Nine sites discussed for NFL stadium; cost could hit $2.1 billion

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis stands with local Raiders fans after a meeting of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee on Thursday, April 28, 2016, at UNLV.

One of nine sites in Southern Nevada may eventually house a 65,000-seat stadium that could bring an NFL team to the area.

As officials try to get a better sense of exactly where the stadium would be built, project backers today presented the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee with a range of specific options. Most of them are on or near the Strip or on land owned by UNLV.

Backers also said the total cost of developing the stadium — including land, parking and off-site infrastructure — could be as much as $2.1 billion. Excluding land and other such costs, the project’s price tag had previously been pegged at some $1.4 billion.

Additionally, committee Chairman Steve Hill today said he planned to ask Gov. Brian Sandoval for a two-month extension of the group’s deadline to finalize its recommendations. The committee’s original deadline, set by an executive order from Sandoval, was the end of this month.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Majestic Realty Co. have proposed building the stadium as a venue that could bring the Oakland Raiders to Southern Nevada, giving the region its first NFL franchise. The stadium would also host UNLV football games, concerts and other events.

But the stadium’s location remains a major question mark, even amid a larger debate over the appropriate amount of public funding for the project.

Among the possible locations presented today are UNLV’s 42 acres on Tropicana Avenue near Koval Lane, Station Casinos’ 100-acre site at Tropicana and Interstate 15, MGM Resorts International’s festival grounds across from SLS Las Vegas, UNLV land by the Thomas & Mack Center, the site of the former Riviera hotel-casino and the Cashman Center.

The list also includes some 62 acres on Russell Road just west of I-15, the former Wet ‘n’ Wild water park site on the Strip and the golf course behind Wynn Las Vegas and Encore.

Total cost would vary depending on which site is ultimately chosen, but backers have indicated that the amount of public money they are seeking — $750 million, likely from hotel room taxes — would remain the same.

Hill introduced an alternate financing plan last month that would reduce the public contribution to $550 million. But that proposal was not discussed today as the discussion focused largely on location-related issues.

Per the estimates presented today by the Sands-Majestic team, the potential development cost could range from $1.7 billion to $2.1 billion.

The hard construction cost of the stadium would be an estimated $1.1 billion, with land acquisition costing as much as $250 million, parking and off-site infrastructure costing as much as $150 million and a practice facility costing a total of $100 million. The estimates also include $50 million for a possible retractable roof upgrade, as much as $350 million in soft costs and a $115 million contingency.

Moving forward, backers plan to evaluate each of the nine sites based on a set of criteria. Per a preliminary site evaluation matrix presented today, the criteria include ownership, the capacity of the site, land costs, access and egress, parking availability, game day atmosphere and ability for a site to maximize revenues.

For the UNLV sites in particular, the major obstacle is their proximity to McCarran International Airport. While officials originally discussed putting the stadium on the 42 acres on Tropicana, concerns about the airport and traffic have made that location unlikely.

Executives from Southwest Airlines recently sent a letter to Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission who is also a member of the infrastructure committee that said they were “extremely concerned” about housing the stadium there. The Southwest letter said a stadium so close to McCarran runways would restrict operations and “erode safety, security and capacity at the airport.”

Southwest’s objections cast serious doubt on whether the stadium could work at the Tropicana location, although the project’s backers have kept it on the list of options.

The other proposed UNLV site — the one by Thomas & Mack — may face airport-related issues as well: Rosemary Vassiliadis, the airport’s director of aviation, said an “interlocal contract” from 1996 restricted heights in the area.

Committee member Kim Sinatra, a top Wynn Resorts Ltd. executive, said later that she wanted more clarity about how the airport affected potential sites, because “it’s either a problem or it’s not a problem.”

For the sites on or near the Strip, considerations center more around available space and the cost of cost land.

The Riviera location is where the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority plans to expand its Las Vegas Convention Center, a project that the committee approved a recommendation for earlier in the meeting. The site offers some 47 acres, according to today’s stadium presentation, but more land would be necessary to fit both the convention center expansion and the stadium.

Sisolak said after the meeting that it was “pretty clear” that the Riviera site was not a viable option, in large part because it required additional land.

“It’s been my experience that, if somebody that owns that land knows you absolutely have to acquire that land in order to make that project feasible, that’s going to be a pretty expensive property to acquire,” he said in an interview. “So I don’t think that’s as realistic as some of the other proposals are.”

Sisolak was more receptive to the Station site, some 100 acres on Tropicana just west of I-15 that includes the Wild Wild West casino and other land. A Station executive has said the company is open to discussing a deal for part of that site.

In Sisolak’s view, the large size of the Wild Wild West site offered enough room for both the stadium and other development that could be included in a special tax district. Details of that district have not been settled yet, but it would generally allow the stadium’s operators to capture related tax revenues generated in a specific area.

Similarly, Sisolak liked the idea of putting the stadium at MGM Resorts’ festival grounds site, which is where the Rock in Rio music festival was held in 2015. MGM Resorts President Bill Hornbuckle, another committee member, said in a previous statement that his company offered to contribute some of its land there “as an equity stake in the stadium at fair market value to be determined at a future date.”

When mulling the festival grounds as an option for the stadium, Sisolak was attracted to its closeness to some major potential developments: Resorts World Las Vegas, Alon Las Vegas and the up-for-sale Fontainebleau.

Those projects could potentially be included in the tax district, in Sisolak’s view. If that happened, Sisolak did not expect it to negatively impact the projects because they would not pay any different taxes — the only thing that would change would be “where you take the tax money and send it,” Sisolak said.

The stadium could also end up being built on Wynn Resorts’ golf course on the Strip, which is the same spot where chairman and CEO Steve Wynn has proposed building his Paradise Park development. Wynn has said Paradise Park would include a large lagoon attraction with an island in the middle, a boardwalk, a 1,000-room hotel tower, a small casino, restaurants, nightlife and meeting space.

Wynn Resorts spokesman Michael Weaver said in an email today that his company has discussed the golf club site, which is more than 130 acres, with the stadium development group.

“There is ample land for both the Paradise Park development and a stadium. We could accommodate both on the 130 acres,” Weaver said.

It was not immediately clear how much of the golf course was available for other development. Weaver said “the precise land mass for Paradise Park is still in development,” but it would leave enough room for the stadium.

Another possibility near the Strip is the vacant land on Russell Road and I-15 that’s currently owned by lenders including Barclays and Credit Suisse. Developer Jack Kashani wanted to build an expo center there in 2014, but nothing ever materialized.

Investors reportedly bought the site, which is just across the freeway from Mandalay Bay, for more than $200 million in 2006 and had plans for a huge resort there. Lenders foreclosed in 2009.

CBRE broker Michael Parks, who is marketing the site for sale, said there had not been any serious negotiations or discussions about putting a stadium on the Russell site. But he said his firm had made the stadium backers aware that it was an option.

While CBRE does not have an asking price for the land, Parks said the pricing should “well fit within the budget (backers) have presented.”

The 11-member infrastructure committee is vetting the stadium plans as it prepares to send recommendations to Sandoval. Raiders owner Mark Davis has said he would work to move his team to the stadium if it is approved — he pledged $500 million to the project at a previous committee meeting.

If the committee approves a recommendation for the stadium, the state Legislature would need to take action on it, likely in a special session this year. Also, 24 of 32 NFL team owners would need to sign off on the Raiders’ relocation.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for July 28.