Updated October 20, 2022 - 8:50 am
Ex-NBA player Jackie Robinson unveiled a new funding package Wednesday for his long-sought arena and hotel project on the north Strip — a venture that’s been on the drawing board for nearly nine years and seen other financing plans come and go.
Robinson hosted a media event at the upscale Stirling Club near the Strip, where he introduced his new investor and said he expects to finish the now-$4.9 billion All Net Resort & Arena by the end of 2025.
He said some construction work resumed several weeks ago, and he plans to go before the Clark County Commission next month to seek an extension of his project approvals.
Overall, Robinson’s plans have called for an arena with a retractable roof, two luxury hotels, a convention center, movie theater and more on the long-vacant former Wet ’n’ Wild water park site.
Commissioner Tick Segerblom, who once said Robinson had to “fish or cut bait” on the project, stated Wednesday that he “tried to light a fire” under the developer’s feet a few times, and now seeing “this reality is so exciting for me.”
‘Fill that hole’
Robinson’s 27-acre site, between Sahara Las Vegas and the under-construction Fontainebleau Las Vegas, has been little more than a giant excavated hole in the ground for years. At one point, the Southern Nevada Health District set traps and captured more than 150 mosquitoes after receiving complaints of accumulated rainwater at the property.
Segerblom pointed to other activity on the north Strip, including last year’s opening of Resorts World Las Vegas and the Fontainebleau’s expected debut next year.
“The only problem is this hole. … Now we’re going to fill that hole with this gorgeous, gorgeous facility,” he said.
Segerblom, whose district includes the property, told the Review-Journal he expects the commission to approve Robinson’s extensions, adding the 67-year-old former UNLV basketball player has met conditions to keep the plans alive.
“Everything I’ve seen to date looks very positive,” Segerblom said.
The new investor, Todd Owen, is the director of Clearwater Perpetual Master Trust, which Owen described as a Wyoming-based family office investment fund out of California. He told the Review-Journal that a mutual friend wanted him to meet with Robinson as the project had faced “prior financial stumbles.”
Torben Welch, an attorney for the project, said Owen’s bond portfolio is “well in excess of this project and many other projects.”
The funding package for Robinson’s venture comes to $6 billion with the ability to raise “whatever else is needed,” said Welch, partner with law firm Messner Reeves LLP.
John Delibos, director of community affairs and government relations for Robinson’s venture, said Wednesday the project has been “near and dear to our hearts for longer than probably some of you have been alive” but has “come to fruition.”
Robinson initially unveiled plans in December 2013 to build an arena and luxury hotel, saying the project was slated to cost $1.3 billion and open in late 2016.
Clark County commissioners approved the plans in summer 2014, and Robinson held a ceremonial groundbreaking that fall. But the property largely stayed quiet until crews started excavation work in March 2017.
County commissioners approved a big expansion of his plans in October 2017, but since then, there’s been little progress beyond the initial excavation.
In October 2020, the County Commission gave Robinson six months to file required project agreements. At the hearing, Segerblom said it was “time to fish or cut bait,” and the panel was giving Robinson his “last six months.” If the developer didn’t file the paperwork in time, “it’s over.”
He also said Robinson had to resume construction within two years.
“If you can’t do this, let’s open it up so somebody else can come in and take advantage of that property,” Segerblom said at the hearing.
Commissioners approved the required project agreements with Robinson in April 2021.
“We greatly appreciate the opportunity,” Robinson said at the time. “We don’t take it for granted.”
When the county approved his expansion plans in 2017, Robinson told the Review-Journal that his financing was “signed, done, sealed, delivered” and that he expected to finish construction by spring 2020.
He named Credit Suisse as his lender. The Swiss banking giant declined to comment at the time.
In 2018, Robinson told the Review-Journal that his group had signed a $3 billion loan agreement with the International Bank of Qatar. He indicated the funds hadn’t been transferred because of background checks on the source of the money.
The bank did not respond to requests for comment at the time.
Robinson appeared before the County Commission in spring 2019 and outlined how he would pay for the stalled project. He described a complex plan involving money in Qatar, people in Zurich, central banks in Europe and the U.S., lines of credit, funds moving from one bank to another and state of Nevada revenue bonds.
That summer, Robinson told the Review-Journal he was in the “final stages” of his loan and had the ability to “complete the project in full.”
In February, at an event for Robinson’s project held at the Stirling Club, Active Capital Holdings executive trustee Arthur “AJ” Lewis told a gathering that he was there “to support the event, to support the project and to formally let Jackie know that we are going to finance the project,” an announcement that drew cheers and applause.
“I’m really appreciative to be here tonight, I’m honored,” Lewis said. “And Jackie, you have the money, buddy.”
In an interview that night, Lewis said the funding package totaled just over $4.7 billion, and he expected the deal to close by the end of that week or early the following week.
Robinson said Wednesday that he was surprised by Lewis’ announcement that night, adding that he had no idea it was coming and that he never had an agreement for the funding.
“He got a little ambitious … but nothing ever happened,” Robinson said.
Lewis could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.