In an event heartily welcomed by a city reeling from the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the Oakland Raiders broke ground on the 65,000-seat domed stadium that will be the team’s home when it moves to Las Vegas for the start of the 2020 National Football League season.
State and local officials and Raiders executives posed with shovels emblazoned with the Raiders logo in a ceremony at the site just west of Las Vegas Boulevard at Russell Road that featured a moving tribute to police, firefighters, EMTs and other members of the community and included the shining of 58 stage lights in remembrance of those killed by a lone gunman who on the evening of October 1 trained a hail of automatic weapons fire on an outdoor concert on the Strip from a hotel window near the top of Mandalay Bay.
“Only in Vegas can you turn a groundbreaking ceremony into a show,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
With less than three years to game day the $1.9 billion project has set itself an ambitious construction schedule, the most aggressive ever proposed for a stadium of its size, according to Raiders Executive Vice President Dan Ventrelle.
There are other question marks. A number of agreements, including a joint-use agreement with the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the fulfillment of minority and female hiring targets under a “community benefits plan” required by the project’s public funding, have yet to be worked through.
Then there’s the financing, which suddenly has been thrown into turmoil by Congress.
Critical to the package, which includes $500 million from the Raiders and the NFL and a $600 million loan from Bank of America, is $750 million in public bonds backed by an increase in the Clark County hotel room tax. But the tax overhaul under consideration in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would bar state and local governments from issuing tax-exempt bonds for stadium construction.
It was not certain at press time what the GOP-controlled Senate’s version contains in its entirety.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is a Republican, said he is hopeful the ultimate bill won’t include the prohibitive language.
“I don’t know what the fairness of that would be,” he told The Associated Press. “We already made this deal.”