Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | 6:59 a.m.
Given a committee has been formed to identify which of six ... er, five ... um, better make that four ... proposals for a new sports arena makes the most sense, it would appear Las Vegas finally is getting ready to throw its hat in the arena.
Or should I say hats.
It seemed we were moving a big step closer to getting a new arena when it was announced Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns and operates Staples Center, home of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers and the NHL's Kings, topped a field of six bidders that had submitted plans to build an arena here.
Then the next day, AEG, considered the favorite in Mayor Oscar Goodman's arena sweepstakes, pulled out.
Or did it?
Last week AEG told SportsBusiness Journal that it hadn't pulled out at all. Quite the contrary, AEG said. It really doesn't care what the mayor or his committee decides, only that it is going to build an arena here come hell (even money, considering our recent weather) or high water (major long shot).
"We are going to be under construction within the year and we expect to open by 2010," AEG President and Chief Executive Tim Leiweke said.
So after all this preening and posturing about a new arena, and which major league team (or teams) might inhabit it, it's conceivable we could wind up with multiple arenas.
Although it's accepted that two are better than one, at least when it comes to heads, breath mints or baseball games, two new arenas in a city Las Vegas' size probably isn't a good idea, unless you are planning one heck of an indoor swap meet.
Besides, we'll have the Thomas & Mack Center for that.
But there's no guarantee the new arena(s) will get built.
"It's not like they're awarding anyone anything," said Daren Libonati, who operates the Thomas & Mack Center and Sam Boyd Stadium and attracts the concerts and the supercrosses and the horse jumping shows that keep the lights on in the UNLV athletic department.
Maybe there will be a piece of cheap real estate in it for the landlord. Or perhaps a sweetheart tax deal. City Hall might even provide the shovels for the ground-breaking publicity shot.
But, as Libonati said, "there's really no finish line to this thing."
Until July 18, when the committee is expected to render its decision, it's still a track meet. Although some of the outside lanes now are empty.
Bill Rhoda, the city's consultant from Convention, Sports and Leisure International (CSL), a leading advisory and planning firm specializing in the sports, entertainment and leisure industries, said the hopefuls are now down to four:
When I asked Libonati - who was left off the committee, even though he probably knows more about running an arena than anybody in town - what it all means, he explained in a way that even I could understand.
He said if Daren Libonati and Ron Kantowski had a good plan and, more important , the capital to build an arena, then they will have the option to break ground. Not a mandate.
I don't know about Libonati, but given our city's dubious history for supporting live sports, I think I'm going to invest in pork bellies instead.
"The city is working real hard, trying to move this process in the right direction," Libonati said, "and you've got to applaud the mayor and his group for keeping the ball rolling.
"But what's still to be learned is the concept. It won't work with just a pro franchise."
Whereas Mayor Goodman's mind seems to be set on bringing major league sports to town, Libonati said the city's need for a state-of-the-art building that could lure bigger events to town - and keep the ones we already have, such as the National Finals Rodeo, from leaving - should be the driving force behind a new arena.
So it's really not a matter of "If we build it, will they come?" It's more like "If we build it, what the heck are they going to put inside?"