The Las Vegas Valley needs a new, multipurpose stadium that’s close to the Strip. A venue capable of attracting and expanding large-scale special events is the resort corridor’s missing piece of tourism infrastructure.
The Las Vegas Valley does not need two new stadiums. And it certainly does not need two publicly funded new stadiums.
Competing proposals for a soccer-first stadium that could attract a Major League Soccer team to the city of Las Vegas are undermining the work of UNLV’s Campus Improvement Authority, a panel of university and private-sector leaders that’s developing a plan for a new stadium on campus or between the campus and the Strip.
After flirting for years with the idea of building a domed stadium at UNLV — making the venue far more versatile and way more expensive — the university last week decided to pursue an open-air stadium with a shading structure. The gaming industry, especially MGM Resorts International, wouldn’t support the cost and scope of a dome that would compete for events with the Strip’s privately funded arenas. A new open-air stadium still would cost more than $500 million, and it would require funding from the tourism industry, university donors and taxpayers.
Winning the support of voters and the 2015 Legislature will be an enormous political challenge for UNLV. And the task will be that much harder if lawmakers believe the project can’t deliver a significant boost to the tourism economy. UNLV’s stadium consultant, Texas-based CLS, projects an open-air, shaded stadium will attract half the events a domed stadium would. And soccer matches would be an important part of the stadium’s events portfolio.
But a UNLV stadium would almost certainly lose those soccer matches if the city moves forward with a soccer-only stadium. On Thursday, the city will hold a public meeting on a soccer stadium proposal from The Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports & Entertainment. The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall’s council chambers and will cover financing, which is expected to include a request for taxpayer support.
Meanwhile, New York City gaming entrepreneur and Las Vegas Sands director Jason Ader has launched an effort to attract an MLS team to Las Vegas — and his own plan for a covered, $350 million soccer stadium. Mr. Ader told the Review-Journal’s Alan Snel he would seek a public subsidy for the stadium.
If private investors want to fund a soccer-only stadium, or any stadium, they can have at it. But asking city taxpayers exclusively to help pay for an inflexible venue, when those same city taxpayers might be asked to help pay for a UNLV stadium through, say, a countywide sales tax increase, isn’t fair and isn’t practical. In fact, such a proposition would doom both projects.
If residents are asked to pay for a new stadium, they can only afford one. And the stadium needs to be suitable for a whole lot more events than soccer matches and UNLV football.