On Monday, the Raiders’ controversial move from Oakland to Las Vegas was formally approved. But the relocation has not been met with unequivocal support from their fellow Vegas pro sports team, the NHL’s Golden Knights.
Bill Foley, the owner of the Golden Knights, expressed what everyone in America was probably thinking: that $750m of public money could have been better spent than on a new football stadium for the Raiders that will host just eight games a year.
Foley poured $500m of his own money in to secure his expansion NHL team, which will begin play this autumn. That contrasts with the Raiders’ use of the public purse for their move: the Nevada legislature has approved a $750m public subsidy for a new 65,000-seater NFL stadium, to be raised through an increase in hotel taxes.
Foley questioned whether using public money was wise. He told the radio show Vegas Hockey Hotline: “I felt like there were a lot better ways to spend $750m than bringing the Raiders to Las Vegas. We could spend it on police, firefighters and teachers and have them all be the best in the country. But I guess we’re going to spend it on the Raiders … If I had complete control of the situation, I would not have opted to have the Raiders come here. But I didn’t, so I welcome them.”
Foley’s comments on the radio show differed from remarks published on the NHL website, which portrayed Foley as fully supportive of the move.
“On behalf of the entire Vegas Golden Knights family, I would like to welcome and congratulate Mark Davis and the Oakland Raiders on their relocation to the great city of Las Vegas,” he said in his statement on NHL.com. “It truly is an exciting time to be from Las Vegas. There is only a select group of cities in North America that are home to both an NHL and an NFL franchise and Vegas is now one of them. This alone should be a great source of pride for our community and our fans.”
The Golden Knights will play at the 20,000-seater T-Mobile Arena, which opened in April last year and was privately funded through a 50-50 venture between MGM and AEG. The $375m facility will host year-round hockey, as well as shows and concerts, and didn’t cost taxpayers.
The new football stadium, by contrast, is slated to cost $1.9bn. In addition to the $750m from Nevada taxpayers, $500m will come from the Raiders, and the remaining $650m from a Bank of America loan. The Raiders are set to play two or three more years in Oakland before their new stadium is ready.
Foley also said he thought the Raiders’ move from Oakland might turn some fans off. “I honestly believe when the Raiders play here more than half the stadium will be rooting for the other team,” he said.