If we build it, will they come? Competing sports arena projects need political support

In today's economy, and with the current budgetary pressures facing state and local governments, the thought of professional sports venues being built on the backs of taxpayers is neither desirable nor realistic. However, to continue to attract the tens of millions of visitors a year that drive Southern Nevada's economic engine, Las Vegas must develop world-class venues in order to attract professional sports and entertainment events to compete with cities such as Los Angeles, Orlando, New York and Dallas.

The proposed Las Vegas National Sports Center is a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex requiring absolutely no new taxes and no redirection of any existing taxes.

The $1.95 billion Las Vegas National Sports Center consists of three privately owned and financed venues; a 17,500-seat, state-of-the-art arena designed for NBA games, a 36,000-fixed-seat, state-of-the-art stadium designed for Major League Soccer that allows for on-demand expansion to 50,000 seats for NCAA bowl games, and a 9,000-seat AAA baseball park. The ballpark has been designed to allow for expansion to 36,000 seats to accommodate Major League Baseball, and the stadium has been designed to allow for permanent expansion to 72,000 seats to accommodate the National Football League.

In addition, the Las Vegas National Sports Center has offered to allow UNLV's football, basketball, soccer and baseball programs to play its games in its facilities for no rent, while providing UNLV with 100 percent of the ticket and merchandise revenue associated with those events, until such time as UNLV has the capital to develop its own facilities on campus.

We are investing more than $500 million of equity in the Las Vegas National Sports Center, which will serve as the single most effective and immediate catalyst to spur large-scale economic recovery, investment and the creation of jobs in Southern Nevada. The Las Vegas National Sports Center will create more than 10,000 jobs during its two-year construction period, starting in the fall of this year, and approximately 4,000 permanent jobs in Clark County; an estimated $1.5 billion in economic output during construction, and an additional $660 million each year thereafter; and more than $15 million in new tax revenue from construction-related activities, in addition to more than $5 million in tax receipts each year after the venues open.

Over the estimated 30-year life of the venues, they will generate $30 billion in new economic output in Clark County and $230 million in new tax receipts for all levels of government.

In order to finance the Las Vegas National Sports Center, enabling legislation is required to create an Athletic Improvement District (AID). The AID utilizes the new incremental taxes generated only by the athletic facilities, which do not exist unless the project is built, and a facility user fee added to the ticket price for admission to events.

Let me be perfectly clear: Unlike other sports projects being discussed in town, the Las Vegas National Sports Center does not tax any resident or tourist visiting the state, and does not redirect a single dollar of existing tax revenue.

Unless an individual chooses to attend a professional sporting or entertainment event at the Las Vegas National Sports Center, he will in no way contribute to the cost of constructing or operating the athletic facilities.

The Las Vegas National Sports Center is complementary, not competitive, to Las Vegas' existing core industries in that it does not add any new hotel rooms to fill, no gaming floor to populate, no restaurants other than concessions, and no retail besides team merchandise.

Additionally, the Las Vegas National Sports Center will guarantee that Las Vegas retains its prized title of "Entertainment Capital of the World" by not only ensuring events that are responsible for driving millions of visitors to town each year stay in Las Vegas, but also by attracting professional sports and other world-class events that currently do not come to Las Vegas because of a lack of adequate facilities.

Chris Milam is president of the Las Vegas National Sports Center and CEO of International Development Management.