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Henderson council approves controversial minor league hockey arena

Updated May 19, 2020 - 5:53 pm

A minor league hockey arena is coming to Henderson.

The Henderson City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve the arena, which will be home to the future American Hockey League affiliate of the Golden Knights. The city and the team will evenly split the $80 million cost of the 6,000-seat arena, which will replace the Henderson Pavilion at Green Valley and Paseo Verde parkways.

The series of arena-related votes on Tuesday closes one chapter of a project that angered some who live in the area. The announcement of the planned arena at the State of the City address in February sparked a monthslong effort to stop the project, and those opponents are not giving up.

“This is a great day for Henderson,” Mayor Debra March said in a statement. “As our city and our community recovers from the economic devastation of COVID-19, there is no better time to invest in infrastructure that will create jobs, drive investment and improve a facility that has been plagued with problems and is no longer usable as intended.”

Ward 4 Councilman Dan Stewart was the only council member to vote against the project. He said during the meeting that the Knights were the right partner, but the timing and location of the project were wrong.

The city has said the pavilion is limited as an open-air venue. It has faced issues with broken seats, poor sound quality and limited backstage facilities, the city said.

Councilwoman Michelle Romero, who represents Ward 1, said during the meeting that it was always expected the pavilion would need up to $30 million in upgrades to be enclosed. With contingencies factored in, Henderson’s overall contribution to the arena is $42 million.

The deal

Construction on the arena is slated to begin by August, and the team would get to move in by July 2022, according to the project contract.

The Knights will get a substantial discount on rent. The team will pay $150,000 per year, and its rent payment will go into a fund for venue improvements down the road, Assistant City Manager Robert Herr said.

Fair-market value for rent is more than $3 million, but the city is giving the team a deal due to its contribution to the project cost and the projected economic benefit to the city, according to an agenda item.

According to the city, $25 million of Henderson’s contribution will come from bonds that were authorized in April. Another $16 million will come from money set aside for a redevelopment area, and an additional $1 million will come from insurance money that the city received when the pavilion canopy was damaged, according to the presentation.

Henderson will own the venue and the land, but the team will operate the facility and keep revenue from naming rights, food and beverage sales, merchandise, premium seating, and ticket sales (except for tickets to community benefit events).

The council heard more than an hour of public comment.

“The current pavilion has not served the needs of this community for many years and the new facility is exactly what we need — a first class, year-round venue,” resident Erik Christensen wrote to the council.

Henderson has said the venue may host a variety of events, including the performing arts and graduations. The city will get 37 dates for community benefit events.

Hockey will take up 34 dates.

“Our team is committed to serving the great community of Henderson while creating memorable, positive experiences for our fans and their families,” Knights President Kerry Bubolz said in a statement.

The fight

Many who oppose the project submitted comment to the city for Tuesday’s meeting, including Rebecca Perlmutter, who wrote a letter telling council members that the pandemic should give the city pause.

“It is impossible to judge how long the community will suffer the social and economic impacts brought on by the current situation,” she wrote. “We don’t even know if people will want to return to be crammed into an arena with 6,000 other people. That may be a thing of the past.”

Henderson has said investing in a project like this would help the city in its recovery from the coronavirus outbreak.

Opponents have also expressed concerns with the prospect of increased traffic and an arena changing the face of the neighborhood. Their efforts to stop the deal have included protesting outside the pavilion and having former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison send the council a letter.

On Monday, a group of residents filed paperwork with the city to start the process of getting the arena project on the November ballot. It also filed an application for a restraining order to block Tuesday’s vote, but that motion was denied by a judge.

Those opponents plan to keep the ballot initiative attempt alive, according to John Dalrymple, spokesman for a citizen group called the Henderson Coalition for Responsible Government.

Dalrymple, who told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he was not surprised by the council’s vote, said residents intend to collect enough signatures to send the project to the ballot.

However, it is unclear how or if the project timeline would be affected by the group getting the necessary number of signatures.

“How that shakes out, I honestly don’t know,” Dalrymple said.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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