Las Vegas Sun

May 27, 2015

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Sports complex proposal in Henderson a ‘done deal’

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then one more time?

Would-be arena developer Chris Milam, who has failed to get deals done in Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County, is now courting Henderson officials in an effort to build a $2 billion stadium complex near the M Resort, sources familiar with the discussion have told the Sun.

Henderson officials have signed confidentiality agreements, sources said, and are keeping quiet about the talks over worries that word of a lengthy construction project might draw opposition from residents near the proposed arena site.

Even so, one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the project as “a done deal.”

Another source said it would be financed by Goldman Sachs and another unnamed investment bank.

Milam did not return a call for comment. But at last week’s meeting of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen said he had a couple of “big announcements” coming that would employ a lot of people.

In May, Milam reportedly planned a $1.95 billion sports complex west of Mandalay Bay to be financed by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. That proposal included a special tax district on the 63-acre site to allow sales taxes generated there to help pay off the bond.

In the Henderson deal, sources said, city officials intend to “gift” investors the land for the sports complex. That gift, sources say, may eliminate the need for a special taxing district to pay off the construction bond.

Milam has provided as much as $200,000 in earnest money to the city, sources also said, in an effort to demonstrate the seriousness of his intentions.

Few details about the stadium were available, except:

• It would be large enough to hold professional baseball and/or soccer games;

• Because of the high interest in soccer in Southern Nevada and Henderson’s desire to provide soccer fields to the public, the stadium would be made available to the thousands of families — one source said 3,500 families in Henderson participate in soccer — who travel with their children to soccer practices and games throughout the valley.

Milam has pursued various stadium and arena projects in Clark County, including at the site of the former Wet ’n Wild water park adjacent to the Sahara, on land in downtown Las Vegas and this year near Mandalay Bay. Though none of those proposals went anywhere, Milam has a successful development background.

In the 1990s, he arranged financing for high-rise projects in Eastern Europe. He is credited with developing the 700,000-square-foot Warsaw Financial Center, the 600,000-square-foot Moscow Corporate Center and the 120,000-square-foot Sony Center in Budapest.

In Texas, he developed a suburban-Austin mall in the early 2000s. Then in 2007 came his proposal to build the Las Vegas Towers at the site of Wet ’n Wild. When that plan dissolved, Milam’s first arena project came to light when he began talks to build the Silver State Arena on the same site.

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