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October 24, 2014

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Las Vegas keeps MLS bid alive, but future is murky

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L.E. Baskow

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman listens to David Abrams as he addresses the Las Vegas City Council during a presentation on the proposed downtown soccer stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014.

The Las Vegas City Council kept the dream alive for a downtown soccer stadium for another month.

But even with that lifeline, the $200 million project faces an uphill battle.

After four hours of debate Wednesday, the City Council was deadlocked with three members supporting and three members opposing the deal with developers Findlay Sports and Entertainment of Las Vegas and Cordish Cos. of Baltimore.

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian held the swing vote.

But Tarkanian said she couldn't vote for the project Wednesday. She said the stadium's financial plan isn't viable yet, and she wanted more time to hear more from her constituents.

"This proposal has not been well vetted throughout the community," Tarkanian said.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman, the top supporter of the Major League Soccer bid, sensed a possible defeat. She and two other council supporters — Ricki Barlow and Steve Ross — moved to delay the decision until Oct. 1.

Tarkanian agreed, providing the fourth vote to swing the decision on the seven-member council.

The "no" votes were firm. Council members Bob Beers, Bob Coffin and Stavros Anthony criticized the amount of public money in the deal, including $115 million in city bonds. Beers and Coffin have been outspoken critics. Anthony said Wednesday that 95 percent of public response he's heard has been against the stadium. "Nothing’s going to change between today and the final document," Anthony said. "It’s still a publicly funded stadium."

Even if Tarkanian sticks with Goodman in October, the developers will have a tough time winning final approval.

In December, the council is scheduled to review more details of the deal, including a stadium lease and a development agreement.

Under state law, the council would need a super majority of five votes to issue $115 million in bonds.

To collect five votes, the developers would need to keep Tarkanian and win over Beers, Coffin or Anthony. Based on the positions each of them staked out Wednesday, Findlay and Cordish will have a lot of lobbying to do this fall.

Justin Findlay, who leads the development team's public outreach, said after the meeting that he thinks more time and more information will win public and council support.

The stadium's finances were first released last week, and Wednesday was the first public meeting.

About Tarkanian’s vote, Findlay said: “Having her constituents tell her is the most important part. I think that’s the only thing that’s going to win her over.”

Findlay remains optimistic that he can win five votes even with strong opposition from Beers, Anthony and Coffin.

Findlay said: “I’m confident that … if the public comes out and supports us, that they’ll do what’s right and what their constituents tell them.”

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