Nevada Raises Taxes to Build an NFL Stadium for a Team That May Not Play There

Nevada gaming leaders, lawmakers and laborers who supported legislation that provides public funding for an NFL-ready stadium cheered as Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law this morning.

By Jackie Valley

Nevada gaming leaders, lawmakers and laborers who supported legislation that provides public funding for an NFL-ready stadium cheered as Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law this morning.

The ceremonial signing, held at UNLV, marked the final step in the lawmaking process that began one week ago when legislators gathered in Carson City to consider the measures. By Friday afternoon, both the Nevada Senate and Assembly had approved bills that approved tax increases to construct the stadium, renovate and expand the Las Vegas Convention Center and bolster police security in Southern Nevada.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is an epic day for the future of Southern Nevada and, in fact, for the entire Silver State," Sandoval told the standing-room only crowd. "It's a day that we're all going to remember -- one that marked a new era in the history of one of the world's greatest cities."

His words drew hearty applause from union workers donning hard hats and neon-colored vests, lawmakers who cast supporting votes and key project advocates: Steve Wynn, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, UNLV President Len Jessup and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis.

Sandoval characterized the lot as the "broadest and most effective coalition" he has ever witnessed rally around a common resort corridor goal since becoming governor.

In the end, it worked. A supermajority of state lawmakers approved a $750 million public financing plan for the public's contribution toward a 65,000-seat, domed stadium. The family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has committed another $650 million, while the professional football team would kick in $500 million.

Davis has pledged to move his team to Las Vegas if the NFL approves the relocation bid. The stadium also would house the UNLV football program.

The new law raises the county hotel room tax by 0.88 and 0.5 percentage points, respectively, for the stadium and convention center projects. (The room tax for the stadium project only will increase by 0.5 percentage points in areas outside the gaming corridor but within 25 miles of the Clark County Government Center.)

The other bill signed into law by the governor authorizes the Clark County Commission to raise the sales tax by 0.1 percentage point. That additional revenue would go toward hiring 66 police officers for the Las Vegas Strip and downtown as well as 245 officers in the community.

One large question remains: Will the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas?

"We're handing the ball off to you," Sandoval told Davis this morning.

After the bill-signing festivities, lawmakers and Raiders fans clamored for a selfie with Davis, who planned to board a Houston-bound plane this afternoon for an NFL owners' meeting Tuesday. Davis said he will update his colleagues on Nevada lawmakers' green light for the stadium project.

But he stopped short of speculating on whether support is building among the NFL owners for his team's relocation bid.

"I'm not going to comment on that," Davis said.

What Davis did address: how the team plans to support the Las Vegas community if and when it moves here.

"I heard a lot of the people that voted against it," he said. "I heard their causes, and I heard their concerns. (We'll) work with them on those types of things. I can't promise we can get all the results they want, but we will work toward that. We plan to get into the community and immerse ourselves in this community."

The UNLV marching band, cheerleaders and Hey Reb mascot also attended the signing ceremony, adding a distinctive local touch to the project that's garnered national attention. The gathering of state politicians and casino bigwigs was a test run of sorts for UNLV, which is hosting the final presidential debate Wednesday.

The university also expects to receive word on the preliminary accreditation of its forthcoming medical school this week.

UNLV President Len Jessup said he's "thrilled" with all the attention the campus is receiving this week and is pleased with how the stadium legislation turned out.

University officials are beginning conversations with the developers about design aspects, such as team locker rooms and signage.

"They'll know that it's the home of the Rebels," Jessup said, referring to stadium visitors.

Now begins the countdown for the NFL's decision. Two-thirds of team owners (24 of 32) must approve the Raiders' relocation bid to Las Vegas. The vote is expected to occur during an owners' meeting in January.

"I believe the Raiders are going to be able to make a very compelling presentation to the owners tomorrow and moving forward into January," Sandoval said. "I don't know what else the NFL could ask for."

(c)2016 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.