82°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Las Vegas bid for MLS stadium faces challenge in Golden Knights owner

Updated June 5, 2019 - 10:20 pm

Las Vegas officials will negotiate a proposal to build a new stadium near downtown that will be used by a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, although they face local competition.

For city leaders, the ambitious project represents an opportunity to build upon momentum rolling in the heart of the city, where an exposition center, hotel towers, apartment complexes and a canopy upgrade to the Fremont Street Experience are all underway.

The latest plan turns attention to the Cashman District, just north of the downtown core, what city redevelopment chief Bill Arent calls the “next chapter” — an area where sports, technology and entertainment collide. The stadium would be built near the existing Cashman Field.

“This is just a taste of what our city could be,” said Councilman Cedric Crear, who represents Ward 5, where the proposed development is planned. “It’s going to galvanize our city if we are able to be so fortunate to have one of these (MLS) licenses.”

But on Wednesday, as the City Council unanimously signed off on launching a 180-day window for talks between the city and project manager The Renaissance Companies Inc., they faced a stark reminder of how competitive a bid for pro soccer could be.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley confirmed to the Review-Journal that he, too, was pursuing an MLS franchise to play either in the Raiders stadium or possibly elsewhere in town.

The hunt effectively frames the race for a 30th MLS expansion team in new terms: Las Vegas will not only be jockeying with other cities still in the running for the final slot, it will be competing against itself.

If there was any concern from city officials, they did not show it: “I love competition,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman told reporters. “We love that he’s interested.”

Floyd Kephart, chairman of Renaissance, similarly downplayed the revelation of a new contender in the race.

“I was encouraged. I think it just shows the reach and the way that MLS has taken hold here, and it shows great support,” Kephart said. “If they see that MLS would work in Las Vegas, then why shouldn’t we?”

Still, Councilman Bob Coffin wondered aloud if Foley’s interest might have arrived as “some sort of sucker punch.” Foley said his group “would never do something that would (be) cause for any amount of animosity.”

Long in the works

Conversations between Renaissance and Las Vegas had been underway for 17 months before Wednesday’s exclusive negotiating agreement was approved, according to Kephart. City officials are convinced the project has what the league wants: a soccer-specific stadium.

“This hasn’t been a last-minute effort,” Goodman said. “We learned a lot from the first negotiation to get a team.”

In 2015, MLS passed on locating a team in Las Vegas at a proposed soccer stadium in Symphony Park. The failed venture cost the city $3.1 million, and some money was used toward a public relations blitz to sell the venue to the public.

But Goodman said the city had not adequately explained that the hotel room tax planned for the project would not affect residents. Also, Symphony Park — groomed mainly as an arts and cultural district — was not the appropriate location, she added.

Now officials believe they have pinpointed the perfect match. Crear called Cashman District’s central location ideal not only for soccer but also for the residential and retail components associated with the broader plan.

By the conclusion of talks, the city and Renaissance hope that a deal will be reached with Baupost Group, the hedge fund led by billionaire Seth Klarman. Kephart said the next six months will be spent planning the first phase of development, submitting an application to MLS and identifying costs.

The financial structure is still hazy. It’s not clear if city officials will suggest room taxes again, lean on federal tax incentives available to the district or do something else. But it will be a central issue moving forward even as Arent said Baupost has money to finance the project and Goodman called private investment key.

“Just try not to take a whole lot of taxpayers’ money,” Mayor Pro Tem Lois Tarkanian warned. “Because that’s going to be the big question.”

Insisting the project must be economically viable to the city and beneficial to the community, Kephart said he believed that taxpayers would be supportive.

With or without it

The Las Vegas Lights FC has played at Cashman Field since last year as an expansion team in a league one tier below the MLS. The plan is for the team to be sold to Baupost if a development deal is reached, play at Cashman Field until the new stadium is ready and then use the old field for practice upon joining the MLS as its latest expansion franchise.

While Kephart said that “we feel very comfortable about getting MLS,” a successful pitch to join the league is apparently not the prerequisite to moving a deal forward.

The preliminary stadium proposal calls for a covered roof with a retractable field and 25,000-person seating capacity.

If they do not get MLS approval, Kephart said the developer still plans to build a scaled-back version of the stadium for the Lights. But a contingency plan is not the focal point for city officials, who have cast their effort, announced just last week, as a signal that Las Vegas is a major sports city ready to attract other professional leagues in the years ahead.

“It’s just a matter of time before we get an MLS team, before we get an NBA team, before we get a Major League Baseball team,” Crear said. “Las Vegas is that city.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter. Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
THE LATEST
Tarkanian, Coffin bid farewell to Las Vegas council

Las Vegas City Council members Lois Tarkanian and Bob Coffin offered their final thoughts on years of city service at their final meeting on Wednesday, where they were feted with a standing ovation.