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Funding plan for soccer stadium within reach

The clock has ticked down. The game appears to be decided.

The team that has pushed so hard for a downtown soccer stadium appears to have scored enough votes from the Las Vegas City Council to declare victory.

So, is it all over but the shouting?

Every soccer fan knows about extra time. I suspect we’re about to enter it.

Although the latest terms of the public-private partnership agreement between the city and The Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports & Entertainment combine has won over stubborn Councilman Bob Coffin, Councilman Bob Beers continues to work to stop a plan that will encumber a $50 million bond to be repaid by hotel room taxes traditionally used for public parks.

Beers, the conservative CPA with budget experience at the state Legislature and as a member of the oversight board of the Las Vegas Monorail, has consistently opposed the use of tax dollars being used to fund the $200 million stadium project, the future of which hinges on Findlay winning a Major League Soccer franchise. He not only doubts the validity of the math and the marketing involved, but he also expresses alarm at what he calls the lack of transparency of the evolving deal.

Unless something changes, however, Beers and fellow council members opposing the public investment will come up one vote short.

The presumptive winning team is led by Mayor Carolyn Goodman with assists from council members Ricki Barlow, Steve Ross and, after a recent jersey switch, Bob Coffin. With only Councilman Stavros Anthony and possibly Lois Tarkanian siding with Beers, the Goodman Grinders have enough to forward the stadium plan. Findlay has yet to land that MLS franchise agreement.

To hear Beers tell it in a Tuesday morning interview, soccer aficionados might want to hold off rushing out to purchase their season tickets.

Beers has decided to suggest a plan to get a referendum on the stadium proposal on the city’s June 2015 ballot. With the signatures of 10 percent of residents who voted in the city’s last general election, that’s approximately 6,000 by my count, the decision to press ahead with the stadium plan could conceivably be blocked. In Article 19, Section 4, the Nevada Constitution embraces municipalities in its provision on the powers of initiatives and referendums, noting that “all local, special and municipal legislation of every kind in or for such county or municipality” qualifies. That sounds pretty inclusive.

Although a Culinary union-associated group in 2009 failed to place a referendum on the ballot questioning the decision to build a new City Hall, Beers says he believes a stadium referendum vote will qualify and prevail. He’s convinced the public is against the stadium idea by as much as a 2-to-1 margin.

Whether the referendum gets on the ballot, and how such a question might impact the elections of council members who are up for re-election at that time, remains to be seen.

He insists it’s not sour grapes.

“I don’t think I’m being a sore loser,” Beers said. “I don’t think it’s ‘sore-losership’ to put this to a vote of the people. It probably should have been put to a vote of the people at the outset.”

Although he admits the latest development plan is better for the city than the approximately $100 million it was originally on the hook for, Beers still doesn’t trust the numbers he’s been presented.

“There is no transparency at all in any of this, quite frankly,” Beers said. “There’s an attempt at transparency in the creation of the pro-forma income statement for the stadium. There’s been no pro-forma offered for the team, and they’re really a unit. Tomorrow’s vote is contingent on getting the team. The team’s not shown any of their cards.”

He insists it’s nothing personal, just business, and the business of city government isn’t improved with the soccer stadium.

“I’m not opposed to this because a particular person is going to benefit,” he said. “I’m opposed to this because I’m convinced the citizens are not going to benefit.”

Knocking out the stadium with a vote of the citizenry would constitute a remarkable comeback.

It’s a long shot, but anything is possible in extra time.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.

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