Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 | 11 p.m.
Telling the gathered crowd to “believe in Las Vegas,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman made an impassioned pitch to bring soccer to downtown during a community meeting Tuesday night.
“It’s the last hurrah,” Goodman told the crowd of about 50 residents. “If you believe in Las Vegas and its future, it’s time now to take the shot.”
The meeting, held at the Centennial Hills Community Center in northwest Las Vegas, was a first chance for the public to get an up-close look and ask questions about the proposed $200 million downtown soccer stadium.
The city council delayed its decision on the project earlier this month over concerns that it hadn’t been vetted enough with the public. Tuesday’s meeting was the first of six the city plans to hold.
Many of the questions Tuesday night involved the project’s finances, which call for the city to provide funding for more than 75 percent of the upfront costs through bonds and cash. Rent from the soccer team and other event revenues would be used to pay down the city-issued bonds over 30 years.
Questions tended toward the skeptical, with residents wondering whether services will be cut to pay for the stadium and how much tax revenue it would generate.
City staff along with developer Justin Findlay, managing partner of Findlay Sports and Entertainment, fielded questions. They explained the stadium would be paid for using a combination of city room tax dollars and rent from the soccer team. If the team is successful and stays in the stadium for 30 years, the city’s share of the project costs would shrink to $82 million, 41 percent of the total.
City Manager Betsy Fretwell acknowledged that if the soccer team struggles and has to shut down, the city would be on the hook for the estimated $8 million annual bond payment. She downplayed the chances of that happening and said there would be time to fix problems if the team struggles to draw big enough crowds.
Centennial Hills resident Ron Hirschkind said Tuesday’s presentation felt like a “hard sell” from city leaders. Hirschkind said he opposes public financing for the stadium and questioned funneling city resources to a project that would mostly benefit downtown.
“We live 23 miles away from downtown. What do we get out of this?” he said.
Others at the meeting were more supportive of the project, including youth soccer coach Dustin Schelin, who said he thinks there’s a strong soccer fan base and enough events to keep the stadium packed.
“We can wait for the county to build the stadium and reap the rewards or we can do it in our city,” he said. “It’s worth the gamble.”
The city council will vote on a nonbinding term sheet for the stadium Oct. 1. If that passes, a lease and development agreement will come to the council for final approval in December.