Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and other proposed downtown stadium backers on Thursday pitched Major League Soccer officials on awarding a franchise to Las Vegas.
Joining Goodman in New York City for the meeting were City Manager Betsy Fretwell and stadium proponents Justin Findlay and Dean Howes, Findlay’s stadium adviser. Findlay is partnering with The Cordish Cos., a Baltimore-based development company, on a $200 million, 24,000-seat soccer stadium proposal for Symphony Park. Cordish executives Blake Cordish and Zed Smith, and Findlay’s father, Cliff, were also part of the Las Vegas contingent.
Las Vegas is competing against Sacramento, Calif., and Minneapolis for the last expansion team, as MLS grows from 19 to 24 clubs. Sacramento and Minneapolis soccer backers also met with MLS officials to make their cases.
MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche confirmed the Las Vegas group met with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and MLS President/Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott but offered no further comments on the meeting.
After the two-hour session, Findlay told the Review-Journal from New York the group pitched MLS on the stadium’s downtown location in Symphony Park and explained that a professional soccer team would do well in Las Vegas Valley’s market of about 2 million people.
“We told MLS that this is a great opportunity for both sides,” Findlay said. “It works for everyone.”
Findlay said the Cordish representatives outlined the $250 million commercial and residential development that would be part of the soccer stadium project.
But there are still major hurdles. Chiefly, the Las Vegas City Council has not yet approved any funding plan for a downtown stadium. Findlay-Cordish is asking Las Vegas to subsidize the stadium — a request that has divided the City Council and Las Vegas residents.
The latest funding proposal calls for the city to contribute $20 million to $25 million to a $50 million bond package, which includes several park projects. The city would borrow $90 million to pay for the $50 million bond. The source of the money would be hotel room fees, which would provide $3 million annually for 30 years to pay $90 million to cover the stadium and parks bond.
A previous funding plan for the city to borrow $50 million for the soccer stadium drew opposition from four of the council’s seven members — Stavros Anthony, Bob Beers, Bob Coffin and Lois Tarkanian.
But the new parks-stadium bond package is drawing consideration from Coffin.
“I made a lot of demands of the partners and our city managers to radically change their original position agreements,” Coffin said. “They have, in large part, accommodated my requests as they have begun to understand that Las Vegas is not all sparkling planned developments but also has an underserved urban core which is very short on open space.
“A park bond would enable the Central and East parts of the city to have something that would take ten years of present budgeting to build, if ever. The construction of a long-planned parking structure in Symphony Park will satisfy the demands of our other tenants and enable them to grow,” he also said. “I said all along that I would oppose any raid on park construction and maintenance dollars for this project. I also said that I would not support a proposed debt to build the stadium. Those stumbling blocks are gone now.”
But Beers, a fierce stadium subsidy opponent, disagreed.
“The new funding proposal is a slightly different shade of lipstick on a bigger pig,” Beer said in an email.
“The debt to build the stadium is worse because it is no longer purchasing an asset — we’re borrowing it to just give the developers (in the form of prepaying for future unknown city utilization of the arena),” Beers said. “So from my perspective, we are still raiding park construction and maintenance dollars for this park and proposing debt to build it.”
Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, a Nevada Youth Soccer Association representative, said her organization wants all the hotel room money to be used for park projects and opposes public dollars to build the professional soccer stadium.
“The lunacy with this is that building parks is what they should be doing with the money – all of the money,” Mayo-DeRiso said.
“NYSA still opposes any use of the $3 million (in hotel room money). The problem now is that they are taking the other $25 million of bond funds and giving it to the stadium developers instead of further developing parks. Essentially, they are tying up $1.5 of the $3 million for thirty years to give to the developer. Same problem as before, lesser amount of money,” she said. “For Mr. Coffin to flip over one new park in his district makes no sense to me.”
The City Council is scheduled to meet on Dec. 1 to discuss the stadium issue.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273. Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel
An arena plan for Symphony Park
Complete coverage of the various stadium and arena proposals.