Developer of troubled Henderson arena disputes fraud allegation

In April, would-be arena developer Chris Milam boasted to the Henderson City Council that financing for a $650 million professional sports venue was "fully approved."

On Monday, Milam was looking to meet with city officials to discuss why the project "as presently contemplated … was not viable or financeable."

How a reputed slam-dunk seemingly evaporated in just seven months is unclear. Though Milam broke his silence over the weekend with a letter to city officials disputing a description of his project as a fraud, he did not address the status of the $650 million in overseas financing he touted earlier.

City attorney Josh Reid now wants the Bureau of Land Management to put the brakes on the sale of about 480 acres of federal land to Milam, who Reid said was marketing the property to investors as residential real estate despite promising the city it would be used for a professional sports arena.

"The city believes the transaction may not be valid and appears to be tainted by fraudulent representations by Christopher Milam,” Reid wrote to the BLM.

Over the weekend Milam fired back with a letter to Mayor Andy Hafen.

"The claim is that I did all of this as a ruse to be nominated to buy a piece of land," Milam wrote. "It would be an understatement to say that is not the case."

Despite the denial, Milam’s letter appears to contradict what he told the City Council while seeking support for the agreement.

For starters, the weekend letter said the project "under the prior agreement was not viable or financeable."

But in April, Milam told the council he already had secured project financing from Shenzhen, China-based CSST Smart Cities International.

"In a very real sense the project is financed now," Milam told the council in April.

During the same meeting, Milam also said, "It is happening. It is financed."

Milam did not respond to email seeking to reconcile the statements. CSST Smart Cities International did not respond when emailed a request for comment Monday.

Milam also said in April that a staff of eight salespeople was working to secure tenants and events for the proposed arena.

"We should be able to make announcements in a couple of months," Milam said at the time.

Since then, the relationship between Milam and city officials has soured, and another proposed stadium project on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has gained steam.

On Friday the Board of Regents voted to update the campus master plan to accommodate a 60,000-seat venue and heard a presentation stating it would generate $393 million in spending annually in the Las Vegas area.

That is significant because Milam told the Henderson council in April, "there is only going to be one of these buildings in Las Vegas."

Signs of a fraying relationship between Milam and Henderson officials cropped up Nov. 26 in a letter from Reid to Milam.

In the letter Reid, citing marketing materials for the land obtained by another developer, accuses Milam of marketing the property for residential real estate even though 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."

Although city officials entered into an agreement for a 17,500-seat arena suitable for a National Basketball Association franchise, the marketing material said, "If the Arena or stadium are not developed, additional mixed-use and residential will be developed."

On Nov. 28, Milam wrote to City Manager Jacob Snow seeking to terminate the development agreement, saying the project wasn’t viable.

About the same time Milam deposited the remainder of the $10.6 million he owed the BLM for the land, a deal that needed the blessing of the city to proceed.

Reid responded the next day in a letter asking that the BLM either reject Milam’s money or "refrain from further processing" of the deal.

The flurry of events has city officials scrambling to figure out what happened.

"There have certainly been a lot of statements that are somewhat conflicting," city spokesman Bud Cranor said. "Over the coming weeks and months there will be a lot of work to go through the agreements."

In his weekend letter, Milam asked whether city staff would meet with him Monday morning to "create a win-win for all parties." Cranor said no such meeting occurred.

Hafen did not return calls for comment. Councilwoman Debra March said Milam should have come forward sooner with his concerns.

"If it is not viable, then he probably would have done well to have come in and had a conversation with us," she said.

Asked about Milam’s statements to the council in April, March said, "To my knowledge, we haven’t seen any of that come to fruition."

The Henderson project isn’t the first time Milam has been embroiled in a deal that turned sour.

Last week the Nevada Supreme Court upheld a $1.1 million judgment against the developer in favor of Idaho attorney Harry DeHaan.

The judgment was the result of a deal between Milam and former Hard Rock Hotel owner Peter Morton to build a $1.2 billion condo project near the Strip. That deal went bad after Morton accused Milam of lying about the source of his money for the deal.

DeHaan was among disgruntled investors who lost money on the Hard Rock project.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at or 702-383-0285.

News Videos
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Teenager in critical condition after being struck by an SUV in Henderson
Authorities were called about 2:45 p.m. to the scene in the 2100 block of Olympic Avenue, near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road. The teenager was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Water Question Part 3: Conservation loves a crisis
Future growth in the Las Vegas Valley will rest almost entirely on the community’s ability to conserve its finite share of the Colorado River.
The Water Question Part 7: How much can we grow?
Many experts agree that Southern Nevada can continue to grow, so long as residents are willing to do what needs to be done to stretch our crucial resource as far as it will go.
The Water Question Part 6: How many people can Southern Nevada’s water sustain?
The number can swing wildly depending on a host of variables, including the community’s rates of growth, conservation efforts and the severity of drought on the Colorado River.
Mylar Balloon Demo
NV Energy presented a demonstration Wednesday to depict the damage that can be caused by the release of Mylar balloons.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing