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Could New Las Vegas NFL Stadium Be Built for Less? It All Depends on the Roof

Oakland RaidersWith gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson pulling his $650-million contribution off the table, many are questioning whether a new Las Vegas NFL stadium can be built for less than $1.9 billion. The answer, apparently, is yes — and the cost of the roof will be a huge factor.

All parties involved have been working under the assumption that the cost of a new Las Vegas NFL stadium would be $1.9 billion, making it the most expensive stadium every built. (It’s higher than the $1.5 billion budget for Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and much higher than the $1.1 billion price tag for U.S. Bank Stadium. But the new Inglewood stadium from Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke is budgeted for $2.66 billion.) That high price attracted the attention of NFL owners looking over the Raiders proposal, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

This week, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank told the Review-Journal the stadium cost seemed high. The Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will be ready for play next season, will cost $1.5 billion, including $200 million in public money. That makes Mercedes-Benz Stadium the second-most expensive NFL stadium ever constructed.

“I was surprised, yes — it seems like a higher number than what I would anticipate,’’ said Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot. “I’m not sure what they’re building. I haven’t seen any drawings. Obviously, it is several years after most of our (stadium) expenses have gone through the process, but ($1.9 billion) seems high.”

To date, no NFL stadium has cost more than the $1.74 billion for MetLife Stadium, built in 2010 and home to the New York Giants and New York Jets, in East Rutherford, N.J….

“I will say the ($1.9 billion in Las Vegas) seems high, but so much of what the actual design will be impacts costs,” said Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Falcons. “Believe me, those costs can go north of the number if you need a design like we have, with an eight-piece moving roof. Think of the most basic design: Whether or not you have a retractable roof or not makes an incredible difference in cost. So many things that go with that can drive (up) costs.

“Also, trying to compare stadiums in Dallas or Atlanta or Minneapolis, or elsewhere, is comparing apples to oranges, because of what a certain city’s economy might be at the time and things like labor costs. These are big, round numbers, but they’re usually not specific as to what the final cost will be.”

Right now there are commitments of $1.25 billion toward the project: Clark County has committed $750 million, and the Raiders are paying $500 million. The assumption is that union construction is driving up some of the costs, but that may not be valid — U.S. Bank Stadium was built with plenty of union labor at a much lower price than the proposed Las Vegas price tag. A retractable roof tends to be one of the priciest items in a stadium budget, and U.S. Bank Stadium was built with a fixed roof partially comprised of ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene — ETFE — that let in plenty of sunshine while keeping it nice and cozy during the fall and winter.

Now, if the Raiders and Clark County were to come to an agreement that the budget not exceed $1.25 billion, you’d see a plan emerge meeting that price tag. Yes, we know everything is bigger in Vegas, but in this case the budget may determine the design.

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August Publications