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Henderson residents start process to put arena project on the ballot

Updated May 18, 2020 - 6:19 pm

A group of Henderson residents who oppose a proposed hockey arena filed an initiative petition Monday to amend the city charter to prohibit officials from contributing taxpayer dollars to the project.

Hours later, the group filed an application for a temporary restraining order in Clark County District Court to prevent a scheduled vote on the matter Tuesday.

Paperwork filed with the city clerk’s office would place an item on the November ballot in Henderson that would add this language to the charter: “The city of Henderson is hereby prohibited from contributing, investing or lending any of its revenue or assets, or those of its taxpayers, for an American Hockey League arena/Henderson events center at the Henderson Pavilion.”

It’s an 11th-hour attempt to stop the proposed project, which is scheduled to go in front of the City Council on Tuesday for final approval. If approved, construction on the 6,000-seat arena would begin by August.

The proposed $80 million arena would be jointly funded by the city and the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team and would be home to a future AHL affiliate of the Knights.

Last-ditch effort

Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards confirmed the city received the petition filing and is evaluating it. It does not change the arena-related items on Tuesday’s council agenda, she said.

But if a judge rules in the group’s favor, the restraining order would block a vote on Tuesday. The filing claims the COVID-19 outbreak has hampered public participation, and seeks to push the vote back by 30 days or until coronavirus-related restrictions end, whichever is longer.

The motion did not receive a hearing Monday evening, according to the court.

Scott M. Holper, the attorney who filed the motion on Monday, could not immediately be reached for comment. Richards confirmed the city has received no notice of a court filing, but Holper’s filing was the type of motion that is filed on behalf of one party only without notice to the other.

The city posted the agenda last week and has created multiple avenues for the public to participate in virtual meetings. Public comment is accepted via email and real-time chat through a videoconferencing service.

As for the ballot initiative, at least 15 percent of the number of voters in the last city election would need to sign a petition before the initiative could move forward. That comes out to 2,117 valid signatures, which would be due near the end of June.

If the group got the signatures, the council would have the opportunity to approve the addition to the charter. If the council voted it down, the ordinance would go to the ballot.

It is unclear what will happen to the project if the council approves it Tuesday and the residents get the necessary number of signatures later.

Big enough for a vote

One of the names on the document is that of John Dalrymple, spokesman for the Henderson Coalition for Responsible Government, a citizen group that opposes the arena project.

The coalition has raised concerns about the prospect of increased traffic and an arena changing the neighborhood. It has criticized the city for wanting to move forward on the project while the pandemic has brought about fiscal uncertainty. Dalrymple, however, has also said the coalition is not anti-arena; it just does not want it at the pavilion site.

He said a project of this size should go to the people for a vote.

“Let’s let everybody get eyes on this deal and understand all of its ramifications, and then vote on it,” Dalrymple said. “That’s what we’re doing.”

Dalrymple said the coalition intends to hold signature rallies.

Under a deal to be considered by the council Tuesday, the Golden Knights would pay for half the cost of the venue. Though the city would own the arena, the Knights would be entitled to revenue from naming rights; premium seating; and food, beverage and ticket sales, except for tickets to community benefit events.

The city has said the pavilion is limited as an open-air venue and has faced issues with the seats, the sound system and a canopy that was removed and cannot be replaced.

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

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