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September 1, 2015

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Mayor: Sports arena ballot petition ‘irrelevant’ to city arena efforts

Goodman says downtown already has tax enterprise zone that backers of Strip location seek

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Oscar Goodman

Mayor Oscar Goodman today shrugged off the latest attempts to go to Nevada lawmakers and state voters to get public funding to build a sports and entertainment arena on the Las Vegas Strip.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's irrelevant," Goodman said today at his regular weekly press conference at City Hall.

Supporters of an arena project that would sit just east and behind the Imperial Palace, have gathered more than 221,000 signatures on their initiative petition.

If the petition passes the test of having 5 percent of those who signed be registered voters, it would be presented to the 2011 Nevada Legislature.

If the Legislature rejects, modifies or doesn't take action in 40 days, the petition would go on the statewide election ballot in 2012.

The proposal, backed by Harrah's but opposed by MGM Resorts International, 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 attract an NBA basketball or NHL hockey franchise to the Las Vegas Valley.

That tax would be imposed in a gaming enterprise zone that would be created on the Strip.

Goodman, who has championed building an arena in downtown Las Vegas, noted that the Las Vegas City Council is a few steps ahead — it already has such a tax district set up as part of downtown redevelopment efforts.

The mayor took part Wednesday in a unanimous Las Vegas City Council vote that refocuses the city's arena efforts to the north side of Symphony Park, the 61-acre former Union Pacific rail yard.

Goodman said that until Wednesday's action by the city council, he had been unable to talk to investors interested in building an arena at Symphony Park. That's because of the city's contract with the Cordish Companies to explore the possibility of an arena on about 20 city-owned acres on and near the existing City Hall and parking garage.

"Now that Cordish is over at Symphony Park ... I can now refer people to Cordish to partner with them to get an arena going," the mayor said.

That will help step up the process, he said. He said he had already set up a meeting with Cordish and an arena investor this morning, but he hadn't heard yet about the result of that meeting.

Goodman said he didn't know specifically how much public funding might be needed for an arena in Symphony Park.

"There's been a substantial gap between what the private sector was willing to do and what they needed as far as public assistance," he said.

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