In case you didn’t hear the big news earlier this week — the old miser dropped out of the stadium deal. That places the NFL’s Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas move in serious jeopardy.
So, what’s next?
Sheldon Adelson, the cantankerous fat cat who supposedly pledged $650 million from his vast fortune estimated at worth more than $32 billion — for him, what amounts to an old set of golf clubs sitting out in the garage — backed out of an agreement with Raiders’ owner Mark Davis and the City of Las Vegas, the third partner in the complicated business deal. Adelson’s involvement (actually, his money — nobody really cared much if he showed at the meetings) was essential to the construction of a new stadium, expected to be built near The Strip and could have been ready just in time for kickoff for the 2020 NFL regular season. Adelson’s role in the agreement was like the rich family uncle who everyone despises. But you don’t want to piss him off because there might be something in the will, later on. Without a new stadium, which required Uncle Adelson’s money to build, the Raiders deal was, and remains, dead.
Adelson cutting and running when his help (money) was needed most reveals a pettiness not even his most vocal critics would have expected. To be clear, Adelson’s financial contribution could have been a remarkable testament to his appreciation to this city and its people. For many, even his detractors, it might have transformed his spotty reputation from a casino mogul and political reactionary who’s not particularly well-liked by many in this community into something of a local civic hero. Yet, when time came to buy into the game and write out the marker, Adelson scootered away from the table faster than a busted gambler at one of his craps tables.
Now, the partnership is $650 million short. More pressing, the clock on the stadium deal is ticking and could go kaput, as early at March 1st. Somebody needs to step in and reach deep into their pockets — and fast. Reportedly, the MGM-Grand folks were open to stepping in and riding to the rescue as our savior. However, negotiations quickly collapsed. Unless David Copperfield can magically make a half a billion in cash appear, that deal’s not happening. Other powerful casino interests could be interested. But the last time anyone checked, Caesars Entertainment had $17.43 in the bank.
What’s puzzling to me is — why do football stadiums cost so much goddamned money? Does Las Vegas — or any other city where are schools desperately cry out for renovation and roads and bridges need improvement — really need to squander $2 billion on a mega-sports arena that hosts on the average just ten ball games a year? Assuming the Raiders were to remain in Las Vegas for the next 30 years, that would come out to about $6.7 million per game, and that doesn’t even include the cost of upkeep and maintenance.
Inexplicably, stadiums have become the new cathedrals of modern civilization. Sunday worship isn’t much of a church thing anymore. Now, it’s a football thing. What the Sistine Chapel and Notre Dame were to the peasantry centuries ago, today the Superdome and Jerry’s World assume that same spiritual and financial ambiance. Indeed, churches have lots in common with the NFL. Both cause brain damage and then demand that taxpayers pay for everything.
Here’s my idea: Screw Adelson. Screw the MGM. Let’s slum it and build the stadium for $1.35 billion. Wouldn’t that work? Wouldn’t that be enough? Must every pro football stadium look like a giant UFO? Can’t we throw down some seeds, water the grass, construct a few grandstands, and enjoy the game? Didn’t natural-grass stadiums filled with real fans minus all the sky boxes and sponsor-driven hoopla work pretty damn well for six decades? Didn’t pro football become America’s true national pastime because games were played in authentic arenas like Lambeau Field, the Orange Bowl, and Yankee Stadium? Sure, no one wants to go back to the olden days of leather helmets. But can’t we forget about retractable roofs, faux rubber grass, and VIP sections?
How about this. Let’s offer to build the Raiders a new stadium for $1.35 billion. Two billion minus $650 million equals $1.35 billion. That’s the budget. We can tell Mark Davis — hey, you wanted a Tesla. We’re offering you a Buick. Take it or leave it. Right now, given that they call the Oakland Coliseum home, the Raiders are driving a shitbox. How to cut down on costs? Easy. Since Trump’s border wall with Mexico isn’t up yet, we can use cheap migrant labor. We’ll cut on the number of stalls in the ladies restrooms. They’re going to bitch they’re aren’t enough stalls, anyway. We can remove the escalators because most sports fans are fat and lazy. They need to exercise more. We can charge $15 for a beer and $30 for a parking spot. Oh wait — stadiums are doing that already.
An NFL stadium doesn’t need to resemble the Johnson Space Center. Yeah, I get that Las Vegas weather is hot as fuck much of the time and perhaps an enclosed facility may be necessary. But, the weather here isn’t any more uncomfortable than the steam baths of Miami or Jacksonville or Houston or the frigid weather in northern cities. If Bills and Bears fans can sit in the freezing cold in subzero temperatures and watch those shit teams, Las Vegas football fans should be able to risk a mild case of sunstroke. 250 miles to our south, the Phoenix Cardinals played in an outdoors stadium for nearly 20 years and there weren’t more than a handful of deaths, and pretty much all of those were from eating the nachos.
According to Forbes’ latest figures, the average NFL franchise is worth about $1.5 billion. For teams who also own their own stadium, the values are considerably higher. Assuming Mark Davis will own half of the new Las Vegas stadium, it follows that the value of the team would probably double and surpass the $2 billion mark. That should be anough money to live on for a while, even in the Bay Area. Besides, he sure as hell isn’t spending much money on haircuts.
If he still short on cash and needs a few bucks, given those figures and that level of collateral, Davis could probably get approved for a bank loan. If he needs a co-signer, then give me a call. Unlike Sheldon Adelson, I won’t back out of the deal. I’ll even throw in my old set of golf clubs.