Stadium generated fewer than a quarter of projected construction jobs

Former supporter bemoans ‘lies’ to legislators

(Allegiant Stadium press photo)

State lawmakers who voted in 2016 to sink $750 million in public funding into a football stadium said at the time they were sold on projections for the construction jobs the project would generate — 18,000 in all, including 11,000 direct “person-years of employment” to build the stadium itself. 

It was music to the ears of lawmakers who watched construction jobs evaporate during the Great Recession. 

“I couldn’t leave this chamber and look a laborer in the eye and say I had a chance to give you a job but I didn’t,” Attorney General Aaron Ford, then a state senator, said in 2016 when he voted in favor of public funding for the stadium.

Now, with the stadium completed, a report from the contractor reveals the project generated 5,656,218 hours of construction labor through July 31.  That’s just 2,719 full-time equivalent jobs, or approximately 900 in each of the three years of construction.  

Former State Sen. Patricia Farley, who voted for the plan to use room tax revenue for the stadium in 2016, says she’s “highly disappointed” in the disparity between the reality and the projections, which she called “all lies.”

“It’s a forewarning to future legislators asked to consider these types of ventures,” Farley says.  “There are no consequences when those who stand to benefit the most are knowingly not truthful when testifying to the Legislature.”  

Ford and other supporters of the project, including Gov. Steve Sisolak, then a county commissioner, did not respond to requests for comment.  

“It’s what I figured was an exaggeration on jobs,  and other cost areas not taken into consideration,” says former Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who ran against Sisolak in the Democratic primary for governor.  “They (lawmakers) didn’t get it right on Tesla, Amazon, the City of Henderson giveaway, and almost screwed up on Faraday.”

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom was among a handful of state senators in 2016 who voted against public funding. 

“Tesla also under-performed,” says Segerblom, referring to tax breaks bestowed on the company’s battery factory in Northern Nevada. “In the future the Legislature needs time to evaluate and debate projects before they give away billions in subsidies.  Special sessions don’t cut it.”

“Thank you for the opportunity but I don’t have anything to add at this time,” State Sen. Julia Ratti said when informed of the actual jobs resulting from stadium construction.  Ratti was highly critical in 2016 of public funding for the stadium.

Applied Analysis, which provided the projections to lawmakers in 2016, did not respond to the Current’s inquiry about the radical difference between the projections and the reality.

The Las Vegas Raiders will play their first game in Allegiant Stadium on Monday, but because of COVID-19, without the adoring throngs who paid thousands of dollars for the privilege to attend the game.  Even Raiders owner Mark Davis says he’ll stay away, out of deference to fellow fans.  

Las Vegas’ hometown band, The Killers, will provide pre-recorded halftime entertainment for the inaugural event.

The team won its first game on the road against North Carolina.  

In May, fiscal analyst Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis said the Stadium Authority budgeted significant reserves to cover expenses during unforeseen circumstances such as the pandemic.  

Aguero told the board that Las Vegas visitation in July was up 1.1 million from June, but down 40 percent from last year. Hotel occupancy was 41 to 43 percent of normal, and the average room rate of $104 was off by 13 to 18 percent. 

Despite the ominous backdrop, Stadium Authority members congratulated one another for the more than $2 billion project’s completion, as well as adherence to small and minority business participation thresholds. 

According to the Stadium Authority: 

  • Small Business Enterprise participation totaled 23 percent, above the goal of 15 percent
  • 168 different SBE firms received approximately $1.2 billion dollars of work on the stadium
  • 41 different women and minority businesses were awarded work totaling $80.5 million  
  • 70 percent of the firms awarded work on the stadium are based in Nevada
  • Participation of minorities and women totaled 63 percent, exceeding the goal of 38 percent
  • Veterans made up two percent of the workforce 
  • Nevada residents comprised 80 percent of stadium workers

Latin Chamber of Commerce President Peter Guzman, who serves on the Community Benefits Plan committee, said minority participation “superseded all goals.”

“The culture is what drove us to not only meet but exceed the requirements of the community benefits plan,” board member Ken Evans said.

Stadium Authority chair Steve Hill of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority played down media reports of construction liens filed against the stadium, calling the filings a normal part of the process.

Dana Gentry
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.