Opposition to the city’s unpopular soccer stadium proposal keeps growing. Not that the city officials pushing this boondoggle care.
In December, the Las Vegas City Council approved a plan to build a $200 million, 24,000-seat downtown stadium to try to lure an expansion Major League Soccer franchise. The plan has angered taxpayers because, if the city is awarded an MLS team, the public would provide The Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports &Entertainment with about $100 million in land, infrastructure and debt-funded stadium construction subsidies.
But an equally important — and lousy — component of the deal is a city-funded, 1,200-space parking garage that would be turned over to Cordish and Findlay when the stadium hosts games and special events. The city intends to pay for the $20 million garage by creating a gerrymandered tourism district across much of Symphony Park to capture sales tax revenue.
On Tuesday, the Clark County Commission joined the chorus of stadium critics by unanimously passing a resolution opposing the tourism district. Not only would the district’s creation divert about $1.5 million in annual revenues from the county government, but the city’s data supporting the district and the garage project are highly questionable, to say the least.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman and stadium supporters have said the project and team would be supported primarily by residents, but a tourism district requires that at least half the sales taxes be paid by out-of-state visitors. To make the garage funding pencil out, the city is including an expansion of the Las Vegas Premium Outlets within the district and projecting massive retail and hotel development at Symphony Park.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, the economists who crunched the numbers admitted their growth projections are “very aggressive.” Councilman Stavros Anthony, who is running against Mayor Goodman in this spring’s election on his opposition to the project, said the data come from “fantasyland.”
Nonetheless, the council voted 5-2 Wednesday to ask the Nevada Commission on Tourism to authorize the creation of the taxing district. Worse, the council majority suggested the tourism district and garage project would be viable even if the stadium is never built.
The council moved forward knowing that if their development dreams do not come true, taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of the parking garage. Does no one remember the lessons of the city’s Fremont Street Experience parking garage debacle?
On Friday, a judge ruled stadium opponents had collected enough signatures to place the project on the June ballot. Good.
But the Commission on Tourism should reject the tax district — and the garage. Like the rest of the plan, it’s a bad deal.