The Allegiant Stadium employment webpage.
It’s always some scheme. The battery factory, the football field, the Blockchains fiasco. During the Great Recession, when misery and despair were literally ruining countless Nevada households, the centerpiece proposal to help the economy offered up by state Democratic lawmakers was … film tax credits. It’s easier to laugh now than it was then.
There’s always some whale, some quick hit quick fix that politicians, and the Very Important Grownups for which they stand, swear will transform the economy in new and exciting ways that will extend prosperity to Nevadans.
“Game changer.” That’s the phrase cheerleaders for so-called “economic development” like to use.
No scheme, er, project was more frequently accompanied by gushing promises and the use of the term “game changer” than the decision to provide a $750 million public subsidy to build a stadium for a National Football League team.
So has the football field fulfilled the promise? Has the game been changed?
Gov. Steve Sisolak would like you to think so.
“Allegiant Stadium has gone above and beyond the expectations,” Sisolak said in a Las Vegas Sun sunbeam of a guest column in February. “Since opening its doors, the stadium has hosted 24 events and welcomed more than 400,000 attendees — beating projections by 80%. That’s huge, and when the Super Bowl comes to Las Vegas, it could bring up to $1 billion in revenue to Southern Nevada.”
“Bringing more sporting events to Nevada is one of my biggest priorities,” Sisolak continued, because they “help keep our economy humming — by filling our hotel rooms, keeping our restaurants full, creating good-paying jobs for Nevadans, and…”
Wait. Did somebody say jobs?
Part time, precarious, and more of the same
According to an employment report presented to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority in March, 3,632 people were employed at Allegiant Stadium during the fourth quarter of last year. The report doesn’t say whether those people were employed full-time or part time, or how much they were paid. It just says there were 3,632 of them.
At least 2,200 of them might be part time; that’s how many part time positions stadium officials said they were looking to fill last year.
Those 3,632 jobs are in a Southern Nevada metropolitan area with a workforce of more than 1 million people. Whether they’re full time or part time, and whatever they pay, the jobs at the stadium account for a decidedly underwhelming less than four-tenths of 1 percent of the area workforce.
The stadium authority lists Applied Analysis, the consulting firm led by Jeremy Aguero that prepared the rosy job projections when the Legislature and the Clark County Commission approved the public subsidy for the stadium, as the contact for additional information. Applied Analysis referred questions to Aguero, who is now the chief operations officer for the Raiders. (The public subsidy for the stadium created at least one good job.) Aguero (who also prepared laughable economic projections for the Blockchains LLC farce) did not respond to a request for information.
The modest, to put it charitably, employment report provided to the stadium authority follows the construction phase of the project, which Aguero and boosters said would employ the equivalent of 11,000 workers but only ended up employing about a quarter as many. From an employment standpoint, the construction phase was supposed to be the splashiest part of the stadium. It’s over now, of course.
The 2021 fourth quarter jobs report provided to the stadium authority also said more than a thousand jobs at the stadium still needed to be filled.
Job seekers visiting the Allegiant Stadium employment webpage will find logos of the Raiders and Allegiant, along with a welcome message that reads – what else? – “We Are Game Changers.”
The website also explains that “When you work at Allegiant Stadium you’ll be working for one of our employer partners,” which includes separate vendors who provide office & clerical, food & beverage, maintenance & janitorial, parking & transportation, and security services. Occupations in those services are rarely high-paying, and often part time.
Those 1,000 open jobs must have been mostly filled in recent months. As of Wednesday afternoon, those five “employer partners” were only posting a total of 16 (sixteen) full time open jobs at the stadium, and 15 part time jobs.
Mistaking branding for boldness
In January, Steve Hill of the quasi-public Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the authority’s (and the area’s) branding and PR maven, Billy Vassiliadis, spoke at an annual event where everyone sings the praises of Southern Nevada business and industry. The professional boosters struggled to contain their enthusiasm for how wonderful the stadium has been already for the Las Vegas economy. Tourists! Tourists! Tourists! And Events! they exclaimed, more or less.
Vassiliadis suggested the stadium’s economic impact was of a piece with the magic and excitement that has always been Las Vegas.
“It’s creativity. It’s risk-taking. It’s daring. It’s innovative. It’s bold,” said Vassiliadis (who was also up to his eyeballs in the Blockchains debacle). “We don’t back down,” Vassiliadis said, citing as examples Sheldon Adelson building his own convention center and Steve Wynn building his own volcano.
But what exactly is “innovative” and “bold” about doing what Las Vegas has been doing throughout most of the post World War II era – attracting tourists? What is so creative about effectively doing … more of the same?
Because after all those decades of doing more of the same, the Southern Nevada economy has become even more precarious, more part time, and a more difficult place to make ends meet, even while working multiple jobs (one of which might even be at the stadium).
Wherever all the money made from additional tourism is going – money that, as the governor said, “keeps our economy humming” – it’s clearly failing to reach people who work in service jobs that are the largest employment sectors throughout the valley. The bulk of those jobs are far from “good paying,” Sisolak’s assertion that they are notwithstanding.
With perhaps the exception of workers fortunate enough to be represented by the Culinary union in collective bargaining agreements, the wages and conditions in the Southern Nevada service economy through the first two decades of the current century suggest that no matter how many tourists come to Southern Nevada, wealth and prosperity hasn’t been trickling down.
Working Nevadans struggle to afford child care, assuming they can find some. The same goes for elder home care. Poverty level wages and erratic conditions, with skimpy to no health, sick leave, vacation and retirement benefits, have become not less but more common in 21st century Southern Nevada. Ruthless banking options prey on low-income people, as does a profit-driven justice system. One of the nation’s most thread-bare safety nets… A public transit system that is severely limited and certainly not rapid… Miserably underfunded schools… A tax structure that places a larger burden on the poor than the rich…
All those failures and more erode the purchasing power of working Nevadans, dragging down the economy and destabilizing households. The stadium hasn’t changed that game.
In fact, rather than alleviating those problems, the stadium exacerbates them, by creating still more low-paying jobs.
“It’s risk-taking, It’s daring,” Vassiliadis says to describe Las Vegas. “We don’t back down.”
If he means investing public money to benefit already well-off private companies and individuals, Vassiliadis is right. Nevada doesn’t back down. But when it comes to truly developing the economy by investing public money in public goods and public services that would lift not only the local economy but the actual workers who make it work, backing down is exactly what goes on around here. We’re not innovative or daring or bold. We’re the opposite of that.
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