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Las Vegas City Council commits taxpayers to $100+ mil for soccer stadium, if city gets team

The Las Vegas City Council, by a 4-3 vote, approved public financing potentially adding up to more than $100 million for a Major League Soccer stadium. The taxpayer-funded stadium and parking garage would be located in the Symphony Park area downtown.

As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports,

Under the deal, the city would contribute $25 million as part of a $50 million stadium-parks bond toward construction of the 24,000-seat venue on 13 acres in Symphony Park. To pay off a $50 million bond, the city would have to borrow $90 million to pay the interest on the loan. The city would spend $3 million annually for 30 years from hotel room fee money currently being used for park projects.

The park projects in the bond deal are not known.

The deal also calls for the city to spend $31.5 million on infrastructure improvements for the stadium site, bringing the city’s upfront costs for the subsidy deal to $56.5 million. Infrastructure improvements would be for utility lines, drainage and streets.

In addition to this $56.5 million in upfront costs, which doesn’t include the $40 million in interest taxpayers would have to come up with over the next 30 years, the City Council also committed taxpayers to construction of a $25 million parking garage. The team will be able to collect all revenues from this parking garage for 90 events each year. MLS teams play 17 regular-season home games and may also play additional matches against other opponents during the year.

Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross at a townhall meeting in his Ward 6 discussing the soccer stadium proposal on September 16. In the background is City of Las Vegas Communications Director David Riggleman. (Photo by CH Media LLC)

Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross at a townhall meeting in his Ward 6 discussing the soccer stadium proposal on September 16. At left is City of Las Vegas Communications Director David Riggleman. (Photo by CH Media LLC)

Along with these taxpayer contributions, the City will hand over the stadium site to the Findlay-Cordish group, the team owners. The 13 acres has been appraised at between $38 and $48 million.

The site is part of the 61-acre Symphony Park area, which the city acquired in 2000, trading 97 acres in the Las Vegas Technology Center near Smoke Ranch and Tenaya plus $2 million in cash. The City has also taken out $80 million in bonds to fund infrastructure for Symphony Park. The costs to remove contaminated soil from Symphony Park, which had been a rail yard for Union Pacific Railroad until the 1990s, are expected to run to $30 million.

As part of the deal, Findlay-Cordish has promised to spend $250 million on development in downtown Las Vegas. Las Vegas is one of four cities, along with Sacramento, San Antonio and Minneapolis, in the running for the final MLS franchise. Obtaining a financing plan for a stadium is one of the requirements for Las Vegas to be awarded the franchise.

City Council members Stavros Anthony, Bob Beers and Lois Tarkanian voted against the proposal while Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Councilmen Bob Coffin, Steve Ross and Lawrence Weekly voted in favor. Beers and Anthony were early opponents of using taxpayer funding for the stadium and Coffin had joined them in opposition on earlier votes.

Beers discovered a “hole” in the revenue projections in a pro-forma submitted by Findlay-Cordish to accompany an earlier proposal to the City Council. $4 million in revenues had been double-counted in the document, which was later revised. Leading up to the latest vote, Beers posted on his blog,

The “final” deal details for City of Las Vegas taxpayers to give public money to a downtown soccer stadium were released this week. It’s not very different from the last several sets of deal details, though it is much less risky for Las Vegas taxpayers than the first deal that was proposed (which had the city paying for almost all of it). And all of it is contingent on Las Vegas actually being awarded a soccer team (which seems less and less likely).

City officials held a series of townhall meetings in each ward during September to sell the proposal and seek public comment.

Michael Chamberlain

Michael Chamberlain is the Editor of Watchdog Wire - Nevada. Please contact him at Nevada@watchdogwire.com for story ideas or to get involved in citizen journalism in Nevada. Follow Michael on Twitter: @michaelpchamber

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