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Las Vegas officials to take another shot at getting Major League Soccer team

The city of Las Vegas’ bid for a Major League Soccer franchise was shot down last year, but some city officials are ready to take another shot.

The Las Vegas City Council is slated to discuss next week a contract with New York-based company Inner Circle Sports, LLC, to develop a plan aimed at drawing an MLS team to Las Vegas.

The first phase of the proposed contract up for council consideration next week is not to exceed $80,000, including reimbursable expenses like travel. The contract calls for the company to help the city build a case for a Las Vegas MLS franchise from the ground up, developing a marketing plan and funding sources.

Another council vote would be required if the city pursues the company’s work beyond the first phase of the contract, for services like investor outreach and negotiating development agreements for a stadium.

“I see nothing wrong with making a low-cost attempt to see if we could score a Major League Soccer team,” Councilman Bob Coffin said.

In February 2015, MLS Commissioner Don Garber told Las Vegas city officials their bid for a franchise in the 2017 or 2018 expansion phase wasn’t successful. That bid for a team was paired with a controversial proposal for a $200 million, 24,000-seat stadium slated for Symphony Park, which fractured the council and became the prominent issue in the 2015 mayoral race.

That stadium proposal was essentially rendered moot with the league’s decision not to grant Las Vegas an expansion team in 2017 or 2018.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman, a strong stadium proponent on the city’s last MLS bid, said Thursday she favors downtown Cashman Field, as a possible soccer stadium site.

Goodman is in “hot pursuit” of Las Vegas continuing to push for an MLS franchise, but acknowledged she’s waiting to see what the National Football League owners decide on the proposal to relocate the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.

Since the city’s last MLS bid was denied, the Las Vegas valley’s first announcement for a pro sports franchise came: the Vegas Golden Knights will begin playing in the National Hockey League’s 2017-18 season.

Councilman Bob Beers was a staunch opponent of the city’s last soccer stadium proposal.

“I thought it was a bad idea even before the T-Mobile Arena,” Beers said of the Strip-adjacent facility where the NHL team will play. “Now it’s pure folly. I’ll be voting no.”

Goodman and other city officials this year mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Cashman for an NFL stadium, the only site within the city’s bounds that was publicly identified as being a possibility. Cashman itself is about 51 acres, and the city controls a few other adjacent properties, adding up to 25 to 30 additional acres.

The Las Vegas 51s are Cashman’s current occupants, but they’ve long been eyeing a move to a new ballpark in Summerlin.

After announcing the MLS rejection in early 2015, Goodman promised to continue her push for professional sports, emphasizing soccer specifically, in Las Vegas.

“I will keep fighting, as long as I breathe,” she said at that time.

Garber said the next two MLS expansion cities will be announced in the second and third quarters of 2017. Two more expansion teams will be announced later, as MLS continues its plan to grow to 28 teams. The deadline for ownership groups interested in the next MLS expansion round is Jan. 31.

At the time of Garber’s recent announcement, the league acknowledged that 10 markets, where expansion team efforts are farther along, have publicly expressed interest in being the site of an expansion team. Las Vegas was not included on the list.

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

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