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October 20, 2014

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Mayor: New sports arena should be in downtown Las Vegas

Goodman says he prefers a Symphony Park site as opposed to a site on the Strip

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A downtown location would be better suited for a new sports arena than any of the proposals for arenas on or near the Las Vegas Strip, Mayor Oscar Goodman said today at his press conference today at City Hall. The mayor says he prefers a location on the north side of Symphony Park, which would be more accessible to traffic and help revitalize the area.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman says that despite competitive efforts to bring a sports arena to the Las Vegas Strip, he's still betting on it being downtown.

"I think downtown is the perfect place," Goodman said at his weekly press conference today at city hall.

"As far as I'm concerned, the first one who's going to have a shovel in the ground is going to be able to have an NBA franchise play in that facility or an NHL franchise play in that facility," Goodman said. "That's what I want for this community."

The mayor said he wasn't worried about various private attempts to bring a new 20,000-seat arena to the Las Vegas Strip, or near it, and thinks the plans under way for a downtown arena are further along.

Goodman said the city has been talking to the Cordish Co. of Baltimore for two years about an arena downtown. The city has signed an exclusive negotiating agreement with Cordish on Nov. 4.

And now there are two spots for a possible downtown arena, he said.

"We're talking about 13 acres across the street from this city hall and we're talking about Parcel P-Q over in Symphony Park (the northern end of the park)," he said. "My preference would be P-Q."

Forest City is the developer of the Parcel P-Q site at Symphony Park, so Cordish would have to work with them, Goodman said. Forest City is under contract to develop a 1,000-room hotel-casino on that site.

Earlier this week, the Clark County Commission asked its staff to collect information and report back on May 18 about proposals to build arenas in the county.

Goodman found fault with traffic flow in and out of those three competing sites:

— A $750 million facility is proposed on the north part of the Strip on the former Wet 'n Wild property by IDM, a Texas firm. That property is owned by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sue Lowden.

"At the Wet 'n Wild site, I don't know how people would be able to get in and out of there," Goodman said. "It's in the middle of the Strip."

— A $448 million facility, led by a group formed by former County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, is proposed for 10 acres owned by Harrah's behind the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino. Harrah's would donate the land.

"Behind Harrah's, as far as I'm concerned, would be gridlock like you've never seen," Goodman said.

- A $600 million facility is being proposed on Las Vegas Boulevard South on 260 acres owned by Gary Goett.

"If you want to go down to Southern Highlands, to that area, God bless you," Goodman said.

He said people from all income levels would be able to have easy access to a downtown location.

"You don't have to be necessarily rich to get there. Public transportation all comes down here," he said. "There's great parking in the downtown. It would be a great revitalizer for the downtown. We'd be able to get benefits under our redevelopment agency."

Downtown is also a neutral place, he said.

"It won't be associated with any particular casino," he said. "We won't have guns drawn to our heads saying that we're doing something that will affect the private sector to the detriment of another private sector facility."

Goodman said that his office is in regular contact with Cordish.

"They're trying to make the figures meet. They know that I'm under the gun. I'm out of here in a year. And I want to have that arena break ground while I'm still the mayor, because I've worked so hard to get a major league sports team here," Goodman said.

Goodman said he would like to have an arena over in Symphony Park because, if Cordish does it, it will include an entertainment complex and a new hotel to go along with the city's other developments there.

"We'll use the 13 acres (across from the existing City Hall) to put the 51s into a brand new baseball stadium," he said.

"And then my crocodarium will go down at Cashman (Stadium)," he said, referring to a plan being proposed by an Australian group led by the widow of Steve Irwin for a zoo-like facility featuring crocodiles at the current home of the 51s minor league baseball team.

The mayor said he didn't want to skimp on the seating for a downtown arena.

"The bigger the better," he said. "Because if we don't do it, if we're stupid, if we want to think small and ruin us, it will be a small arena and it won't be a first-class arena."

He said the community needs to "think big" to be able to compete with the state-of-the-art billion-dollar Dallas Stadium built by Jerry Jones, which some say could attract rodeo arena events now supporting Las Vegas' economy from Thanksgiving through the New Year.

"We have to keep up with these things," Goodman said. "You can't keep on saying that you're not going to have the best. Whatever I want is the best. We've got the best with the Ruvo Brain Institute. We've got the best with the Performing Arts Center ... I want the best arena too."

Goodman said architect Frank Gehry, who designed the Ruvo building, sent him the designs for the Brooklyn Arena.

"Now, it will cost a billion dollars, but maybe you have to spend a billion to make a billion," he said.

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