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Vegas arena proposals draw opposition from county commissioners, casinos

Four arena concepts — all involving public subsidies — were pitched at Clark County (Nev.) Commissioners last night, but developers didn’t gain a lot of support from elected officials and drew criticism from local casinos, who built arenas on their own dime.

There have been various plans for a Las Vegas-area arena in recent years; Mayor Oscar Goodman pitched projects downtown and next to the Stratosphere Casino, but they came up short. Now the developers are going after the Strip, which isn’t part of Las Vegas proper; it’s governed by Clark County, and the casinos have a lot of sway with those elected officials.

Which probably had little to do with opposition expressed by these same commissioners toward the four proposals; they all centered on the public-funding portion of the plans. At a time when tourism is down in Sin City — which means drops in tourism taxes — the commissioners said they were having a hard enough time to make ends meet, never mind be on the hook for continuing subsidies to a speculative project. There are already five arenas in Vegas, including Thomas & Mack Center and privately financed arenas at the Orleans, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay casinos.

The four proposals:

  • Cordish Cos., which has worked on development associated with Oriole Park at Camden Yards and a new downtown arena in Kansas City, is pitching a downtown arena.
  • IDM is pushing an arena on the former Wet ‘N Wild site off Sahara Avenue and the Strip.
  • Developer Garry Goett is looking at a site south of the Strip, on Las Vegas Boulevard, for a $600-million facility.
  • A local nonprofit arena group is pitching a facility on land in back of Imperial Palace. There’s some juice behind this proposal: arena-management firm AEG is involved.

All four of the proposals have been floating around for some time. Two of the proposals would impose a sales tax on the Strip to pay for the facilities; another would use tax-increment financing.

Another issue raised for commissioners: whether a new facility would increase tourism. Las Vegas is one of the few cities where a new arena could actually bring more people to town, as events like rodeo finals and boxing matches have a proven track record of bringing in outsiders. Whether a pro team needs to be part of the mix is debatable: it doesn’t seem like NHL or NBA officials are as hot to bring a team to Vegas as they once were.

The commissioners adjourned without taking an action on any of the proposals.

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