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City Council approves funding for Las Vegas soccer stadium

Image

Cordish Cos.

Artist’s rendering of proposed stadium.

Updated Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 | 6 p.m.

A split Las Vegas City Council approved public funding today for a $200 million downtown soccer stadium, marking a major turning point in the yearlong debate.

The council voted 4-3 to approve financing terms that call for the city to contribute $56.5 million toward the stadium’s construction costs. Not included in that price tag are the value of the city-owned land at Symphony Park the stadium will be built on and a parking garage the city will build.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman led a group of supporters for the project that included Councilmen Steve Ross, Ricki Barlow and Bob Coffin.

Goodman said the stadium will create jobs and economic development that will benefit the "greater good."

"Our charge is to help the downtown sustain a viability as a place to come to," said Mayor Carolyn Goodman, the most vocal advocate for the stadium on the council. "We're forward thinking and none of us like the status quo. You can't go backwards."

Councilman Bob Beers, Councilman Stavros Anthony and Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian voted against the funding.

All pointed to the use of public funds in the stadium's financing as their major reason for opposing.

Beers suggested putting the stadium decision to a vote of the public in the June 2015 election, with Anthony adding that he thinks such a vote would see overwhelming public opposition to the proposal.

The council's approval puts Las Vegas on its way to getting a soccer stadium and its first major professional sports team, as long as the developers can persuade Major League Soccer to award them an expansion franchise.

The city has been negotiating the stadium deal since May with the development partnership of Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. and local group Findlay Sports and Entertainment. City leaders have dreamed of a downtown stadium or arena for more than a decade, but no project has advanced this far.

The deal approved today calls for the city to issue $50 million in bonds, with half going to pay for stadium construction and half going to park projects around the city. The bonds plus interest will be paid back with $3 million per year of room tax revenue for the next 30 years.

The city will also pay $31.5 million for infrastructure improvements to the 13-acre Symphony Park site.

The city plans to build a $20 million parking garage to support Symphony Park that the stadium would be able to use for 90 events a year. Finally, city-owned land valued at $38 million to $48 million would be contributed at no cost to the developer.

The developers will contribute $133.5 million toward the stadium construction costs and will cover the costs of acquiring a team — expected to top $100 million.

The stadium will be privately owned and operated by the developer, although the city will have some access to host community events.

Cordish also committed to invest $250 million in additional retail, office and residential development around the stadium site.

The council is scheduled to vote on a final, more detailed development agreement on Feb. 18.

No stadium will be built unless Las Vegas is awarded the lone remaining MLS expansion franchise. The MLS board of governors is expected to choose among Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Sacramento sometime in the next six months.

After the meeting today, Justin Findlay, managing partner of Findlay Sports and Entertainment, said a stadium would take 18 to 24 months to build if Las Vegas receives a team.

"Now we have a stadium. That's a big deal for Major League Soccer," he said.

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