The Las Vegas City Council voted 4-3 on Wednesday to approve a term sheet for the construction of a new soccer stadium in the city.
The public-private partnership calls for a 20,000 to 25,000 capacity facility to be built in Symphony Park, and is contingent on Major League Soccer (MLS) awarding the city an expansion franchise slated to join the league by 2020.
Las Vegas’ Investment Reduced From Previous Proposals
The stadium is projected to cost a total of $200 million.
Private investment in the facility will be provided by two entities: Findlay Sports & Entertainment (Findlay) and the Cordish Companies (Cordish). The groups saw their contributions triple from $49.25 million in a September draft of the agreement to $143.5 in the final version.
That allowed Las Vegas (City) to reduce its own financing of the project from a September estimate of $129 million, down to the ultimate figure of $56.5 million agreed to yesterday.
The City will now issue $50 million in recreational bonds to cover its portion of the cost. This debt will be financed through hotel room taxation. Additionally, Finlay and Cordish will be entitled to $10 million in “New Market Tax Credits.”
Finally, the $102 million franchise fee — as well as “all other costs associated with bringing a team to Las Vegas” — will be covered by Finlay and Cordish, according to a post on the City’s tumblr page.
Once completed, the stadium will be privately owned and operated.
MLS Applauds Approval
MLS Commissioner Don Garber released a statement through the league on Wednesday, praising the approval of the partnership and stadium construction.
We applaud Mayor Goodman and the Las Vegas City Council for approving the measure to support a public-private partnership to build a new soccer-stadium in downtown Las Vegas,” Garber said. ”We look forward to continuing our discussions with the Cordish Company and Findlay Sports and Entertainment regarding a possible expansion team for Las Vegas.”
The City is currently competing with the cities of Sacramento, California and Minneapolis, Minnesota for an MLS franchise as the league seeks to expand to 24 teams by the year 2020.
The league anticipates reaching a decision on its expansion plans by June of 2015.
Interest in Professional Sports for Las Vegas Growing
MLS is not the only league toying with the idea of expanding into Sin City. There are, however, concerns that need to be addressed.
Besides location, the two factors working against the City being awarded a sports franchise are the transient nature of the city’s population, and the possibility of sports betting for (or against) the home team.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, the National Hockey League (NHL) recently gave permission for businessman Bill Foley to test the market for season ticket sales — a pilot run which Foley states garnered interest from 1,500 people in just two days. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly is quoted as citing support from local residents as a key factor in the hesitation of the league to expand into the City.
That sentiment ties into fears that gamblers would be the ones to flock to games — gambling tickets in hand. Match fixing (which can be done anywhere in the modern day) is not the major concern, but rather the idea that bettors rooting against the home team could create a negative experience for hometown fans.
Therefore, it is likely that any league expanding into the City would only do after assurances that gambling on the home team would be prohibited in local casinos.
Las Vegas has come a long way from its humble origins as a sleepy gambling outpost in the middle of the desert.
What has kept the City vibrant, relevant, and growing is its ability to constantly reinvent itself, and the idea of establishing a professional sports franchise there has been discussed for a very long time. It is perhaps the last and only thing that eludes it in its search to permanently cement its status as not just a gambling and entertainment outpost, but a large US metropolis on par with any other.
Given the longevity of the City, its status as an international destination, and the enthusiasm of government, industry, and residents alike, there is no reason to believe it would not be a success.
It is without a doubt an idea whose time has come.