowing into this project includes the Raiders’ cash, the NFL loan money, the Bank of America loan obtained by the Raiders, personal seat licenses, an irrevocable letter of credit, and the public’s contribution.
— The stadium authority has to approve an overall stadium construction budget that the Raiders can charge construction invoices against.
The $1.9 billion cost is a cost estimated that grabbed the attention of state legislator Justin Watkins, a Las Vegas lawyer, who asked, “What happens if it’s $1.2 billion? We covered 80 percent of the costs and received zero of the revenues.” (Well, it’s closer to 70 percent but you get the point).
Indeed, the Raiders receive all the stadium revenues, such as lucrative naming rights money.
But Watkins said sales of Raiders’ tickets will generate entertainment tax revenues that would not have been produced if the public did not invest its $1.2 billion in total spending to lure the Raiders to Sin City.
In effect, the more than $1 billion that will be spent on paying off the public’s $750 million debt is akin to this market generating public dollars to host an NFL team in this market, Watkins said.
Which led Watkins to simply say, “Crying over the process won’t help.”
But there’s more to the process.
Two U.S. senators introduced federal legislation this week to limit the type of bonds that can be issued to help pro teams build publicly subsidized stadiums. U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK) introduced bills that would bar public agencies from using tax-exempt bonds typically used for schools and roads to build stadiums.
Aguero said he’s keeping an eye on that one. If that legislation is approved, it would remove one bond option for Clark County come next year.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com