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Las Vegas soccer stadium report delay questioned

Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin is trying to figure out why a vital feasibility study for a proposed subsidized soccer stadium in Symphony Park was dated Aug. 20, but didn’t make it into the hands of city council members until Sunday, several days after a crucial vote on the topic.

“Cordish didn’t turn it over to us. The question is why didn’t they?” a frustrated Coffin said of the delay.

Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos. and its partner, Findlay Sports &Entertainment, have pitched a $200 million, 24,000-seat stadium to the city. Cordish-Findlay and the city have a proposed financing deal, which has split the city council and drawn mixed reactions from residents. The dynamic is similar to many stadium projects across the country where the developer or team seeks public dollars to build the venue. Cordish-Findlay is seeking a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, and the stadium will not be built unless a team is awarded to Las Vegas.

Prepared by Chicago’s AECOM Technical Services, Inc., the 103-page stadium feasibility study included crucial data, such as the stadium’s projected revenues and expenses. The study said the stadium’s operating income in its first year of 2017 would be $1.74 million and would grow to $2.8 million by 2021.

City spokesman David Riggleman said the feasibility report was dated Aug. 20, but was received by Mayor Carolyn Goodman and the other six council members on Sunday because Cordish spent all that time scrubbing proprietary information.

Port Telles, development director of The Cordish Cos., said he could not comment because of company policy.

The stadium’s expenses did not include the $3.5 million in annual rent the team would be required to pay the city if there is a final agreement. Justin Findlay, managing partner of Findlay Sports, said the rent would be paid by the soccer team and not the stadium.

Much of this information will be coming to residents in future meetings.

A recent city press release presented the proposed agreement in glowing terms, highlighting Cordish-Findlay paying the city the majority of the costs for the $200 million soccer stadium while downplaying the city paying nearly 78 percent of the venue’s upfront costs and assuming most of the risk.

But the press release was issued before the City Council split 3-3 during a Wednesday meeting, with Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian undecided on the non-binding stadium deal.

If Tarkanian had voted no at last week’s marathon meeting, the soccer stadium deal would have died.

Cordish/Findlay is lobbying Major League Soccer to award Las Vegas an expansion franchise and wants a publicly subsidized stadium in Symphony Park. The proposed deal also calls for Cordish/Findlay to pay $102 million for a new team.

Instead of voting against the stadium deal, Tarkanian joined the council’s three stadium cheerleaders — Goodman and councilmen Ricki Barlow and Steve Ross — to wait until Oct. 1 to vote on the nonbinding deal. Tarkanian said she wants the time to hear feedback from her ward’s constituents before she decides on the proposed deal.

So until Oct. 1, the city plans to better inform the public about the proposed stadium deal.

On Monday afternoon, city staff and public relations consultant Melissa Warren had a meeting, not open to the public, to discuss the stadium outreach campaign. Records show the city has a $204,000 contract with Warren to do downtown public relations, including work on the proposed stadium.

Councilman Bob Beers, who opposes the stadium deal and posts anti-stadium subsidy items on his blog, said the city should not promote the proposed stadium deal in a sales pitch fashion to city residents. Instead, he prefers a “here are the facts” approach.

Beers said he can understand why city staff is promoting the stadium deal proposal because Wednesday’s vote was the first time that the council did not endorse the concept of pursuing a stadium or arena at Symphony Park.

In fact, Goodman — during Wednesday’s hearing — noted that she and her husband, former Mayor Oscar Goodman, have been advocating for a downtown arena or stadium for the last 15 years.

“The city is pretty far down the rabbit hole in the way it presented the financing. The city has become an advocate for this specific deal. …It might be tough for the city to change course now,” Beers said. “This is the first time that public policy-makers have revealed a meaningful split (on City Council.)”

Coffin added: “They will lay it out. There’s no need to spin it. My hangup is on the financing.”

Ross, a stadium advocate, said the city should do both — give the stadium deal facts to the public while also hyping the proposal.

Ross said it appears the city is promoting the stadium deal because the proposal includes the efforts of Bill Arent, city director of Economic and Urban Development, which is charged with promoting the city in economic deals.

“His job is to promote the city. That’s where he’s a cheerleader,” Ross said.

Neither Arent or City Manager Betsy Fretwell could be reached for comment Monday.

Riggleman said the city will stage town hall meetings on the proposed stadium in each of the six wards on Sept. 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25. Locations are being finalized, he said. There will also be Google and Twitter chats.

Riggleman said the proposed stadium deal will be presented in a manner in which residents can decide for themselves “how much risk the city is being exposed to.”

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-287-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.

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