The Las Vegas Raiders called him “the energy guy,” but it wasn’t for electrifying play.
It was because of actual electricity.
Baird Fogel is a transactional attorney who negotiated energy deals for Allegiant Stadium and its practice facility in nearby Henderson, Nev. Later this year, when three utility scale solar plants in Nevada come online, the domed stadium will become the first 100% renewable-powered major sports stadium in the U.S.
Energy is seldom talked about in sports law circles. Antitrust, labor and intellectual property tend to dominate discussions—for good reason, given how much those fields impact the business of sports.
But the right kinds of contracts for energy storage and other renewable features can save teams millions of dollars on heat and air conditioning. They can also attract lucrative sponsorships from environmentally conscious companies that normally don’t advertise in sports.
When Fogel, the partner in charge of Eversheds Sutherland’s San Francisco office, approached the Raiders after the NFL approved the team’s relocation in 2017, he put together a presentation showing how the team could capitalize on a Nevada statute, Chapter 704(b), to generate competition in energy prices and services. Under this law, businesses can seek approval from the public utility commission to opt out of the public utility and then buy energy in the open market. That framework, Fogel explains, “drove prices lower,” since “we could negotiate with several companies.”
The Raiders eventually signed a deal with Nevada Energy in 2019. It is, Fogel says, “one of the longest” energy deals in pro sports and “guarantees the Raiders an unbelievably competitive price for the next 25 years.”
The Raiders’ energy arrangement may also have appealed to the NFL when the league selected the stadium to host Super Bowl LVIII in 2024. The extent to which a stadium is “green,” Fogel emphasizes, “is one of the criteria the NFL looks for in potential Super Bowl sites, since it’s a measure of how the stadium reduces its global energy footprint.”
Fogel believes teams in other states could similarly take advantage of competition to lower their power costs and create potential revenue opportunities. “There’s always an opportunity in energy when you’re a large consumer of power to negotiate a long-term arrangement with a public or private resource,” he says, adding that many teams mistakenly treat “their electric bills as just another invoice they need to pay.” He stresses that because stadiums, arenas and other sizable sports facilities are large consumers of power, they are “very valuable to the overall grid and rate-payers” and thus armed with bargaining leverage.
But Fogel cautions that teams should be prepared for extensive and multifaceted discussions in negotiating energy deals.
To that point, he highlights the roles played by Joseph Wright, Allegiant Stadium’s chief engineer, and Curt Ledford, a shareholder at Davison Van Cleve in Las Vegas and former counsel at a nonprofit cooperative utility, in the energy negotiations. “These are complex situations with a lot of moving pieces requiring technical skills, engineering” and other energy-related knowledge team officials, legal counsel and executives often lack, Baird notes.
Fogel’s work in energy and sports isn’t limited to the Raiders. He’s also worked on energy deals for the MSG Sphere and Haas Automation in Las Vegas. In various deals on the commercial side, he’s represented James Harden and Harden’s 13 Endeavors company, PGA golfer Patrick Cantlay, Haas F1, the Big 3 and Ice Cube.
He says he can experience first-hand the value of this work when he attends Raiders’ home games.
“There’s something to be said about being part of the deal that provides efficient and low cost energy to power the air conditioning in a stadium seating 65,000 people,” he said, “when it’s 110 degrees outside in Las Vegas.”