The Oakland Raiders, moving to Las Vegas in 2020, toured three potential summer training facilities in Reno on Thursday, but the team’s president did not commit to establishing a presence in Northern Nevada.
Mike Kazmierski, CEO and president of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, said at a press conference after the tour that the “region is very high on their list.”
The Raiders made their decision to come to Las Vegas after state lawmakers approved a controversial $750 million public financing package for a new stadium in Las Vegas. Gov. Brian Sandoval called a special legislative session in October 2016 for the funding deal, which ran into opposition from several fiscal conservatives and members that represent Northern Nevada.
The stadium has long been a source of tension in Northern Nevada, where lawmakers have argued that the stadium — and the tax dollars — will only benefit Las Vegas.
After the tour, at a press conference that included Sisolak, Kazmierski and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, Raiders President Marc Badain said the team was “going to find the best possible location and the priority is always going to be the football team.” Sandoval was invited to the event but had a conflict. A spokesperson said that he met with Badain Thursday morning.
The team is already building a permanent training facility in Henderson. The Raiders, which started mulling the move two years ago, have toured Northern Nevada training sites in the past.
“A lot has changed,” Badain said. “We have 30 percent of the stadium built in Southern Nevada, and this is one more step in what happens for the team… This is another project that we’re going to have to invest in, investigate and find the best location for the team.”
In an interview, Sisolak said the practice facility would be a win for Northern Nevada.
“I think there is a pretty strong likelihood we could get them to come to Northern Nevada,” he said. “From people I talk to, having a training facility up here is very important to them.”
Scheive said the city would support a facility, which she said could have benefits similar to spring training, but added that she would not support funding it through room taxes or city funds.
In the North, the stadium became an issue for Sisolak on the campaign trail earlier this year.
As the chair of the Clark County Commission, Sisolak closely aligned himself with the stadium deal and was criticized for doing so in a heated primary with Chris Giunchigliani, another county commissioner who ran against her colleague from the left. Giunchigliani, who had long described the stadium as a tax giveaway, won Washoe County by 3,600 votes but ultimately lost the primary. Giunchigliani also campaigned in Washoe County more than Sisolak during the primary race.
On Thursday, Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler criticized Sisolak for taking credit for the Raiders’ decision to host a summer facility in Northern Nevada, a deal he said he helped broker.
“It was me that made the deal with Marc Badain during the special session for the Raiders… to consider Northern Nevada as a home for their training camp,” he told The Nevada Independent. “The issue I have is Steve Sisolak coming to town and making it sound like it’s his own.”
He called Sisolak’s decision to appear at the event “typical politics.”
Wheeler said that he has also been working with the Raiders on moving the team’s training camp to Northern Nevada, including some sites outside of Reno, but declined to say where.
“I don’t want to say just yet,” he said. “We’ve got to see if they’re viable.”
“We’re not gonna take a photo op, we’re gonna actually try and get the work done,” he added.
Sisolak said that he speaks to the Raiders organization often and that the idea was not Wheeler’s. He dismissed the criticism that the event was just “typical politics.”
“This is an event about where the Raiders are going to locate in Northern Nevada,” Sisolak said. “I’m disappointed the assemblyman would choose to make it a political event.”
Before the press conference Thursday afternoon, Scheive, Sisolak and other officials toured three locations around Reno with Badain as potential summer facilities. The group looked at athletic facilities at UNR, Procter R Hug High School and Earl Wooster High School.
The Raiders currently hold their summer practice in Napa. The Raiders are committed to staying there in 2019 with an option to stay in 2020, though they haven’t made a commitment.
Schieve applauded Sisolak’s work in local government, but the Reno mayor, an independent running for a second term, did not say whether she would endorse him in the governor’s race. Sisolak, a Democrat, is running against Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican.
Disclosure: Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani have donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.
Indy videographer Joey Lovato contributed to this report.