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Mayor hints that ‘awe-inspiring’ project on way for Las Vegas’ Symphony Park

New agreement with project manager frees up three parcels of land in 61-acre park

Updated Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010 | 1:36 p.m.

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Oscar Goodman

Action taken today by the Las Vegas City Council could make it easier to get an arena project built in the downtown area's 61-acre Symphony Park.

The council today unanimously approved changes in its agreement with the park's project manager, Newland Real Estate Group, giving the city more flexibility in what can be developed there, particularly on three properties.

Mayor Oscar Goodman, who in the past has been strongly pushing for a stadium or an arena that could bring a professional sports team to Las Vegas, wouldn't tip his hand on what today's action means for his goal.

However, the mayor did provide a teaser that today's action could be setting the stage for a major project to the north of where the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts sit in Symphony Park.

"I am predicting that within weeks to come — not months or years to come — that this community is going to be in awe of what is going to be happening in the inner city here," Goodman said during the meeting just before the vote.

Asked this afternoon after the council's noon break to elaborate, Goodman said that he couldn't.

"It's something I'm unable to talk about with any detail because of a confidentiality agreement being in place. I hope the community will feel the way I do once it comes to fruition," he said.

The Sun asked him specifically if it had to do with a sports arena.

"I don't want to answer any questions, because I am under a confidentiality agreement. Very sensitive. We've been working on it for weeks. And that's why I have to be be very careful here. I don't want to cause the city any liability and certainly don't want to put what we're talking about into any kind of danger," Goodman said. "It's very important to us."

Goodman praised Newland for working to change its agreement with the city.

"For Newland to agree to do it is of tremendous benefit to the city," he said. "They showed what a valued partner they are as a result of taking this action. They could have crossed their arms and said they're not going to do it and put a real roadblock in our way."

Prodded further by reporters, Goodman was also asked if this was the same project he had described a few weeks ago as a "game changer."

"Yes," he said. "When it happens, it will be an international story."

Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow, whose ward includes the park, said changes in the agreement with Newland would mean $6 million less in economic benefit to the city.

However, "we gain immediate flexibility in Parcel F, D and O-1 to pursue development opportunities with other third parties," said Bill Arent, director of the city's Office of Business Development.

In recent weeks, Goodman had said at his weekly press conferences that because the city has made agreements with its developers, it makes it impossible to deal with proposals brought directly to him.

In mid September, he told reporters he had three groups come to him within that month that were wanting to build an arena. But he said he was unable to discuss that with them.

Under the agreement approved today, Newland would continue to be Symphony Park's project manager through June 2011, with one, one-year option at the city's discretion.

Newland would have "hard" development rights to Parcel C and N, with a new pricing schedule.

The new agreement calls for the city to no longer pay Newland a 4 percent fee on land sales. Instead, the city would use its equity in Parcel C to compensate Newland, setting its price to Newland at $1. Parcel N's value was set at $2.9 million.

Newland would have "soft" development rights for Parcels D, F and O-1, giving the city the right to terminate if an agreement is reached with a third party.

Parcel D's value was set at $3.4 million and F's at $3.7 million and O-1, $2.5 million.

In a related matter, for the second meeting in a row, the city council deferred hearing a report from Port Telles, development director for the Cordish Companies Inc.

The council struck the item from its agenda today without comment.

Cordish has an exclusive two-year negotiation agreement with the city to develop a casino/hotel, a live entertainment district and a sports arena on about 20 acres at Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart Ave., which includes the site of the existing city hall and parking garage. Cordish has about a year left on the agreement.

Asked this afternoon about why Cordish didn't make the presentation, Goodman smiled.

"Hopefully we'll have something on the next agenda that will address that," he said. "There was no reason for him to be here today. That's all I can tell you. ... A lot of things might not make sense to you, but when it all comes together, you will be awe-inspired."

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