Clark County will issue as much as $400 million in bonds over the next two years to help pay for the expansion and renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Before voting unanimously Tuesday to move forward with the loan, county commissioners underscored the importance of the $1.4 billion project during a time when other U.S. cities are increasing efforts to attract convention tourism.
“This isn’t a want. It’s a need to keep us competitive,” commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said. “We need to stay out in front of Orlando, New York and Chicago, and this is what’s necessary to do that.”
Commissioner Jim Gibson said the county’s commitment of up to $200 million this year and $200 million in 2019 would be well spent.
“I don’t think there’s a project that’s been more studied or more justified by the data than this project,” he said.
The county hotel room tax rate was increased 0.5 percentage points on March 1, with revenue dedicated to retiring the bonds.
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CFO Ed Finger said he was “absolutely” sure that room tax revenue, which has dipped below budgeted projections since the Oct. 1 mass shooting, was secure enough to back the bonds.
“We have very early January numbers that suggest January is going to be modestly up,” he said.
Rossi Ralenkotter, the convention authority’s president and CEO, said the project’s general contractor should be announced at the LVCVA board’s March 13 meeting.
Finger touted estimates indicating the project will create more than 14,000 construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who represents the area where the convention center is located, told Finger and Ralenkotter that the authority should fill the new jobs with people living nearby.
“We did a job fair at Boulevard Mall … this November, and about 800 people from the immediate neighborhood showed up,” she said. “And that’s all from the apartments around you, so I’d like to do whatever we can to do outreach there.”