MGM Resorts looks like a possible partner as the effort to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas continues taking shape.
More about that in a moment. Let’s first savor some of the possibilities.
The Las Vegas Raiders – how do you like the sound of that? – could play their first NFL game in a domed stadium about four years from now during the 2020 season.
Speculation is heavy on the sound of optimism because Southern Nevada is realistically closer than ever to having its first major league sports franchise. There was a time just a few years ago when it did not look possible.
It continues to look like an NHL team at the new T-Mobile Arena is close to happening, but an NFL team in Las Vegas? C’mon now… let’s get real.
That’s the way thinking went 10 years ago.
But Raiders owner Mark Davis says a new home for his team in Las Vegas is what he wants, considering the difficulty he’s had getting a new stadium in Oakland.
There are lots of issues to sort through to get everything right, but the times really are changing, a fact that has everything to do with gaming’s steady spread across the U.S. The American Gaming Association did a bit of fact-checking last week and discovered most of the current NFL franchises are a short drive away from a commercial casino. The same thing is probably also true of NBA and major league baseball teams.
The location in Las Vegas of a domed stadium complex that will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion is just one of the significant issues.
The thinking of some people close to the planning is the fifty-plus acres at the southwest corner of the Strip and Sahara is preferable to the much-discussed Tropicana-Koval site near McCarran Airport, which could quickly become too cluttered and crowded.
Think about the traffic problems on Tropicana during a day when there is a major stadium event, complicated by possible crowds at the two MGM arenas to the west on Tropicana, not to mention travelers trying to get to the airport.
Nope, the thing to do is put the stadium somewhere else, a location where its presence might actually encourage development in an area where added development would be a major plus.
The Sahara location has easy access from a number of different directions, including I-15. More recently that land served as the Rock in Rio music festival site. Years ago it was the site of the original El Rancho.
MGM Resorts owns the land and unofficial indicators suggest the company could become a very willing partner in a stadium project that would benefit a number of citywide events. MGM CEO Jim Murren has often spoken of the company’s under-developed acreage.
A stadium complex at the north end of the Strip would also encourage further development in an area of the Strip that requires more attention than it has received during recent years. It has not benefitted from new projects in the way the southern Strip has. Carl Icahn would probably have no trouble finding a willing buyer for the abandoned but nearby Fontainebleau resort project.
The Riviera land just south of the Fontainebleau is also being considered as an alternative to the Tropicana-Koval location. The Riviera acreage is owned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, a fact that could make a domed stadium just across the street from the convention center an attractive asset for planners.
But before any group sinks more than a billion into the building of a stadium anywhere there is the important matter of keeping priorities straight.
There is no local shortage of the creative thinking and ambition that is necessary to get the stadium built – and while they’re at it, why not make certain its design would accommodate a major league baseball team – but local strategists want to make certain the NFL will support owner Mark Davis’ desire to move his Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.
Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: