Las Vegas wants a professional soccer team. In fact, city officials want a team so badly they are working on a new plan to deliver a downtown soccer stadium by packaging the stadium with four possible park projects.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and other downtown stadium backers even pitched Major League Soccer officials on awarding a franchise to Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Las Vegas is competing with Sacramento and Minneapolis for an expansion franchise.
According to Alan Snel, sports business reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the newest package put together by city officials includes a total bond of $45 million to $50 million, which will now include money for parks.
“I guess, politically speaking, to make it more palatable they combined the stadium subsidy with park projects that number three or four different projects,” Snel said.
However, City Councilman Bob Beers said the new deal includes revenue bonds which he says are more expensive with a higher interest rate. But those types of bonds does not need a super majority in the city council to pass and does not need to go through a debt management commission.
Beers said it is a package he is not willing to vote for because of the bond structure. “That makes it equivalent public money at a higher cost and in the end reduces the city council’s ability to ensure the city is able to provide its core services,” Beers said.
He said the current plan is not a reduction in public money and the city is already in debt with the piece of land the stadium would be on.
“The unfortunate situation the city has found itself in is we have borrowed almost $100 million to improve the Symphony Park dirt with the stated purpose at the time of selling lots and paying back the money we borrowed to create the dirt we have there today. This plan does not achieve that,” Beers said.
He called the project “money out and no money in.” Beers said Findlay Sports and Entertainment, which is one of the groups behind the stadium, is investing $100 million but it is a $200 million project and that extra money is coming from the public.
Sacramento is the front runner for the Major League Soccer’s 24th franchise. Sacramento reporter Ben van der Meer says the city has demonstrated in a short amount of time that it can get a lot of fan support for a soccer team.
He also said no public funds are available for the Sacramento stadium, but he said the city has showed MLS it is ready for a team.
“What seems to be helpful is showing support all around the board. They have an ownership group. They have land identified for a stadium. They have strong fan support. They can point to as MLS has asked them to check boxes they have checked them all off,” van der Meer said.
Snel pointed out Las Vegans might have a distaste for providing public money for the project because they’re seeing privately funded arenas is going up.
“Politically it is tough when you have residents here see a private arena going up to the tune of $375 million by MGM and Anschutz Entertainment (AEG) and you have a second arena going up a couple miles north by the Jackie Robinson the former UNLV player that is also privately financed,” Snel said.
Beers also highlighted the fact that Las Vegas is known as the entertainment capital of the world.
“Yeah, we’re the largest market that doesn’t have pro sports but we’re the only market that has Elton John, Celine Dion and KISS doing weeks or months-long residencies, seven Cirque shows a night, the Blue Man Group on and on and on,” Beers said.
A pro franchise has to compete with a whole bunch of other stuff.
The next city council meeting about the issue is set for Dec. 1. The board of governors of the MLS are set to talk about the next franchise at a Dec. 6 meeting.
Alan Snel, sports business reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Ben van der Meer, reporter, Sacramento Business Journal
Bob Beers, Las Vegas city councilman
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