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May 3, 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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  1. How many people here remember their parents or grandparents talking about making ends meet by working on CCC or WPA projects in the 1930's? How many of you are from other cities where your City Hall, or other municipal buildings were built in the 1930's? The Interstate highway system, started in the 1950's? During hard economic times governments have invested in infrastructure for eons. They do so because it puts people to work and gets quality projects built for less money.
    Las Vegans complain all the time about the lack of diversity in the local economy yet they don't want to invest in doing so. I'm not saying a sports arena is going to diversify your economy, but investing in 100 year quailty buildings, such as the Smith Center, will give you a quality downtown that gives a city so much pride in itself and significance in the eyes of people from other cities.
    25 years ago, Oklahoma City was on the skids from the oil bust and was worse off that Las Vegas is today, if you can believe it. Tired of being laughed at by outsiders and rejected by industry, we decided to invest in ourselves and build on what we had (oil and agriculture, not sexy). So many companies told us they would not come to OKC because we had a crappy downtown and there was no entertainment. Quality of life, they called it. What they meant was their executives didn't want to live in OKC and then go to their college reunions and say they lived in a cow town full of hicks and Indians.
    So we taxed ourselves and spent on ourselves. Why not? No one else is gonna do it for us. We buit a quality downtown, good Triple A baseball park, better schools and nicer parks. And a major city sized arena. An arena without a major temant. Pure spec.
    And it paid off! We made a city good enough that when Devon, Chesapeake and Sandridge Energy compaines got big enough to move to Houston (which is what all successful oil companies have done for over 30 years), they stayed home. With their billion dollar headquarter complexes and thousands of good jobs. Other companies moved here or expanded here, such as Dell Computers or Hertz Rent A Car.
    And at the center of all this is our downtown arena with our own NBA team (the Thunder). A team that could have and SHOULD have been in Las Vegas. Except OKC worked harder than Las Vegas 15 years ago and still is. Our city is mentioned 9 months out of the year on ESPN and other sports networks throughout our sports obsessed country. That raises civic pride and awareness around the country. It has paid off.
    Invest in yourself, Las Vegas. Invest in becoming a major league city. God knows no one else will do it for you!

  2. You need look no further than Kansas City, MO to justify why getting a new sports arena downtown is not just a good idea, but vital. They opened the Sprint Center in 2007 and it was paid for just like ours would be. Several clueless people whined that they didn't need it because they had an old dumpy arena already in a bad location. But they built it. KC doesn't have NBA or NHL yet. But it's already the 2nd busiest arena in the USA. It has single handedly revived their entire downtown. Now, they have a huge area called the P&L District that is thriving. And it all happened in these hard times. These arenas more than pay for themselves. We can make downtown a place locals can reclaim and create jobs galore down there. We will get NCAA Final 4 and other major sports and music events until and if we get NBA or NHL. We need this. Downtown needs this. Don't be so shortsighted people. That's a reason why this city is suffering so badly now.

  3. @FRM
    I oppose the Harrah's plan because it is another attempt by Clark County residents to benefit off the backs of tourists. Please stop trying to stick me with the bill for something that I am not going to utilize.
    The downtown arena will benefit all sections of the Metro, which is why ALL citizens in the Metro should help invest in it.