Vegas council: Stadium builders need a deep-pocket partner

Several Las Vegas City Council members say developers Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports &Entertainment should consider taking on a third partner to privatize financing for a proposed downtown soccer stadium so that public dollars are not used.

“It would be a brilliant idea,” Councilman Steve Ross said this week. “If they’re serious enough to make it happen, they will do whatever it takes to make it a reality. I would be thrilled to death. Let’s hope by December we have a deal.”

Council members Bob Beers, Bob Coffin and Stavros Anthony echoed Ross’ comment.

Two weeks ago, the Council approved a non-binding stadium deal with Cordish/Findlay on condition the deal between the city and the developers includes no public dollars. The council will vote on the final version of the deal on Dec. 17. Cordish/Findlay was hoping the city would spend $90 million over 30 years to borrow $46 million for the proposed $200 million stadium.

City Manager Betsy Fretwell told the council Wednesday that there has been no progress with Cordish/Findlay in the past two weeks.

Cordish/Findlay hopes to recruit a Major League Soccer expansion franchise to Las Vegas as MLS fills a final slot in an expansion to 24 teams. Las Vegas is competing against Sacramento, Minneapolis, San Diego and San Antonio.

Jason Ader, owner of a New York fund management company owner and a Las Vegas Sands Corp. board member, in July said he would be interested in launching a $350 million effort to build a stadium and land an MLS team, but has not pursued his bid to allow the Cordish/Findlay team to follow through on it efforts.

Ader said he would be interested in partnering with Cordish/Findlay, and has discussed the prospect of joining the group with both Findlay and a Cordish representative.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman said interested third partners have contacted her to help Cordish/Findlay with the financing of the 24,000-seat stadium slated for a 13-acre site in Symphony Park on the west side of the railroad tracks.

“It’s up to them (Cordish/Findlay) to include who they want,” Goodman said. “Anyone who is interested in financing this has to go through the private sector.”

Goodman joked that the city would be happy to accept a no-strings-attached $100 million donation for the stadium project.

Justin Findlay, managing partner of Findlay Sports &Entertainment, did not comment.

Cordish Chief Operating Officer Zed Smith in a written statement downplayed the need for a third partner and didn’t mention Ader.

Smith said his Baltimore-based companies have the ability to self-finance the entire $200 million stadium investment, but “the need for public investment in infrastructure and related improvements is a result of the fact that the financial returns for the stadium simply do not pencil without public investment.

“This was validated by an independent consultant to the City who concluded that even with the limited public investment proposed, the private sector returns will only be in the single-digits.”

Smith argued the city can benefit from contributing to the stadium deal because it would accelerate “private-sector investment within Symphony Park. The stadium development will give the private sector the much-needed confidence to invest in downtown Las Vegas.”

Besides partnering on the stadium, Cordish also stands behind its pledge to build a $250 commercial and retail development in Symphony Park, Smith said.

“And we are confident that other stakeholders within Symphony Park will follow our lead with additional private investment.,” he said.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.

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