A year after the Clark County School District packed more students into classrooms in an attempt to trim millions of dollars from the 2016-17 budget, that same county will look to the public to finance a 2 billion dollar stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders.
The owner of the Raiders, Mark Davis is worth an estimated $500 million. His business partner, Sheldon Adelson is worth an estimated $31 billion.
With a simple touch of a button to one of the, I’m sure, dozens of offshore accounts Adelson owns he could finance the new stadium deal and not feel a thing. A drop in an endless bucket of cash that would make Scrooge McDuck blush.
Yet, here we are again. The public, being wooed with the idea of a professional franchise to cheer on. The public feeling compelled to pitch in and do its part. While it’s true that local taxpayers won’t pay for it. Tourists will foot the bill with a tax increase of around $1.50 per hotel night on the Las Vegas strip. Clark County is not flush with cash to needlessly spend on an NFL stadium nor its team.
That $750 million could go to a state school district that ranks dead last in the entire country. The three-quarters of a billion dollars could have been used to help the thousands of homeless people living under the bright lights of the strip.
There’s also this from the Chicago Tribune:
“When factoring in $900 million in anticipated roadway improvements that also will be needed, the Raiders’ new home in Las Vegas is on course to become one of the largest public investments in a sports stadium in American history. State lawmakers approved the spending despite decades of research that has concluded public stadium subsidies rarely pay off, and pointed criticism from one prominent economist, who used the words ‘wildly crazy’ to describe the economic impact forecasts for the new Raiders stadium.”
All I’ve heard since news broke of the approved move is the same five words, “The NFL is a business.” It is not. It is a hustler’s racket. It is a con game. A billion dollar game of three-card monte where the public plays the sucker all the time. The NFL show’s them the pretty lady. A franchise to call its own. The public starts to fantasize about standing amongst the municipal giants with professional teams. The people begin to dream of raising generations of adoring fans for the pretty lady. The mob wills it to happen. They will stop at nothing to make it a reality. They are ready for some football.
What the people never realize, except for a small few, is the cards never come out the way you think. Especially in the NFL.
In the past 35 years, an NFL team has moved 10 times. Compare that to Major League Baseball and the only team to make a move was the Montreal Expos becoming the Washington Nationals. The NFL is so quick to make a buck they move teams from cities only to return years later and we accept it as no big deal. The Browns moved to Baltimore over a decade after the Colts left the “Charm City.” The Raiders left Oakland, rented Los Angeles for a decade and some change then moved back to the Bay only to leave once again for Las Vegas. The Rams left Los Angeles in 1995 only to return 21 years later.
What LA did, however was something different. Stan Kroenke is not using public dollars to fund his Ingelwood palace. He’s footing the bill. The reason…LA has been here before. A 2003 analysis on Staples Center commissioned by the Los Angeles City Controller included a surprising finding, “Economic activity in Inglewood actually increased when the Lakers moved downtown to the Staples Center,” said Victor Matheson, a sports economist at College of the Holy Cross.
We can only hope that the rest of the country will not fall victim to the NFL’s constant ransom of civic pride. Take a page from Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland and stand up to the demands of the 1%. Use that money to help boost the future of the city and state as well as the economy with ways that actually produce. Maybe the next generation will learn in school the missteps its predecessors made and realize it’s time billion dollar owners paid for their own new toys. Probably not Clark County, the students there are about $750 million short.
Photo credit: Getty Images