Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2014

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New life to REI Neon’s downtown arena plans

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is backing off his promise to end the city's dance with REI Neon/Warburg Pincus -- the group that wants to build a sports/entertainment arena downtown -- unless an agreement is reached by mid-February.

The group will ask for another one-month extension on reaching terms with the city at the Feb. 20 City Council meeting.

In December, Goodman granted a third extension to the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based group. When the council voted for that extension, some council members questioned the company's ability to deliver the proposed arena, and Goodman issued a stern warning to REI Neon.

"The extension is a benchmark date," Goodman told an REI representative at the Dec. 19 meeting. "In the sense that, if we don't believe on Feb. 20 that REI is going to be able to perform, then I want you to know, as far as I'm concerned, that's the end of it. And we'll wish each other well."

Much can change, it turns out, in two months.

At his weekly press conference this morning, Goodman indicated he is inclined to grant REI Neon a one-month extension.

Wellllll, the mayor said when asked about his December warning. Since then, officials from REI Neon and another developer, Baltimore-based The Cornish Group, have met with him and convinced him to give them another chance.

"I've had two meetings with them in the last three weeks," Goodman said. "As long as we keep going in the right direction, I'm going to keep on working with them."

The problematic issue is a funding gap of roughly $200 million that the group needs to begin construction of a $1 billion arena/entertainment complex, the first phase of a multi-phased project with costs projected to reach $10.5 billion.

"We're $200 million apart," the mayor said. "They're ready to put up, on the last count, $600 million. And there's $400 million necessary to complete the project -- the arena and entertainment complex. If we bond our(tax-increment) money, they¹ll get $200 million from that."

That leaves the $200 million difference.

"That's a lot of money," Goodman acknowledged.

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