Did stadium proponents fumble job projections?

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Gov. Steve Sisolak, then a Clark County Commissioner, at a ceremonial groundbreaking in November 2017. (Las Vegas News Bureau photo)

18,700 construction jobs. That was the selling point supporters of a professional football stadium touted in 2016 when they sought $750 million in public funding for the project from state lawmakers.  Stadium construction alone, they said, would generate close to 11,000 construction jobs.

It was an offer few legislators, reminded of the Great Recession’s decimation of the building industry, could turn down. 

“It is not about just a job. It is about an opportunity,” said state Sen. James Settlemeyer during a 2016 hearing on the stadium.  “When you look at the concept of providing 18,700 construction jobs and 6,000 ongoing jobs after that, it is beyond compelling.”  

Now, with the stadium nearing completion and kick-off approaching, the latest Community Benefits report from the stadium contractor reveals construction of the facility generated 1,665 full-time equivalent jobs from the beginning of the project through November.  

“Putting in fixtures will hopefully take a lot of union workers,” said Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, a former state senator who was one of a handful of lawmakers to vote against the stadium funding.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, who made the stadium-generated construction jobs a centerpiece of his election campaign, did not respond to requests for comment.

Job projection provided to Nevada lawmakers during 2016 Special Session.

A “full-time equivalent” job is based on working 2,080 hours a year. The Stadium Authority’s projections are for “person-years of work” rather than actual jobs.  A person-year is an accounting term that represents the amount of work an individual performs in a year.   

“We haven’t rerun the job estimate numbers, but I don’t see a reason for them to have changed significantly since the initial estimate produced prior to the 2016 special session,” says Brian Haynes of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority.  

“In comparing those estimates to the work-hours in the Community Benefits Report, it’s important to remember that the numbers are different concepts that overlap to some degree but don’t necessarily align,” Haynes cautions. “The Community Benefits Report numbers measure the actual work-hours for a limited group of employees (on-site construction workers), while the total jobs estimate includes a broader range of workers, such as support staff at construction companies, architects and engineers, and equipment and service suppliers. These workers don’t enter the worksite and therefore aren’t captured in the Community Benefits Report, but they are nonetheless jobs created as part of the construction project.”

How many jobs are performed by offsite workers is unknown. The report is prepared by Lynn Littlejohn of Mortenson Construction. She did not respond to requests for information about the number of construction-related workers on the project. 

“I would think the Community Benefits report would be more complete if it included all the employment related to construction,” says fiscal analyst Guy Hobbs of Hobbs Ong Associates. 

Another factor — the Stadium Authority included in its projections the construction of a $100 million practice facility that was not funded in Senate Bill 1, the legislation authorizing the stadium money, says Haynes.  

Stadium proponents estimated the annual economic impact of the project at $620 million, measured in three categories — direct effects, indirect effects, and induced effects.  

  • Direct effects, or the wages paid to an estimated 10,829 “person-years of employment” in the construction of the stadium and its practice facility. The average wage is projected at $56,515. This includes construction workers, architects, accountants, and others working directly on the project.
  • Indirect effects, or the jobs created by the materials and goods required for the stadium, are estimated to generate 3,554 person-years of employment and pay an annual average of $48,396. This includes suppliers related to the project. “For example, a uniform cleaning service or materials supplier who contracts to provide services or supplies to the project,” says Haynes.
  • Induced effects are estimated to generate 4,328 person-years of employment with an average wage of $42,513. These are the “clerks, office staff, servers, cooks and so on” throughout the economy, according to Haynes, who benefit from the spending of construction workers and indirect beneficiaries of the stadium.

“When the stadium is complete, we need to compare the actual jobs with the projected jobs and if there is a substantial difference, figure out why,” Segerblom said.

“I don’t know of any plans to analyze the projections,” says Haynes.

Despite an increase in the project’s budget from $1.7 billion to $2 billion, job projections have remained unchanged.

“The economic impact estimates were never intended to be updated throughout the project, and we have not received any request to do so,” Haynes says.

The Community Benefit report says 76 percent of the stadium construction workforce is comprised of Nevada residents and 77 percent of firms awarded work on the project are based in Nevada.  

The contractor has awarded $1.2 billion in contracts through November, with $277 million of that earmarked for small business enterprises.  

Women and minority-owned businesses have been awarded $63.6 million in contracts.  

Women and minorities performed 62 percent of the 3,464,786 hours billed by contractors and subs through November. Veterans worked just 2 percent of those hours.

Dana Gentry
Senior Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, a grandson, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.