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June 2, 2015

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Damon Political Report

Bill allowing public financing of arena projects dies

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AP Photo/Lisa J. Tolda

UNLV President Neal Smatresk testifies for passage of Senate Bill 501 as Chairman James Dean Leavitt and Attorney Mark Fiorentino look on during a joint legislative committee on June 2, 2011.

Monday at the Legislature

Nevada Assembly Democrats, from left, Speaker John Oceguera, Debbie Smith, Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Marcus Conklin, talk on the Assembly floor Monday, June 6, 2011, at the Legislature in Carson City. Launch slideshow »

CARSON CITY - In the end, the pitch just wasn’t good enough.

A bill that would have allowed three arena developers to compete for the public financing of their project died in the final hours of the legislative session Monday night, despite a flurry of last-minute maneuvering to keep parts of it alive.

But after three days of hearings that brought withering scrutiny of the proposals to direct state and local tax dollars to help finance one of the projects, lawmakers simply ran out of time—and patience—to fix the problems in Senate Bill 501. The bill wasn't introduced until the final days of the session.

Lobbyists working the bill pulled the plug shortly after 9 p.m., following a private meeting with lawmakers deciding whether to amend parts of SB 501 into an unrelated bill. That effort failed.

Asked if any elements of the various public financing measures presented to lawmakers would survive, former state Sen. Terry Care answered: “It’ll be the surprise of my lifetime if it does.”

Care was the chief lobbyist for Texas developer Christopher Milam, who had proposed building a $1.9 billion project including a ballpark, arena and stadium near Interstate 15 and Russell Road.

“It was a difficult bill to begin with,” Care said.

Milam’s project was put in competition with a project proposed by UNLV for a stadium and student housing and a third project pitched by the Baltimore-based Cordish Co. for an arena in downtown Las Vegas.

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