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MGM Mirage opposes arena options seeking public financing

Commissioners take no action, seek follow-up presentations at later meeting

Updated Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | 5:58 p.m.

An official with MGM Mirage, the largest operator of arenas in the county, told Clark County commissioners Tuesday the company is in “strong opposition” of any arena proposal that requires public financing.

Commissioners heard reports from three groups that have proposed building arenas near the Strip, as well as from Las Vegas city officials about the city’s arena plan. Commissioners also heard from MGM Mirage officials, which already have arenas in Clark County.

The board didn’t take action Tuesday, but asked a number of questions and sought follow-up presentations for a future meeting.

MGM Mirage Chief Marketing Officer Bill Hornbuckle said the company isn’t opposed to having more arenas in the area, but giving one group public financing would be an unfair competitive advantage.

“None of the arena proponents today is willing to take the same risk MGM Mirage, Mandalay Resort Group, Boyd Gaming and Coast Casinos made when they built their own permanent arenas using 100 percent privately funded dollars,” he said. “None of the proponents are willing to build an arena unless the public shoulders the risk.”

Hornbuckle, who oversees the company’s arenas at MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, said the county’s five existing arenas aren’t at capacity.

All three of the new arena proposals would require some sort of public financing.

A group is proposing to build an arena on the former Wet 'n Wild site near the Sahara hotel-casino. The plan calls for funding from the county’s Redevelopment Authority, which commissioners have mothballed.

Because commissioners on Monday approved the county’s budget for the next fiscal year, the county would have to wait a year to fund a project through the authority, county staff said.

The other two arena proposals -- one on land owned by Harrah's east of the Strip and another with land on Las Vegas Boulevard between Silverado Ranch Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway -- seek a special sales tax to finance the plans.

Such a tax would have to be approved by the Legislature.

Las Vegas is also planning to build an arena on city-owned land downtown that could potentially compete with an arena on the Strip.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said he is concerned about how a new arena would affect the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV.

UNLV officials were at the county commission meeting Tuesday but declined when offered the chance to speak to commissioners.

Some commissioners were hesitant to use public funding.

“I’m not against an arena,” Commissioner Susan Brager said. “I just think the funding mechanism might not be where it needs to be.”

Commissioner Larry Brown said he would like to see a sports arena, but he thinks at this time an additional facility would likely cannibalize the area’s existing arenas.

Commissioner Tom Collins said he would consider some kind of public financing for an arena, but didn’t indicate which proposal he favored.

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