What do you think of the plan for a new arena Downtown?
The same thing I think of any other taxpayer-assisted arena plan: Ugh. Despite the City tabling the scheme to raise taxes on Downtown businesses to (partially) fund an arena on its raw parcel near Symphony Park, public assistance in the form of government bonds remains a possibility. Sure, a recent report suggested the arena could bring $21 million annually to Downtown, but that report appears predicated on redirecting much of the current business from UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
If so, this would be the second time the University District has given up business for Downtown, the first being The Smith Center for the Performing Arts leeching bookings from longtime cultural stalwart, UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall. And while I am thrilled with The Smith and what it brings to Las Vegas (and Downtown), it pains me that the UNLV campus, which fostered much of the Valley’s cultural energy for decades before Downtown revitalization became a thing, could suffer another mass relocation of that energy.
Further, as I wrote in this column in April, Howard Hughes Corp., the owner of the 51s baseball team (Las Vegas’ longest running professional sports outfit) still hopes to move the team to an as-yet-unbuilt, partially taxpayer-funded stadium in Summerlin. Which begs the questions: If stadiums are such a great idea, why do they need taxpayers to fund them? And if sports facilities Downtown are such a great idea, why would the 51s run to the suburbs instead of revitalizing Cashman Field?
Wishing for a new arena or stadium for Las Vegas is something like wishing for peace in the Middle East. I’ve been hearing about it for decades. Every time it gets started, something throws a wrench in the process. And, most likely, it’s not going to be brokered and assisted by a third party; it’s going to take the interested parties themselves to step up and make things happen. With multiple arena and stadium proposals still being tossed around (MGM’s arena at the New York-New York/Monte Carlo pedestrian promenade; the $1.3 billion All Net Arena proposed for the old Wet ’n Wild site; the UNLV Now stadium project), my guess is that, just like Caesars Entertainment did for oversize observation wheels, MGM is going to win this race, and do so with private money. I’m just fine with that.