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Could Reno's Ballpark Tax Fight Be A Warning For Las Vegas?

Does this sound familiar? A city wants a new stadium to help revitalize its downtown.

In this case, the city isn’t Las Vegas. It was Reno circa 2002. At the time, boosters said the stadium would attract more people to the heart of the city, and that it would diversify the city’s economy.

At a total cost of $85 million, including $20 million in bonds issued by Washoe County and guaranteed by car tax revenue, a minor league baseball park was built to house Reno Aces, and it opened in 2009. But five years later, the owners of the Reno Aces haven’t paid a dime back to the city in property taxes.

Reno City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus told KNPR's State of Nevada it is too early to know if the stadium did what it promised to do.

"It is still to be seen," Brekhus said, "I think these public-private partnerships play out over a number of years in terms of what revitalization they have."

The city is trying to collect nearly $3 million in debt. Brekhus expects team's owners to pay the $2.7 million in property taxes, but she says the worst-case scenario would be to shut down the downtown ballpark if the taxes aren't paid.

She does not expect that to happen, but she does believe the city gave up too much in its deal with the developers. Her advice for other city's looking at similar projects is to be careful about the final deal.

"You need to be smart and not bargain from a place of weakness," she said.

She added she believes city's need to be careful about subsidizing development like stadiums because they often do not deliver. Overall, Berkhus is not a big fan of public money for private development.  

Berkhus told KNPR that negotiations between the city, Washoe County and the owners of the stadium, who also own the Reno Aces baseball team, were continuing.


Jenny Brekhus, Reno City Councilwoman
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