Las Vegas council delays soccer stadium vote

A publicly funded soccer stadium proposal in downtown Las Vegas remains alive — for at least another 30 days.

After four years of considering a professional sports venue and poised to vote on a nonbinding stadium deal Wednesday, the Las Vegas City Council delayed the decision to Oct. 1 to allow Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian more time to speak with city residents about the proposed $200 million Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium.

The council Wednesday voted 4-3 to delay deciding the nonbinding stadium proposal, which offered preliminary agreement terms of a public-private partnership between the city and the team of The Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports & Entertainment.

The proposed deal calls for he public to pay 78 percent of the $200 million, then Cordish/Findlay would repay the city 59 percent of the stadium project costs in the form of rent and other payments. Under the proposed deal, the city would own the stadium and move ahead to build the venue only if MLS awards a team to Cordish/Findlay.

Council members Bob Beers, Bob Coffin and Stavros Anthony opposed the nonbinding stadium deal and voted against the 30-day delay.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Steve Ross and Ricki Barlow supported the tentative agreement and voted for the delay.

Tarkanian voted for the delay, too.

After the council meeting, Tarkanian said, “It looks like I was the swing vote. You never want to be the swing vote.”

She plans to return to her ward and hear what residents have to say about the proposed stadium deal.

Beers, perhaps the council’s most fervent stadium opponent, said the private partnership failed to provide enough details about the stadium revenues and the level of risk the city would assume if it went ahead with the nonbinding deal.

“We don’t have the details,” Beers said.

The delay, however, might mean little in the long run.

Even if the council approves a nonbinding deal next month, a final council decision on a binding agreement in December would require a super-majority decision — or at least a 5-2 vote — to move ahead on the stadium project because bonds to help build the soccer stadium would have to be approved as part of the deal.

With Beers, Coffin and Anthony opposing the preliminary deal, Cordish/Findlay would have to convince one of those three to change their minds.

Just like the council, the public is also split over subsidizing the proposed 24,000-seat stadium.

During Wednesday’s hearing, soccer fans and construction union workers told the council they support the city underwriting a big chunk of the expenses. Supporters included state Sen. RubenKihuen, D-Las Vegas, and Richard Worthington, chief operating officer of the Molasky Group.

Opponents called the proposed soccer stadium public subsidies “corporate welfare” and said if soccer stadiums are such a good deal, then private developers should pay the bill.

Lawyer Jennifer Lazovich, representing Premium Outlets mall, said the shopping center near Symphony Park opposes the soccer stadium project because of parking concerns.

Yvanna Cancela, political director of Culinary Local 226, said her union also opposed the subsidized stadium deal.

The comments from at least two dozen speakers followed City Manager Betsy Fretwell and economic development chief Bill Arent outlining details about the proposal. The city would contribute more than $150 million in public dollars from bonds, tourism district money and hotel room charges for the $200 million soccer stadium.

Arent said the private partnership and team would repay 59 percent of the stadium costs through $3.5 million in annual rent payments to “minimize the risk” to the city and other payments.

Cordish has been at this arena/stadium game in Las Vegas for four years under an agreement with the city. Baltimore-based Cordish failed at building an NBA arena on the site, switched gears to partner with Findlay on the soccer stadium idea and received an extension from the city council this year to pitch the MLS venue.

Plus, there were many unanswered questions.

Fretwell acknowledged there has not been lively public discussion and there are not even parking or traffic studies.

But Justin Findlay of Findlay Sports told the council that Major League Soccer “wants us.”

But MLS, which is expanding to 24 teams and has one expansion team slot left, has not decided on the final franchise.

Findlay said the proposed stadium would sell a ticket for an average price of less than $30.

Before the soccer stadium discussion, about 100 pro soccer stadium fans marched along Main Street and gathered in a parking lot near Las Vegas City Hall. The pro-soccer stadium fans dressed in blue T-shirts under the “MLS2LV” umbrella — Major League Soccer to Las Vegas. They began filing into the City Hall meeting room at mid-morning.

Contact Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Find him on Twitter: @bicyclemansnel

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