By GABE STERN
Associated Press/Report for America
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers questioned whether a proposal to subsidize a new MLB stadium with tax credits and bonds would further boost the Las Vegas economy or serve as a gift to a big undertaking that could drain government resources.
At a committee hearing Monday, likely the only one before a vote on a proposal to help finance the Oakland Athletics’ potential stadium on the Las Vegas Strip, the Republican governor’s chief of staff and Democratic treasurer said that it would provide tax revenue and welfare. paying jobs while further helping transform Las Vegas into a sports city.
But lawmakers questioned whether an A’s stadium on the site of the Tropicana Las Vegas would be worth it. They cited an MLB team with the worst record in baseball, funded in part by a county and state struggling to fund public services, including schools, that rank among the top background in the national student-teacher ratio and funding per student.
“Ordinary citizens see us having a conversation and a discussion about financing a stadium,” said State Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas). “However, we don’t have enough revenue to fund and give a 20% (salary) raise to teachers.”
Stadium subsidies for teams in cities of Buffalo, New York, to Arlington, Texas, have sparked similar heated discussions in state legislatures across the country in recent years. A last-minute bill in the 2016 Nevada special session paved the way for $750 million in public assistance for Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, home of the Raiders. T-Mobile Arena, home of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, opened to the public that year with no public attendance.
As in many stadium financing deals, public assistance would not go directly to facility construction, but rather through county underwritten bonds and credits that might otherwise go to the revenue of the stadium’s general fund. state.
The A’s plan would authorize up to $380 million in Public assistance for the potential $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium in a special taxing district, primarily through $180 million in state transferable tax credits and $120 million in bonds, mostly from Clark County. The county would also contribute a $25 million credit for infrastructure costs. The proposal would not directly increase taxes.
The presenters projected $900 million in annual construction salaries and $17 million in tax revenue from operations each year in a study conducted by firms including Goldman Sachs and funded by the A’s. They said the state’s general fund would increase from the project.
“This is a good investment,” said Steve Hill, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, adding that Las Vegas tourists would help fill the stadium. “There will be more money available both at the state and local level if this deal is made then if it is not.”
Lawmakers are challenging a multitude of concerns in the bill that lawmakers say could have a huge effect on their communities. This included how the A’s lack of recent success could affect attendance, traffic along the Strip, compatibility with the nearby airport and the integrity of the metrics they used to compile the projection numbers.
Some legislators said outright that they were not in favor of the bill or indicated that the proposal is a hard sell.
“The Raiders came to this state with a great fan base. We had a lot of people coming to California to see the Raiders,” said Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas). “I don’t see that happening for the A’s.”
In testimony, construction unions and trade organizations said the construction would provide access to local employment. Many generated positive income, new jobs, and the potential to make Las Vegas the “Sports Capital of the World.”
Oppositionists echoed lawmakers’ concerns about funding a stadium, while many public initiatives receive no funding.
The stadium would be at the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, at the current location of the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort. Las Vegas would become the smallest television market for Major League Baseball, and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises. The 30,000 seat capacity would make it the smallest stadium in the MLB.
The stadium financing bill was featured on friday night after more than a month of speculation, as the Oakland A’s move seemed increasingly imminent. As of Monday night, it is already the most talked about proposal this session with more than 2,200 opinions online, more than three-quarters of which are in opposition.
With less than a week to go before the adjournment of the legislative session on June 5, the plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. On Thursday, Democratic leaders said the funding bills, even for the A’s, may not pass if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo follows through on threats to veto several Democratic-backed spending bills if their legislative priorities are not addressed.
Stern is a staff member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.