The city of Las Vegas billed it as a “town hall” meeting to answer questions about a proposed downtown soccer stadium, but Tuesday’s session also turned out to be a pep talk by city staff, its private partners and even Mayor Carolyn Goodman to sell the stadium proposal.
Councilman Steve Ross, whose ward hosted the session, set the tone for the proposed downtown venue in Symphony Park, cheerleading for the $200 million, 24,000-seat venue for a possible Major League Soccer team.
Ross said Las Vegas is the biggest city in the United States without a major league sports team.
“It’s less about a stadium and more about a team and a city wrapping its arms around the team,” Ross said. “It’s a piece of vacant land not producing anything.”
At the city’s Centennial Hills community center, about 50 residents attended the first of six stadium meetings. Besides Ross, stadium advocates Councilman Ricki Barlow and Goodman also attended. While the trio support the stadium, council members Bob Beers, Bob Coffin and Stavros Anthony oppose the stadium financing deal. Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian is undecided.
The city is partnering with the private development team of The Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports &Entertainment on the soccer stadium proposal after Cordish failed at delivering an arena for an NBA or NHL team.
The proposed deal between the city and Cordish/Findlay calls for the public dollars to pay for nearly 78 percent of the upfront costs of the stadium, with Cordish/Findlay paying back the city 59 percent of the stadium costs through annual rent and non-soccer revenue over 30 years. If the team or league fails, the city would be left paying the $8 million debt on the stadium.
The city has said it will not raise taxes for residents and will use hotel room money, revenue from a special sales tax district near the stadium and the rent payments and non-soccer revenue from the team to pay for the stadium.
The city said it wanted to hear questions and comments from residents about the proposed soccer stadium, but Ross, Justin Findlay of Findlay Sports and city economic official Bill Arent spent the first 35 minutes of the 95-minute session doing a stadium sales pitch.
Arent’s pro-stadium pitch focused on the downtown stadium diversifying the tourist base, the city holding rights to staging non-soccer events and Las Vegas attracting the city’s first major professional team. The city would own the stadium, but Cordish/Findlay would run the venue if built.
The city framed the public discussion by asking three questions for feedback:
■ Is a major league professional sports venue with added community benefits right for downtown?
■ Given the benefits, do you support a public-private funding model?
■ Do the sources of the public funds, room tax, Symphony Park infrastructure, TID (special sales tax distirct), seem reasonable?
Several residents voiced their opposition, including Las Vegan James Thompson, who cited inconsistent numbers provided by the city.
Indeed, the city is trying to make sure it get its numbers straight after Cordish’s consultant provided incorrect stadium revenue and expense information in a recent feasibility study.
That study is scheduled to be discussed at today’s City Council meeting.
Near the end of the meeting, Goodman stood in front of the audience and gave an impassioned speech for the stadium.
“This is about tourist dollars. … It’s time now to take a shot,” Goodman said. “This is the last hurrah … if we don’t do something sensational.”
Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.