Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2014

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Las Vegas officials face crucial vote on downtown soccer stadium

Image

Cordish Cos.

Artist’s rendering of proposed stadium.

The Las Vegas City Council has lined up a shot to net the city a downtown soccer stadium and its first major professional sports team.

But with lingering concerns about how much public money will be put toward the $200 million project, the question remains: Will they take the shot?

The council will vote today whether to approve a nonbinding agreement with the development partnership of Findlay Sports and Entertainment of Las Vegas and Cordish Cos. of Baltimore.

If they vote yes, the project will stay alive for three more months while developers prepare a more detailed and comprehensive proposal. A final, binding agreement would need council approval in December. A no vote today means the project is likely dead.

Under the financial terms being discussed today, the public would pay for $155 million of the $200 stadium construction costs through bonds, tax credits and cash on hand. The bonds would be paid off using a combination of city hotel room tax collections, rent payments from the soccer team and other special events at the stadium.

The Sun spoke with five of the seven city council members Tuesday to see where they stand on the stadium proposal in advance of the vote. Councilman Ricki Barlow and Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian did not return requests for comments.

The supporters

Mayor Carolyn Goodman has championed the project from its inception and said “the stars are aligned” to bring a stadium to Las Vegas.

“To me it’s a huge win-win in every single way,” she said.

Goodman said she plans to support the proposal today to give developers time to flesh out a more comprehensive plan by December.

Councilman Steve Ross, who also plans to vote in support of the deal today, said the stadium would create jobs and boost the downtown economy.

Goodman and Ross said approving the agreement today would give the city time to host more town halls to gauge public support.

“This (deal) isn’t the end product. It may change. This isn’t a done deal” he said. “I want to see how this unfolds and give it an opportunity.”

The opposition

Councilman Bob Beers, a stadium skeptic, has criticized how much public money the proposed deal would require.

Beers also said several required documents — including an economic feasibility analysis and an outside analysis of construction costs — haven’t been presented even though the council will vote today.

“We simply don’t have enough information … to be able to make an intelligent decision here,” Beers said.

Councilman Bob Coffin said he’ll also vote against the proposal because he’s “not comfortable” with the stadium’s cost. After years of holding aside vacant city-owned land for a downtown stadium development, Coffin said he’s not interested in giving developers more time.

“Cordish Cos. have had a franchise on this (land) for almost five years and they’re not ready,” he said. “I’m just done with it. I’m tired of it.“

The undecideds

In the middle is Councilman Stavros Anthony, who could be one of the key votes to swing the final decision.

Anthony said he hasn’t made up his mind yet and is waiting to get more public feedback during today’s meeting. He said the term sheet, which was presented to the public last week, hasn’t been out long enough for a proper vetting.

Terms of an agreement approved between the city and developers earlier this year requires the council to vote on the proposal today, something Anthony said he’s uncomfortable with.

“This isn’t an emergency. We should have been given more time to discuss it and vet it and have more town hall meetings,” he said. “The overwhelming response I’m getting so far is the public opposes public funding of an arena. I just want to be sure I hear everybody before I make a decision.”

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