SBD/July 16, 2012/Facilities

Las Vegas Weighs Proposals For New Arena, Stadium Projects; Hopes To Lure Pro Team

An arena in Las Vegas would help the city economically by bringing in tourists, events
The LAS VEGAS SUN's Joe Schoenmann examined the prospects of four proposed arena or stadium projects being built in the city. There is an appetite in Las Vegas for "both an arena and the UNLV stadium, and construction of one or the other, if not both, seems inevitable." The ramifications of an arena, and "more so a stadium, would be significant, not just in terms of the benefits of a large construction project and the jobs it would bring, but the permanent jobs and other economic activity that would be generated by it." The arena projects -- either downtown or along the Strip -- "each in the 20,000-seat range, could be the catalyst in Las Vegas landing a professional basketball or hockey team while also accommodating boxing matches, concerts and other large events." The UNLV stadium project "could have the biggest impact, not just in elevating the stature of the campus but by hosting 10 to 12 huge events a year that could draw hundreds of thousands of more tourists to town." The UNLV Now proposal "seems to face the fewest obstacles, especially given that it is the only one that calls for the immediate construction of a 50,000-seat stadium." Such a facility "would not compete with the arenas." It faces "no organized opposition to stymie approval in the state Legislature, and the funding plan would have the least effect on local pocketbooks." Among the arena proposals, "the Strip project by Ceasars appeared to have the inside track until the state Supreme Court agreed to consider concerns about the legality of the petition drive that would send the proposal to the state ballot" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 7/15).

COMPETITION WELCOME: In Las Vegas, Case Keefer noted if any venues are constructed, "most in the arena business are confident they could keep their own buildings viable." MGM Resorts Int'l Senior VP/Public Affairs Alan Feldman said, "The competition would have an effect, but you know what? Competition in Las Vegas, by and large, has proven to be a great thing over the years. If private industries come here and invest money, the hope is they raise the bar for everyone." However, MGM Resorts "has opposed Caesars Entertainment's proposal to build a $500 million arena in the area behind Harrah's." Conventional wisdom "may assume it's because the new venue would make MGM Grand Garden Arena and Mandalay Bay Events Center appear outdated down the road." But Feldman is "adamant that's not a factor." MGM "objects only to Caesars' plan to use public funding in the form of 9/10-cent tax increase in a three-mile district around the proposed site." It is "hard to imagine a new arena not stunting business for its competitors." But the "niches the five venues have settled into while sharing the market for years could prove sustainable." UNLV Now "could endanger one structure in particular more than any other proposal, though." Discussions will "have to take place about whether it's worth keeping Sam Boyd Stadium" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 7/15). Also in Las Vegas, Taylor Bern noted with "an enclosed, 50,000-seat domed stadium, Las Vegas would be able to market itself to conventions and events that previously passed over the city." If Las Vegas' "ultimate goal is to bring in an NBA or NHL team, the arena proposals are the way to go." Each states "a goal of bringing in a professional team." The "risk is probably higher -- would games bring in crowds that aren't already coming to town? -- but there's a perceived status upgrade with a pro team" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 7/15).

DAY DREAMING: In Las Vegas, Ray Brewer noted the city's Mayor Carolyn Goodman has “long told anyone willing to listen that the project has a legitimate chance at becoming a reality.” She contends that if the arena "is built, an NBA franchise would be able to finally and sincerely consider relocating to Las Vegas” (LAS VEGAS SUN, 7/15). The LAS VEGAS SUN's Keefer wrote the city has “seen the death of more venue ideas than any other city in the country in recent years.” The proposals have “come and gone as rapidly as the weekend tourists that populate the Strip, with nearly a dozen plans laid to rest within the past decade and countless more spanning back further.” Goodman said, “You need to know where you’re going to get your money. They’re dreams, but they haven’t done their homework or they haven’t gotten their money” (LAS VEGAS SUN, 7/15).
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