The metropolis of Las Vegas is facing a question often faced by localities large and small.
Should the public be paying for—in any way shape or form—a new stadium or a new stadium/arena?
Let me tell you a historical tale and let you decide for yourself.
Back in the early 1990s, I bought a radio station in Las Vegas. One of my best customers was the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino, which was built, owned, and operated—and I mean literally operated—by the late Ralph Engelstad.
One day, I got a summons from Connie Ross, who was the doyenne of advertising and publicity directors on the Las Vegas Strip. “Ralph would like to see you about the Speedway.”
What he wanted was an official radio station for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which he and Richie Clyne designed on the back of an envelope in the Mai Tai Lounge one night at the hotel and wasn’t that much further along–except that the land had been acquired and construction was starting.
Ralph and Richie built the largest facility in the state with NO public money, except for the roads that had to be built to accommodate all the traffic–which the Speedway brought when it was holding an event.
The Speedway was built with private money. Ralph would not have dreamed of going to the Clark County Commission and asking for a subsidy.
Since the Speedway hosted its first Winston Cup event in 1998, it has attracted BILLIONS of dollars of economic ripple to the area.
Ralph sold the Speedway to Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports, Inc. in 1999, and Bruton has spent millions improving the facility (which was a little like polishing the Hope Diamond), again with private sector money. In fact, for a little less than $20, you can own a share of that and seven other race tracks; and you’d be hard pressed to find any government money in the company, except for the infrastructure the various governments built to get the taxpayers in and out of the facilities.
For the record, what came about from the back of that envelope now hosts the top three sporting events in the state every year, both in terms of attendance and economic impact.
Contrast that with the various groups who want to build stadiums, arenas, and dual use facilities either on the strip or downtown or in Henderson.
Every “developer” who pops up in Las Vegas—and it’s like watching a game of Whack-A-Mole—starts by saying they’ll build it with private sector funds and, very soon, starts to talk about a “public-private partnership” (which is crony capitalism speak: “you pay and we get rich.”)
And if you think that this is limited to big towns like Las Vegas, look at the morons on the Reno City Council who have agreed to spend $1,000,000 a year for the next 29 years of the taxpayers’ money to pay off Aces stadium.
Aces stadium was build with tax increment financing. In other words, because there would be substantially more real estate tax paid in the area because the stadium would encourage redevelopment, the city would kick in part of that increase to pay off the construction loan.
Only there wasn’t. And the very rich owners of the Aces (the AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks) told the city that if they didn’t “help,” then they would take their team and go somewhere else.
Instead of telling those owners not to let the doorknob hit them in the ass, the City Council folded like a cheap suit.
Football, baseball, and basketball are great sports. So is NASCAR.
But, in a sluggish economy, the NASCAR people take care of themselves; and the other sports are on your payroll. Hell, in a booming economy, the NASCAR people take care of themselves (and the other sports are on your payroll.)
Think about that when you hear a politician bloviate about “economic development” because what that really means is paying a hooker to create a red light district that you spend your time trying to stay away from.
Think about it. It’s Obamacare for billionaires.