Developers officially break ground Monday on the Las Vegas stadium, a project two years in the making, but one key element remains unfinished — the community benefits plan.
The Las Vegas Stadium Authority met Thursday and reviewed the latest draft of the plan, which outlines ways to ensure the project includes local small businesses and a diverse workforce. Board members, however, expressed concern that the plan doesn’t go far enough in two ways:
Board Chairman Steve Hill said it would be difficult for the benefits oversight committee to enforce the plan without clear-cut targets for the hiring of minority- and female-owned businesses.
“My concern is that no matter what you do, if there’s not a goal, there’s going to be some who feel you didn’t do enough,” he said.
The discussion unveiled some tension between the Stadium Authority and Raiders officials, who, for the most part, have outwardly conveyed a smooth-sailing partnership as the project wended its way through the planning process. The legislation authorizing $750 million in public funds for the project charged the Raiders with crafting a community benefits plan, although it didn’t spell out exactly what should be included.
Raiders general counsel Dan Ventrelle defended the 10-page document, saying the team went above and beyond expectations to develop a plan that guarantees a high level of minority and female participation. On top of the workforce participation targets, the plan also mandates that 15 percent of construction contract work must be awarded to local small businesses.
“We think it is the most aggressive minority workforce participation plan in the history of stadiums and we’re very proud of it,” he said. “We think it’s something everybody on this board and the community should be very proud of too.”
Stadium Authority member Tommy White, a powerful leader of the pro-stadium Laborers Local 872, also came to the plan’s defense. He urged his board colleagues to stop “beating this document up” and move on to other matters.
White then attempted to solicit a vote on the community benefits plan. Hill stopped him mid-sentence because it wasn’t an action item on the agenda.
Plus, it’s still unclear how much power the board has in determining the final version of the plan. It’s technically not one of the legal documents the Stadium Authority must approve.
Hill downplayed the lingering disagreements between the two parties. The chairman said he thinks the Raiders are willing to work through the remaining issues with the board.
“The Raiders are trying to make this the best community benefits plan they can as well,” he said. “We haven’t had to try and leverage each other yet, and I wouldn’t necessarily anticipate that we have to.”
The Stadium Authority plans to provide an update about the community benefits plan at the December meeting.
Ripple effect of House Republicans’ tax bill
Hill kicked off the meeting by addressing concerns about how the House GOP tax reform bill could affect the stadium project.
A provision of the bill would ban tax-exempt bonds from being used to finance stadium projects. Instead, local governments would have to issue bonds subject to federal taxes.
If enacted into law, Hill estimated the change would cost the county roughly $3 million each year. That would affect how much leftover room tax proceeds — sometimes referred to as the “waterfall” revenue — could be applied to other uses as outlined in the stadium legislation.
“It is a meaningful amount of money,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t think it is enough to jeopardize the project moving forward.”
Bidding on big events
The stadium is years away from completion, but efforts are already underway to lure major sporting events to the Raiders’ future home.
Raiders President Marc Badain said he and Steve Hill will board a Houston-bound plane Tuesday to bid for hosting a 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer match. Las Vegas made it through round one, thus entering the second round of the competitive process, he said.
Naturally, the Raiders are eyeing the Super Bowl as well.
Badain said the National Football League has provided “positive feedback” about choosing Las Vegas as the host for the 2019 or 2020 draft and the 2024 or 2025 Super Bowl.
“Obviously, we’re focused on this as a football home for the Raiders, but we know the impact of the other events,” he said.
An extra Stadium Authority meeting has been scheduled early next year to ensure the board hits its February deadline to approve a bevy of project agreements.
Chairman Hill said the board will meet Jan. 11 and likely again two weeks later on Jan. 25, noting there’s a “high probability” the second meeting will be necessary. Why? Hill wants board members to see all the agreement documents before taking any action on them during the February meeting.
The Stadium Authority approved a 30-year lease agreement in May, but other documents — including the development agreement, joint-use agreement with UNLV and non-relocation agreement — await finalization.