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October 21, 2014

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Mayor: State lawmakers hold key to Las Vegas arena plans

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A rendering of the proposed stadium complex behind Mandalay Bay.

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Oscar Goodman

With only about six weeks left in office, Mayor Oscar Goodman is still holding out hope to bring a professional sports arena to Las Vegas.

"I wish anybody good luck. If they could do it, I'm happy," Goodman told reporters at his weekly news conference Thursday at Las Vegas City Hall.

"I think the best site is downtown. I think Symphony Park is perfect," said Goodman, whose last day in office is July 6. "But if somebody brings us a major league team, I'll be delighted, as somebody who lives in this community."

Several other proposals for an arena are on the table, including one by Caesars Entertainment on the Strip, another at UNLV and another by Texas entrepreneur Chris Milam for an arena behind Mandalay Bay west of Interstate 15.

Goodman said developers are waiting to see what the Nevada Legislature does in its final days of the 2011 session.

"All I know is that they're scurrying up there, and the city is scurrying with them," he said of lawmakers in Carson City.

Goodman said the city's staff is keeping him informed as to the status of certain bills.

"I'm particularly interested in bills that have to do with a potential arena site and funding of a potential arena site," he said. "But it's a moving target."

Asked about the latest activity at Symphony Park, Goodman said "I was hoping, but I haven't heard from them."

He said he had hoped to hear from the developer of the project last week.

"I didn't want to press it because I was waiting to see, quite frankly, what's going to happen with the bill up in the Legislature. That will have an awful lot to do with their decision," Goodman said. "Everybody's waiting to see what the Legislature's going to do. And then things could happen very quickly."

Earlier this month, a district court judge ruled that Caesars Entertainment could move forward with its effort for a 2012 ballot question to ask voters to back a $500 million, 27,000-seat sports arena on the Strip. MGM Resorts International had sued, claiming there were not enough valid signatures to put it on the ballot.

The initiative petition calls for a 9/10-cent increase in the sales tax in a special district on the Strip. The Legislature rejected the petition, which sends it to voters.

The Legislature also wrote a competing plan for a ballot measure to ban a special district to impose a sales tax in an area that's higher than the rest of the county. That bill is still in committee.

Meanwhile, Milam's plan for a complex that would include a ballpark, a stadium and an arena, surfaced into public view earlier this month.

Milam has signed the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball franchise to a contract to be in his complex, and is also hoping to attract an NBA team and a major league soccer team. Lawmakers were also considering legislation to create a taxing district on that land.

Milam's proposed tax district would generate revenue differently than the Caesars plan. Rather than drawing from revenue from a portion of sales tax generated by businesses surrounding the Caesars project, the Milam tax district would draw upon a portion of the revenues generated from business activities on the Milam site.

"Mr. Milam had been talking to the city. He wanted to put it down in Symphony Park," Goodman said.

However, Goodman said he couldn't negotiate with Milam because the city has already signed an exclusive negotiating contract with the Cordish Companies to develop an arena project at Symphony Park.

"I was in a tough spot," Goodman said, explaining he couldn't have any meaningful discussions with Milam without breaching the spirit of the agreement with Cordish.

"Basically, I think he got frustrated and he went out to the end of the Strip," Goodman said.

The mayor called Milam, "a very interesting fellow" and said Milam had been to the city in the past to discuss building projects.

"I've got to say this for the fellow. When he has a meeting with you, he brings in very powerful learned knowledgeable experts," Goodman said. "He always had the very, very best when he came to talk to me."

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  1. The only arena I want is the UNLVNow project. The university can't afford to lose NFR, PBR, and others to a different stadium, in Las Vegas or elsewhere, thanks to the shortsightedness of the Governor of Northern Nevada.

  2. I think the monorail was a good idea, where they built it was the BAD idea. And it should've gone to the airport in the first place. F__k the thieving cabbies and their union.