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Developer calls Henderson stadium project ‘not viable’

The controversial developer behind plans to build a major sports arena in Henderson is now saying the city-backed project "is not viable."

But Chris Milam's apparent plans for development of the land has Henderson officials accusing him of fraud and asking the Bureau of Land Management to stop the transfer of the 480 acres near the M Resort.

City Manager Jacob Snow said he was notified Wednesday afternoon in a letter from developer Chris Milam that the Las Vegas National Sports Center LLC was terminating the project agreement. Yet the letter also stated, "We are fully committed to achieving development of the arena complex and accompanying development in a way that will greatly enhance the city and surrounding areas."

"It's difficult for us to interpret what this really means in terms of the project going forward or not," Snow said Thursday.

Milam's letter prompted City Attorney Josh Reid to fire off his own letter Thursday to the BLM.

Reid cited a "dispute" involving the validity of the sale and Milam's attempted termination of the project agreement.

"The city believes that the transaction may not be valid and appears to be tainted by fraudulent representations by Christopher Milam, his agents, and his entities ... in connection with the transaction," Josh Reid wrote.

The city attorney said Milam "is seeking to change the rules" and offer the property to others to be used for "residential purposes," rather than for an arena.

Attempts to reach Milam for comment Thursday were not successful.

The proposal, first floated in September 2011, called for a 17,500-seat arena. It was embraced by Henderson officials who lobbied the BLM for the land deal.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Christine Guerci-Nyhus said the project agreement allows either party to terminate the deal before closing if the party determined the project was not viable, but the city's lawyers do not consider Milam's letter "an effective termination of the agreement."

Reid argued to the BLM that statements in Milam's letter demonstrate that the project is viable.

In June, Silver State Land was the winning bidder in the auction of the BLM land near the M Resort.

The $10.5 million bid came with a $2.1 million certified check, leaving Milam until Dec. 3 to come up with the balance.

On Thursday, before the Review-Journal learned about Reid's request to halt the land transfer, BLM spokeswoman Hillerie Patton said the agency received an $8.4 million check the previous day from Silver State Land.

Patton could not be reached later for comment.

Reid's letter said the agency selected Silver State Land on the understanding that the company agreed to develop the property "for public recreation and commercial uses approved by the city of Henderson."

On Monday, Reid sent Milam a letter asking him to stop marketing the land for residential development.

Reid indicated he received marketing material obtained by another developer that said, "If the arena or stadium are not developed, additional mixed-use and residential will be developed."

According to the letter, the material contradicted statements made by Milam's representatives to City Council members that the property was not being marketed for purposes other than an arena.

"The city is also concerned about the marketing of the arena property for residential purposes as the city has been very clear from the beginning of this process that it has no interest in rezoning the property for single-family residential uses," Reid wrote.

As recently as June, a spokeswoman for Milam reiterated his promise to break ground on the arena by the end of the year, assuming he finalized a loan for $650 million from the Chinese company CSST Smart Cities International.

Milam's group had until March to show there would be enough tenants to make the project viable.

Milam has proposed other stadium or arena projects in Las Vegas, on the Strip and near Interstate 15 at Russell Road, but none has come to fruition.

Reporter Ben Spillman contributed to this story. Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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