Las Vegas Sun

June 30, 2015

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CITY HALL:

Symphony Park targeted for sports arena

Goodman one step closer to dream of a major-league team

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Oscar Goodman

The stage appears set for the Las Vegas City Council to announce a sports arena/entertainment district at Symphony Park.

At the council’s Wednesday meeting, the city is expected to formally shift efforts to build an arena from near the current City Hall, at Fourth Street and Stewart Avenue, to the 61-acre site west of downtown. Mayor Oscar Goodman has indicated a major announcement concerning Symphony Park would be made in the next few weeks.

If an arena becomes part of the plan for the site, which for a decade has been the focus of the city’s dreams of a new downtown, it would have come full circle from the early plans for the former Union Pacific rail yard.

Symphony Park is home to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which was completed in May and sits on the park’s southwest corner, and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which is under construction and is expected to be finished in spring 2012.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on an agreement that would allow the arena developer, the Cordish Cos., to shift development to Symphony Park.

When it struck the deal, the city wanted Cordish to look at the feasibility of putting a resort on the existing City Hall and parking garage site, and an entertainment district and arena on 12 acres at the southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart Avenue. “Both parties now view Symphony Park as the more ideal location,” the city said in a news release this week.

“The Symphony Park site is simply viewed as more advantageous and more cost-effective, significantly increasing the project’s overall potential for success,” Goodman said in the release.

Although it’s unclear what will become of plans for the City Hall property if the move occurs, one advantage of developing in Symphony Park is that it is undeveloped land. New infrastructure can be tailored to whatever is needed, eliminating the cost of tearing out and reconfiguring infrastructure.

“Furthermore, moving the arena will increase our city’s ability to attract a major league team, which will complete my vision of bringing big league sports, academic medicine and a performing arts center to our downtown area,” Goodman said.

Symphony Park is within the city’s redevelopment area, which makes projects within it eligible for tax-increment financing. Such financing gives it a leg up over other proposed arena projects seeking public financing.

Backers of the Silver State arena supported by Harrah’s Entertainment this week announced they had gathered more than 200,000 signatures statewide to either have the 2011 Legislature take up the matter or put it on the state’s 2012 ballot. The petition calls for an increase of 0.9 percent in the sales and use tax to build an arena with at least 18,000 seats to accommodate NBA or NHL teams. The tax would be imposed in a gaming enterprise district on the Strip.

Last week, the City Council and its Symphony Park project manager, Newland Real Estate Group, struck a new agreement that gives the city more flexibility on what can be developed on three properties initially planned for residential use.

The properties are formally knows as Parcel D (valued at $3.4 million), Parcel F ($3.7 million) and Parcel O-1 ($2.5 million). They are just to the south of Parcel E, the site of the 52-story World Jewelry Center.

After the city acquired the property now known as Symphony Park, it began a series of planning efforts and negotiations that in 2001 included Goodman calling it an ideal venue for big league sports.

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