The valley’s race to build new stadiums and arenas took an interesting turn Wednesday, and the takeaway was unmistakable: public financing increasingly looks like a deal-breaker.
Former UNLV basketball and NBA player Jackie Robinson took a big step toward breaking ground on his underdog Strip arena project. The Clark County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a zoning change that would allow Mr. Robinson to build the $1.4 billion All Net Resort &Arena on the old Wet ‘n’ Wild water park site, south of the SLS Las Vegas (the former Sahara). The plans call for a nongaming hotel and a 22,000-seat retractable roof arena — the first of its kind in the world.
Mr. Robinson’s proposal has been pooh-poohed since the day he unveiled it. But he says his group has raised $300 million so far, is already performing some site preparation work and — most importantly — doesn’t want a dime of taxpayer money. If he can line up the rest of his financing, the Strip soon will have two new arenas, including the MGM-AEG project behind New York-New York, both privately funded.
Compare his progress to that of the years-long effort by the city of Las Vegas and the Cordish Cos. to develop any kind of sports and entertainment facility downtown. An arena plan collapsed because it required too much public backing. Now the financing isn’t coming together for a less-expensive Major League Soccer stadium, either. On Wednesday, the city for the second time canceled a public meeting that was supposed to address the stadium’s funding. How much tax money does Cordish want this time? The easy answer at this point? Way too much.
The board developing a stadium plan for UNLV and the owners of the Las Vegas 51s, who want a new stadium, should take note.