Soccer boosters getting desperate

Embarrassed at home, the City of Las Vegas is now taking its strange obsession with a new soccer stadium on the road.

After a Sept. 3 City Council meeting saw stadium boosters fail to make a persuasive case for the proposed $200 million arena on land at Symphony Park, Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s team barely prevailed in buying time for Cordish Cos. and its partner, Findlay Sports and Entertainment. They have until Oct. 1 before a final vote on whether to allow the exclusive developer to go forward and pursue a Major League Soccer franchise. In theory, no franchise, no stadium.

The meeting failed to enhance the credibility of either the developers or the city, and so the soccer boosters are scheduling a series of town hall meetings and social media chats with an assist from the formidable image enhancers at Faiss Foley Warren Public Relations.

But all the mood lighting in the world won’t make this deal look desirable. Goodman and her soccer booster club have been thoroughly flummoxed by Bob Beers — the council’s recalcitrant CPA who keeps reminding them their lofty projections don’t pass the smell test.

And Councilman Bob Coffin has been increasingly suspicious of the inaccurate figures and lack of homework turned in by Cordish.

The latest jaw-dropper is the soccer stadium’s so-called feasibility study. You’d think it would have been finished months ago, or at least prior to the early September meeting. It wasn’t.

When a copy surfaced only five days after the meeting, it took Beers about five minutes to spot a $4 million flaw in the numbers.

Embarrassed again, the booster club was busy late this past week rewriting the narrative and recalculating the numbers. With a general discussion set for this Wednesday, Cordish-Findlay are expected to have slimmed down their expenses and transferred substantial costs to that soccer team-to-be-named-later.

Beers warned Friday about the revised version of the study, noting that it still gives the soccer team an easy way out of paying its rent and fees: If it’s not profitable, the costs are passed along to the city.

“If they can’t afford it, it will come from our general fund,” he said.

Although a rewrite of the study can make the numbers work, the accountant said, “The question is if it’s credible. … They might not be able to pay.”

Even if the numbers were right, Coffin said the deal overall doesn’t make sense for the city.

“I’m not against the stadium, nor am I 100 percent against public funding,” Coffin said Friday. “This wasn’t a good deal put together by two different parties. … Frankly, I’d like to see somebody come up with a different partner. Right now, the chemistry is not good.”

The stadium proposal is full of so much hot air Al Gore could do a global warming documentary on it. At one point during the recent meeting, a Cordish official said the stadium would produce 1,000 new jobs. There was little specificity during the meeting, so the breakdown for this figure should be interesting.

Stadiums aren’t known for creating high numbers of full-time jobs that pay good wages and benefits. After the construction, it’s mostly part-time employees who work during the season or only during special events. Excluding the executives in the front office and the guys on the field in short pants, the full-time jobs created should be easy to count.

At another point, Cordish and Findlay officials thoroughly embarrassed themselves when they had to acknowledge they hadn’t planned for parking and traffic for the stadium. They actually suggested the stadium’s lack of parking would encourage fans to take public transit. Who knows, maybe they’re going to open a comedy club, too.

This is the kind of slapstick the stadium’s boosters are reduced to. Somehow, the proposal remains alive. And now the city is taking its show on the road with a plan to build public support through town hall meetings for a project that could leave taxpayers on the hook for millions.

The city’s soccer booster club is coming soon to a town hall near you.

When you hear admission is free, don’t believe it.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.

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