By ALAN SNEL
They celebrated the marriage of Las Vegas and the NFL Raiders today with a stadium groundbreaking that was pure Vegas — lights beaming to the heavens after dusk to remember the 58 lives lost on Oct. 1; a stunning singing ensemble that jolted the emotions to kick off the VIP event and multiple shovel-to-dirt groups to reinforce the notion that building a $1.9 stadium project is a very big deal.
“The Raider Nation is now part of the Nevada family,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval told more than 500 groundbreaking witnesses in a temporary structure on the 62-acre stadium site on the west side of Interstate 15 along Polaris Avenue and Russell Road.
It was Sandoval’s special session of Nevada lawmakers that triggered the state law that placed Nevada on the hook for $750 million for the stadium — the biggest public subsidy for an NFL stadium in history.
By groundbreaking standards, it doesn’t get more star-studded that Monday’s event. There was the host, comedian George Lopez; former Raiders star Howie Long; and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took a break from the NFL’s concussion-brain injury issues, the Zeke Elliot suspension and the national anthem kneeling protest controversies to heap praise on Las Vegas and the Raiders’ new stadium set to open in late July 2020.
“Only in Las Vegas can you turn a groundbreaking into a show,” Goodell told the crowd.
Raiders owner Mark Davis recognized his mother Carol in the vast audience and mentioned, “I only wish my father could be here as well.”
You get the sense that the Raiders’ iconic former owner, Al Davis — and Mark’s dad — would have approved of the groundbreaking glitz. And the words of Laborers 872 leader and Las Vegas stadium board member Tommy White.
LVSportsBiz.com interviewed White before the groundbreaking ceremony.
LVSportsBiz.com also interviewed several Las Vegas area sports organization leaders who attended the groundbreaking and learned what the domed, 65,000-seat stadium will mean to them.
— Ike Lawrence Epstein, UFC chief operating officer and a stadium board member said his MMA fight company will stage at least one mega event a year in the stadium. He noted UFC holds about four or five stadium events around the world each year.
— Desiree Reed-Francois, UNLV athletic director said the football team will use the new stadium as a vital recruiting tool to sell them on attending college in Las Vegas. “Recruiting is our lifeline,” Reed-Francois said.
— William Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts International president said he hopes the monorail will serve the stadium — words that were heard by Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak as he passed Hornbuckle. Sisolak quipped back to Hornbuckle: “It’s happening.” (LVSportsBiz.com hopes Hornbuckle holds Sisolak to that pre-groundbreaking quote).
And besides thanking Sandoval, Raiders President Marc Badain uttered another mighty name of power in Nevada who helped deliver the $750 million subsidy for the stadium.
Badain mentioned billionaire casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, whose stadium shadow looms large because of his MIA status around the project. He dropped out of the stadium project and people wonder if Adelson did just that because he could not get an ownership stake in the Raiders. We just don’t know.
But Badain, whose silver-and-black career started as an intern a quarter-century ago, did give the Sands Corp. chief a shout out.
Badain also thanked the Nevada lawmakers who approved the $750 million stadium subsidy for their “swift actions.” For stadium subsidy opponents, those actions were too “swift” and lacked the type of due process and public debate you typically see in public stadium money proposals.
And Badain thanked the always Twitter-friendly Sisolak, the county commission chairman who has thrown his hat in the ring to run for governor in 2018 because Sandoval is term-limited out.
And he gave a shout out to UNLV — the Raiders’ future co-tenant that will play six home games at the stadium. A source told LVSportsBiz.com to expect to see a proposed UNLV stadium lease on the Las Vegas stadium board agenda in December.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com