Las Vegas looks into new tourism improvement area

Updated January 18, 2018 - 10:54 am

The Las Vegas City Council launched a process Wednesday that could create the third tourism improvement district at a developer’s property, which would funnel financial incentives to the developer.

The council vote paves the way for a tourism improvement district designation for a 15-acre piece of property near the Rancho Drive and Sirius Avenue, where the Fisher Brothers firm is planning a 126,000-square-foot science fiction-themed entertainment park dubbed Area 15.

The developer requested the tourism district designation. The City Council unanimously approved the project in August.

Councilman Bob Coffin said the city should incentivize businesses to locate there.

“When you drive down the freeway, the last bit of the city you see is a scraped piece of ugly desert where businesses have failed, at least two,” Coffin said.

State law allows for tourism improvement districts and associated Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue bonds be used to spur new tourism-oriented businesses.

Before a new tourism improvement district can be created, city officials must make findings that the project will benefit the proposed tourism district. The Nevada Commission on Tourism would also need to issue a determination that a significant portion of the tax revenue from new businesses on the property will come from out-of-state patrons.

The city will also need to hire an independent consultant to analyze the potential fiscal effect on local government and estimate how much the project will increase tax revenue. The city will seek reimbursement from the developer for the cost of the facilitator, Economic and Urban Development Director Bill Arent said.

Two tourism improvement districts exist in the city, at Symphony Park and the property surrounding the Mob Museum, city spokesman Jace Radke said.

City officials will also need to alert Clark County before a public hearing on the proposal, and accept feedback from county commissioners. County officials decried in 2015 city plans for a tourism improvement district at Symphony Park at a time city officials were pursuing a soccer stadium project at the site, in part because diverted sales taxes within the district meant less revenue for the county.

The firm is proposing a range of activities at property, from virtual reality experiences and E-sports tournaments to dance festivals and counter-cultural conventions, according to a city summary of the plans.

“We’re very excited to have this coming into Ward 1,” Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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