Nevada invested the largest taxpayer subsidy ever for a US stadium to start construction of the new Raiders home in Las Vegas. Now it’s time to find out what else will fill the venue.
Gov. Brian Sandoval signed an executive order Wednesday creating the Southern Nevada Sporting Event Committee (SNSEC) to explore how the region can attract major events like the Super Bowl and NFL Draft. The board will be composed mainly of politicians, casino industry leaders and representatives of local sports franchises (like the NHL’s Golden Knights).
“With the new Nevada and the existence of these teams in Las Vegas, additional opportunities to attract major sporting events and associated activities to our state are arising, especially with the addition of the new stadium,” Sandoval said in a statement.
A report is due by the end of the year.
Nevada needs big events to pay for its new stadium
Sandoval helped push through the 2016 legislation authorizing Nevada’s $750 million contribution toward the $1.9 billion stadium project that attracted the Raiders to the desert. The state raised its room tax around the Strip to pay off the bonds that went up for sale earlier this month.
Supportive politicians justified the tax hike by calling on a report produced by the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee (SNTIC). Sandoval appointed that board in 2015 to study the benefits of building a stadium capable of holding the largest of events.
Economic analysis for SNTIC showed the stadium needs 20 to 25 events per year in addition to Raiders and UNLV football games to generate enough tax money to pay the bonds.
Projections are based on an average event attendance of 43,000 people and an average of more than 25,000 room nights per event. That includes sellouts for every Raiders game and an optimistic projection of 30,000 for UNLV football.
More sports for the home of US sports betting?
SNTIC’s final report gave a glimpse into what events could be targeted by SNSEC.
Despite the growing number of venues within Southern Nevada, tourism officials, resort representatives and event promoters all noted during SNTIC meetings that the region lacks a state-of-the-art stadium with the seating capacity to host large-scale events such as:
- International soccer matches
- National political conventions
- NFL games
- Neutral-site college football games
- Large stadium concerts.
While the 65,000-seat stadium will not open until summer 2020, Sandoval’s group will begin meeting by July and report back to the governor on potential targets by the end of the year. The executive order calls on the group to consider all Las Vegas facilities, but the new stadium clearly presents the new opportunity referenced by Sandoval.
The NFL Draft could be a possibility in 2019 or 2020, an intriguing option in part because of a 2017 decision by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to allow prop bets on the draft. State officials are also hoping the NFL will host a Super Bowl in Las Vegas in 2023 or 2024.
The NCAA problem?
The NCAA’s ban on hosting its major championships in any state that allows single-game wagering — which right now covers only Nevada — is a major factor. Its official stance remains that Las Vegas is off-limits because of the presence of Nevada sports betting.
That means a stadium-level event like the men’s basketball Final Four appears to be off the table for now. Sources close to the Las Vegas stadium effort, however, continually suggest a Final Four or College Football Playoff game is a possibility. Early-season neutral-site college football games are nearly a lock. The city already hosts postseason basketball tournaments and a bowl game.
The pending Supreme Court decision on the New Jersey sports betting case could change the NCAA’s stance and present Las Vegas the chance to bid on its championships for the middle of the next decade.