By Megan Messerly and Jackie Valley
UPDATED, 10 AM, 2/2/17
Guess who's going to Houston?
Sources confirm Sheldon Adelson will be attending the Super Bowl, where he could interact with other owners and NFL officials. He will be there to see the Patriots play the Falcons just a few days after blowing up a deal with the Raiders.
Adelson, who is from Boston, is a Patriots fan. And Patriots owner Robert Kraft reportedly has been an advocate of the Raiders move to Las Vegas.
Sources close to Adelson say he has no interest in reopening negotiations with the Raiders. But if the team were to relent on its proposal to the Stadium Authority, and relinquish some control, Adelson might consider it.
That still, though, would leave the problem of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying he "likely" would not not favor a casino owner having a piece of the stadium.
Meanwhile, Craig Cavileer of Majestic Realty, which was in the initial deal but nudged aside by the Sands last year, would not directly answer questions from The Nevada Independent about whether he was interested in getting back involved.
"We’ve been big supporters of the Raiders’ relocation to Vegas over the past 12 months," Cavileer said. "Over the past five years we’ve invested a lot of time and energy into the development of a new stadium for both UNLV and the NFL. We’re hopeful that this is just a temporary setback between the Adelson family and the Raiders and the two sides work it out we’re happy to assist the county, the state, the NFL or the Raiders to bringing the project to fruition. NFL in Las Vegas is great for the community and it needs to get done. We don’t have an active role in the project -- haven’t had an active role since probably October - we like everyone else are observing what’s going on and really just hopeful that they can put this thing back together. I think what we’ve all read in the paper is probably about all that all of us know. We stand ready to do whatever we can to help."
Can the stadium deal be resurrected after two of the three key players pulled out this week?
As the smoke clears after the abrupt withdrawal of gaming mogul Sheldon Adelson and investment banker Goldman Sachs, the consensus was Wednesday that the Oakland Raiders could still find a partner but that it would not be easy.
"The Raiders could get this done if Sheldon will let it happen," suggested one key insider, echoing others who indicated they thought after tempers cooled that the parties could be brought back to the negotiating table or that Adelson, known to be furious with the other two players, would have to decide to go gently to make way for someone else. "The Raiders are committed to do it if they can get funding."
But, the insider added, while another banker could perhaps be found, even if they found financing for the $1.9 billion project, the Raiders might not be interested "if they feel like they are entering a war zone when they do it."
Might Adelson relent? "Everyone is hopeful, but no movement," said one source close to to the Las Vegas Sands chairman. "No talking, either."
As sabers rattled and politicians postured, most thought that not much will happen until after Sunday's Super Bowl in Houston, where Raiders officials were headed, perhaps looking for a new suitor at the NFL's biggest party. Until the Falcons and Patriots determine a champion, "there's not going to be anything of substance, I can't imagine," said one source.
Some lawmakers and community leaders continued Wednesday to express enthusiasm for the project despite rollercoaster-like developments this week as Adelson announced that he was pulling out of the stadium deal.
In most ways, the Adelson announcement is a setback. His departure represents a $650 million financial hole in the pricey project — with no clear indication who might make up that sum.
Goldman Sachs pulled back from its role as a development partner in the stadium project after Adelson exited the picture. A source familiar with the negotiations said that the bank’s financial agreement was with Adelson and that no separate agreement exists without his involvement.
A new wrinkle also came into play Wednesday when the NFL commissioner virtually closed out the possibility that any casino owner could have an interest in the stadium, which could preclude any local investor from the Strip or its environs.
In the aftermath, questions have swirled about what parties, if any, might come to the table to rescue the project if Adelson remains angry and refuses to reconsider his decision.
Majestic Realty, one of the original partners in the stadium deal who bowed out in October, did not respond to multiple requests for comment about whether they had renewed interest in the deal now that Adelson has backed out. At the time, Majestic’s executive vice president Craig Cavileer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the project had “evolved” and no longer included the development company. (Ed Roski, Majestic's principal, also owns the Silverton Casino, which may, based on Goodell's new edict may preclude him from being involved.)
“It’s moved to the point where it’s something Sheldon really wants to do with his family, so we’re willing to step back and let it go forward,” he told the Review-Journal.
A spokeswoman for Station Casinos declined to comment about whether the Fertitta family has any interest in financially backing the project.
State Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, meanwhile, offered hope that Adelson might reconsider his departure.
“It would not shock me to see the Raiders and the Sands ultimately resolve their difference at some point,” he told the Review-Journal on Wednesday.
Should the deal ultimately fall apart, Democrats are already preparing a backup plan — legislation that would create an infrastructure bank to fund Southern Nevada construction projects. Extra revenue generated by a hotel tax increase to help fund the stadium and approved by the Legislature in October would instead be funneled into the bank, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said Tuesday.
Questions already were being raised about the feasibility of Ford's proposal because the money would be needed to pay back bonds, possible for a UNLV stadium. And Roberson criticized the idea Wednesday as a “seemingly random” backup plan that “doesn’t appear to hold much thought behind it” in a statement to The Nevada Independent. He suggested the Legislature continue to see the NFL stadium proposal through before considering other alternatives.
While Adelson’s withdrawal seemed to throw the project into jeopardy, it could actually make the Raiders relocation to Las Vegas more palatable to NFL owners, some of whom had seemed reluctant to have a casino involved with a football team.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday during his State of the League address that he did not see a casino owner being involved with an NFL team, whether having an ownership stake in a team or financing a stadium. Adelson expressed interest in buying an ownership stake in the Raiders back in September.
"I don't see an ownership position in a team from a casino," Goodell said. "That is not something that is consistent with our policies ... not likely a stadium, either."
Goodell said that no decision has been made about the Raiders relocating to Las Vegas but expressed no opposition to the general idea now that Adelson has backed out.
"We haven't made a determination about Las Vegas as an NFL market," Goodell said. "That's part of the relocation process. The Raiders submitted an application; it's one that we're considering carefully. But there's a great deal more work to be done, and there are several elements of that — financing the stadium is just one.”
One of the other elements Goodell noted was the “depth” of the television market in Las Vegas — in other words, whether there will be enough eyeballs in Las Vegas watching the game on television given the majority of the NFL’s money comes from TV networks. (It’s a concern Falcons owner Arthur Blank has pointed out before in wondering whether Las Vegas has enough people to support an NFL team.)
Not to be lost in the mix is UNLV, which had visions of the proposed 65,000-seat stadium housing its college football team. The university’s president, Len Jessup, said he hasn’t lost hope that an NFL-capable stadium will rise from the desert dirt.
“I hope that the larger NFL (stadium) comes to fruition because I think that would be really good for the community,” Jessup told a Nevada Independent reporter Wednesday.
The bill to raise hotel taxes to pay for the facility, which Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law last fall, includes a provision for what would happen if the NFL stadium project ceased to exist. In that case, UNLV could pursue a collegiate football stadium with some of the tax money if the university contributes another $200 million within two years.
Jessup said that financial package could include a variety of sources such as naming rights or sponsorship revenue, philanthropic donations and money from pre-selling box suites.
“We’re confident that with the way things were negotiated that we could get our end of the bargain done,” he said. “Now, if anybody else wanted to help us out, we’d always be open to that.”
Jessup said he has not had any recent conversations with stakeholders involved the NFL stadium project.
This story was updated at 4:30 AM on Thursday with information from stadium project sources.
Nevada Independent reporter Michelle Rindels contributed to this report.