Steve Mack is a pragmatic visionary. He’s also an outspoken individual. In fact, the partner in the new ownership of the Las Vegas 51s baseball team doesn’t mind saying it exactly the way he sees it.
And Mack can be very convincing, especially when explaining how $65 million of public financing to build a baseball stadium in Summerlin could provide significant returns for the city, the county, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority “and especially for the fans.”
The more Mack spoke during the one-on-one interview, the more I came to the realization that the potential of a partnership-ownership for a new stadium just off the Las Vegas Beltway, adjacent to Red Rock Resort, could result in a bonanza for the principal investors in the proposed stadium and for the fans.
The principals would include the city, the county and the convention authority, all of which are referred to as stakeholders, in addition to The Howard Hughes Corp., which owns the site. For starters, Hughes Corp. spokesman Tom Warden said his company would donate the approximately 20 acres needed for the stadium. Warden put a value of $40 million on the property. The Hughes Corp. and a group headed by Mack purchased the 51s in May.
The stakeholders, however, would be responsible for providing the construction funding, largely through the sale of bonds.
And in a city such as Las Vegas, which often takes great pains before determining what makes for a good bet, Mack, who earned his fortune in the pawnbroker industry, and Warden, who is the senior vice president of community and government relations at Hughes Corp., said they felt optimistic after meeting with the individuals who form the stakeholders.
Those individuals include the seven members of the City Council, the seven members of the Clark County Commission and the 14 members of the convention authority.
“I would say that, by far, those we have talked to are in support of our plan,” Mack said. “The money is definitely an important issue with all of them. But when we sat down and showed how the benefits so outweigh the cost,” their reaction “has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It’s a lot of money, but for a project such as this, it’s really not that much,” he said. “So far, I haven’t had anyone tell me no, that they don’t like it.”
Of course there are those who are dead-set opponents of public financing for stadiums or any other ventures that involve private ownership. And this is where Mack delved into his explanation of “how the benefits so outweigh the cost.”
He spoke glowingly about the merits of a 9,000-seat stadium at the Summerlin site and in particular about its immediate proximity to the Las Vegas Beltway, which could bring fans from anywhere in the valley without any degree of congestion.
He also spoke of the new neighborhoods of homes and businesses being developed by Hughes Corp. that would encircle the facility.
“Summerlin now has 100,000 residents,” Warden mentioned. But there’s an estimated 7,000 acres of undeveloped Summerlin property destined for housing, all within close proximity to the stadium site. “We’ll have more than 200,000 residents in Summerlin when we’re done,” he added.
Mack pointed to the financial return in the form of new property taxes and sales taxes that would be attributed directly to the stadium, which would be situated at the hub of the rapidly growing community.
“We’re planning a world-class baseball stadium, a state-of-the-art facility,” Mack said. “Just like The Smith Center, a lot of thought and expense would go into creating an atmosphere that provides comfort for the fans.
“What I’m especially excited about is that this would not be just a baseball field. It would be a safe place for family events. It would be a place for parents and grandparents to bring kids, to walk around and enjoy the benefits of the stadium, as well as the variety of restaurants, the pedestrian walkways, shopping and numerous other amenities.
“It would be a place for young people to go on a date, a place where even weddings could happen. It would become a centerpiece for the community. It would truly elevate the entire valley.”
Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, “All For Nothing,” is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.