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October 22, 2014

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MGM’s new arena won’t stop Goodman from pursuing facility downtown

Mayor feels centers can co-exist, saying, ‘We aren’t here to compete, to challenge anybody’

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MGM Resorts International

An artist’s rendering of MGM Resorts International’s project the Park, which will connect New York-New York and Monte Carlo with an eight-acre outdoor experience.

As ground is broken today on a privately funded arena on the Strip, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman remains adamant that a downtown stadium will be built and that both venues could be home to professional sports franchises.

“We would always look to be complementary to what’s being offered elsewhere in the city. We would never build another wheel or observation tower or something like that,” she said ahead of today’s groundbreaking for the arena backed by MGM Resorts International and partner AEG. “What we are all working for, comprehensively, is to make Las Vegas continue to be a tourist attraction. Not only nationally, but internationally. So, yes, we are going to go ahead (with arena plans).”

Goodman has championed development of an arena downtown at Symphony Park that she believes could lure an NBA or NHL team to relocate to Las Vegas. The city has a contract with Baltimore-based Cordish Companies through May 31 to negotiate everything from funding to design.

Goodman cheers the MGM Resorts/AEG project, a $350 million, 20,000-seat venue being built behind the Monte Carlo and New York-New York. It will anchor an 8-acre park with tree-lined streets, outdoor dining and shopping. That arena and the one she envisions in Symphony Park, which would be partially funded with public money, would not compete, she said. Goodman points to New Orleans’ two stadiums and two pro teams — the New Orleans Saints of the NFL and the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA.

Click to enlarge photo

Artist rendering of the proposed downtown/Cordish arena.

“Let the pieces keep coming forward. Let’s see how they fit,” she said. “But let’s not work against each other. Let’s work in a community mindset. We aren’t here to compete, to challenge anybody.”

Although Cordish has made little progress since entering into its contract with the city since late 2008, the MGM Resorts/AEG project took shape quickly. So quickly, in fact, that Las Vegans might have thought it too good to be true when plans for it were first announced last year.

But with the first shovels going into the dirt today, an arena on the Strip is likely to be the first to open after a series of failed proposals including:

Las Vegas National Sports Complex: Proposed for 485 acres of land near the M Resort in Henderson, the project from developer Chris Milam never had financing. Milam is a multiple-time loser. In 2011, he said he wanted to buy the Las Vegas 51s and build them a stadium opposite the Mandalay Bay on the west side of Interstate 15. That facility, he said, could also accommodate an NBA or Major League Soccer team. He also tried building on the old Wet ‘N Wild site on the north Strip.

Las Vegas Arena Foundation: The 20,000-seat Silver State Arena was proposed by Caesars Entertainment, to be built east of Harrah’s and the Imperial Palace. Part of the funding for the project would have come from a newly created tax district, which didn’t get support from county commissioners.

UNLV Now: The 150-acre UNLV Now development called for a 50,000-seat domed football stadium at the UNLV campus. It would have been more than a home for the Rebels. Officials planned on hosting concerts, mega-fights and other events. While the project died, UNLV is still working on building a football stadium.

“We have over the years had so many ideas, so many things that are going to happen, and they end up in the trash,” Goodman said.

Goodman hopes the city’s plans for downtown, a $390 million, 20,000 seat venue, aren’t included on the list of failures. Cordish, in a slim 4-3 vote by the city council in late January, received a four-month extension to complete a construction feasibility report and an investment-grade feasibility study.

Downtown/Cordish arena

Artist rendering of the proposed downtown/Cordish arena. Launch slideshow »

If Cordish and the city part ways, Goodman said she’d still pursue getting something built at Symphony Park, a 61-acre walkable plaza that already includes the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute and the Smith Center. All that’s missing is the arena.

“If it goes forward with Cordish, I am thrilled to death and I want to move it quickly,” she said. “If it fails, we are going to continue to move forward with other opportunities.”

Regardless if it was in downtown or near the Strip, the area’s chances of getting a professional sports team will improve today. Previously, any team entertaining thoughts of moving couldn’t seriously consider Las Vegas because there was no facility.

“I would be thrilled if Jim Murren (of the MGM) made a phone call and said, ‘Carolyn guess who we just signed?’” Goodman said.

The proposal at Symphony Park isn’t the only one Goodman is keeping an eye on.

Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC, a joint venture of Howard Hughes Corp. and Play Ball Owners Group, including investors Steve Mack, Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer, purchased the Las Vegas 51s last year with plans of moving them from Cashman Field downtown to Summerlin.

The proposal in Summerlin is for a 9,000-seat stadium across from Red Rock Resort. It would be part of a mini-urban village already being constructed.

It’s just that Goodman feels strongly about keeping the team downtown, where the 51s have eight years remaining on a lease at Cashman Field at about $300,000 a year.

“We have the greatest respect and admiration for (officials) at Howard Hughes,” Goodman said. “We hear from our residents; they love coming downtown for baseball. We have people who don’t want them to move.”

She later added, “As we go forward in the mix, it is important for sports and the arenas concept, or stadium, that we not only include Symphony Park but look to Cashman and how that figures in.”

However, the 51s appear determined to leave. Cashman Field, one of the oldest facilities in Triple-A, is north of most major downtown redevelopment.

New baseball club owners have been working for more than a year on everything from financing to dealing with multiple municipalities. The land in Summerlin is part of Clark County; Cashman Field is leased by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and is located in Las Vegas. Getting everyone on the same page hasn’t been easy.

“There are no specifics to report at this time,” said Thomas Warden of Howard Hughes. “This project will prove beneficial to the city of Las Vegas, Clark County, the LVCVA, Summerlin and Southern Nevada fans. We think it is a real winning scenario if it comes together.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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