Major League Decision

Downtown soccer stadium proposal has one big—and important—fan in Mayor Goodman. But will that be enough?


Say this about Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman: She’ll never be accused of being a waffling politician who can’t pick a side. We saw this firsthand during a September 18 town hall meeting at Rogich Middle School to discuss the viability of a $200 million, 24,000-seat Downtown stadium proposal that would house a Major League Soccer expansion team.

At one point during the meeting—one of six held around the Valley this month seeking public input on a partnership between the city and a pair of would-be stadium developers—Goodman went on a rambling 15-minute tirade. While comparing the importance of the soccer stadium to public safety and health care, she spotted a man in the audience shaking his head in disagreement. “It really ticks me off that you sit there with your sourpuss,” Goodman scolded him. “What did you do to build this community? What have you put into this community to make it a better place?”

Goodman then proceeded to accuse the County Commission of trying to kill the project; told the audience “you have all been privy to documents you had no right to be privy to” in reference to proposal drafts; said the current proposal is the only viable option (“Whenever you’re told there’s another game, it’s a bunch of hookie-pookie”); mentioned her and her husband’s “eight granddogs”; and even veered to ISIS’ activities in Australia.

The mayor only stopped when city spokesman David Riggleman finally cut her off.

On October 1, the City Council will vote on a nonbinding stadium proposal between the City and the development team of the Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports & Entertainment. The plan calls for Cordish/Findlay to contribute $44.25 million to construct the $200 million stadium, with the City providing the remaining $155.75 million, including $115 million in city bonds. Cordish/Findlay is also committed to spending $102 million for the expansion team. Under the proposal, the City would own the stadium, and Cordish/Findlay would repay 59 percent of the stadium costs after 30 years through $3.5 million in annual rent payments. The City would pay its share of the project through bonds, tourism district money and hotel room charges.

After Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian expressed her desire to get more feedback from her constituents on September 3, the City Council voted 4-3 to table its decision on the proposal to October 1. Council members Goodman, Steve Ross and Ricki Barlow have supported the tentative agreement and voted for the delay, while Councilmen Bob Beers, Bob Coffin and Stavros Anthony have stated they are against the deal, criticizing the amount of public money being used.

Tarkanian said as recently as September 18 that she would reject the proposed financing plan if the vote were held that day. Even if Tarkanian does change her mind by October 1, the odds of the plan reaching fruition appear slim, as the deal would go before the City Council for a final vote in December, when a supermajority of five votes would be necessary for passage because of the city issuing bonds.

Justin Findlay, managing partner of Findlay Sports, is attending all the town hall meetings in hopes that he can persuade the public to support the proposal. He sat quietly during Goodman’s rant, but praised the mayor afterward for her passion for the project.

“I would hope that Las Vegas sees this as an investment,” Findlay says. “Yes, it’s a lot money, and it’s an important decision, and it can be spent in different areas. But it’s not going to be matched like this. This really could be a huge community asset.”

MLS wants to expand to 24 teams by 2020, and Las Vegas is competing against at least five other cities for the final spot. A study projects the average attendance for a Las Vegas MLS team at 18,000-20,000 per game, drawing largely from a demographic base of millennials, Latinos and international tourists.

If the council denies the proposal, Findlay says there’s a chance that a revised plan can be drafted, although he isn’t looking past the October 1 vote. He is hopeful that the final town hall meeting, scheduled for September 25 in Tarkanian’s ward, will help him secure the swing vote he needs to move forward with the proposal.

“[Tarkanian is] saying a lot of positive things,” Findlay says. “She just wants to hear from her constituents, and I wouldn’t expect anything to change until she hears from them. … Councilwoman Tarkanian has a very open mind, and that’s all we can hope for.”

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