Anthony tries to tie up revenue for Vegas soccer stadium

The political chess match surrounding Las Vegas’ apparently dead soccer stadium continues at City Hall, where Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony on Wednesday pressed for a vote that would tie up millions of dollars in public funds once earmarked for the venue.

Anthony, who is challenging Mayor Carolyn Goodman in this year’s elections on a largely anti-stadium subsidy platform, asked city staff to put together an agenda item that would encumber $60 million in future room tax dollars the city had planned to spend on the stadium before Major League Soccer decided not to award Las Vegas an expansion franchise last month.

Anthony said he didn’t know whether such an effort would take the form of an ordinance or some other type of resolution, but said it would involve asking council members to bond against any future room tax dollars that could be used on a soccer stadium.

“I think it’s time to have that discussion,” the Ward 4 councilman said. “How do we bond that $60 million? What do we spend it on?”

The move came only minutes before city leaders took a pass on appealing a court-ordered referendum on some $56 million in public subsidies once set aside to build the proposed 24,000-seat, $200 million stadium.

Council members later introduced an ordinance that would pre-empt that vote.

That ordinance would keep a long-sought ballot question on stadium subsidies out of June 2 municipal election voting booths and away from the names of two stadium supporters who are up for re-election this summer. City leaders aren’t expected to take a final vote on the ordinance until March 18.

The move would be subject to repeal, potentially allowing a narrow majority of pro-stadium city leaders to resurrect a taxpayer-aided stadium sometime in the future without first putting the project to voters.

Anthony’s initiative seeks to short-circuit that possibility. He said wording of the move should be very clear that Las Vegas’ future room tax revenues will only be used on parks and recreation centers, as opposed to stadium projects.

Anthony’s proposal, which isn’t expected to see a council vote until at least April 1, could also free up more money for parks than the oft-maligned stadium plan narrowly approved by city leaders in December.

That deal, which fell apart after Anthony and two other city leaders won a weekslong battle to put stadium subsidies on the June ballot, would have seen the city set aside half of a projected $60 million in future room revenue to help stadium developers build the downtown stadium project.

Councilman and stadium supporter Bob Coffin, who provided the swing vote needed to put the publicly subsidized stadium deal over the top in December, has said his support for that agreement hinged on an eleventh-hour provision that promised some $25 million for parks in his Ward 3.

Depending on how it’s written, Anthony’s proposal could divert at least as many parks dollars toward Coffin’s ward.

Coffin said he had not sought out such an arrangement.

He also didn’t rule out taking up such a deal.

“It’s intriguing,” Coffin said. “I’ll have to look at the details, but I’m always open to new ideas.”

Mayor Goodman has stayed mostly mum on Anthony’s proposal.

Reached for comment before Anthony made his pitch Wednesday morning, Goodman declined to say whether she would support the move, adding only that she loves parks and that Anthony was free to sponsor whatever new ordinance he wants.

Goodman and Coffin both turned down a chance to challenge a February court ruling forcing the city to allow a public vote on much-ballyhooed stadium subsidies.

The pair later helped two other pro-stadium council members adopt an amendment aimed at freeing up the stadium site for future development as an “outdoor facility or area for sport” not specifically tied to soccer.

That amendment, which was rejected by city planning commissioners in January, had drawn criticism from stadium subsidy foes worried that the zoning code change would open a backdoor for building a publicly funded soccer venue without voters’ consent.

Amendment sponsor Ricki Barlow vigorously defended the move, explaining there is no “hidden agenda” behind the zoning code change.

Coffin too backed the effort, one he said could help the city host such events as Helldorado, the rodeo event city leaders plan to hold downtown later this year.

City Manager Betsy Fretwell confirmed such an amendment would not be needed to host the event — which was also held in Symphony Park last year — and said Barlow’s amendment was instead intended to clear a path for “more permanent structures” on the one-time stadium parcel.

Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven

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