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Las Vegas’s MLS expansion bid doesn’t look so good

Sep 4, 2014, 9:35 PM EDT

Las Vegas

The most important part of Las Vegas’s bid to get an Major League Soccer expansion team will be its stadium. Not only is a new facility a test of both ownership’s power and government’s willingness, but there’s no real way to play in the Nevada desert without a state-of-the-art stadium. Not venue, no chance.

After today’s city council meeting, Las Vegas doesn’t appear to have a viable avenue to get its stadium built. Needing four of the council’s seven members to approve $200 million development plan, the group hoping to bring MLS soccer to the city was left hoping for a change of heart, with a crucial if reluctant swing vote opting to wait until Oct. 1 to make a final decision.

From the Las Vegas Sun:

After four hours of debate Wednesday, the City Council was deadlocked with three members supporting and three members opposing the deal with developers Findlay Sports and Entertainment of Las Vegas and Cordish Cos. of Baltimore.

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian held the swing vote.

But Tarkanian said she couldn’t vote for the project Wednesday. She said the stadium’s financial plan isn’t viable yet, and she wanted more time to hear more from her constituents …

That doesn’t sound so gloomy, right? All Justin Findlay, head to the expansion group, has to do is win over Tarkanian.

But then you learn how the council works and realize: approving the plans is one thing; financing it is another. And this deal needs $115 million worth of city financing to get done.

Even if Tarkanian [votes yes] in October, the developers will have a tough time winning final approval.

In December, the council is scheduled to review more details of the deal, including a stadium lease and a development agreement.

Under state law, the council would need a super majority of five votes to issue $115 million in bonds.

Good luck with that.

The reasons three council members aren’t supporting the deal seem like a flashback to D.C. United, where stadium proposal after stadium proposal has raised then extinguished hopes.

In Las Vegas, there are worries the money’s too much. One member said “95 percent” of the people he’s interacted with don’t approve of the deal. For as much momentum the spin machines give projects before councils weight in, we’re always left with an MLS truism: Things are a lot less rosy outside our soccer bubbles.

That’s not to say Las Vegas won’t get done, but there appear to be some major hurdles. And ultimately, you can’t blame a city for being skeptical about committing $115 million to a sports venue.

  1. yankeefootball - Sep 4, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    It’s a long shot to begin with in Vegas. The city was one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn. The foreclosure rate on homes was one of the highest in the nation which means there is a totally different vision by residents of how they might spend their “disposable” income. A number of the gaming companies have seen the future of the industry as being in Macau and as such are focusing their attention in that direction. That means less money spent in Las Vegas on hotels and casinos which they own. That in turn means attempting to lure people from overseas to gamble, which in turn lowers revenue. All of it leads to less available tax dollars from both the companies and employees who are still losing jobs, not gaining substantial raises or leaving the industry to try and make a better living in a different city. Nearly every economist could have told you that Las Vegas, in present conditions, is an extraordinarily bad choice to locate a professional sports franchise. I can understand why council wouldn’t want to allocate tax dollars to build a facility. There’s little, if any, return on the investment. Not to mention the other needs of a city whose residents are struggling to come out of a crash in an economy that depends entirely on others parting ways with their “disposable” income. Vegas is awesome, I wish them well. But, the odds are so bad it should be “off the board.”

    • mikeevergreen - Sep 5, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      On top of that, it’s too hot even at night. Games would need to be played at 10:00 pm local time. Might as well set up shop in Honolulu.

  2. mazblast - Sep 4, 2014 at 11:05 PM

    If the people pu$hing this propo$al are really $erious about it, I’m $ure they’ll be able to per$uade two more member$ of the city council to $ee things their way.

    • danielk1 - Sep 6, 2014 at 2:07 PM

      If they can parlay an MLS team into UEFA level gambling, they will have no problem getting the stadium. There are some big players out there who would take that bet if it is a good one. Maybe this will happen when they start to see some numbers come in on UEFA matches ever week.

      • danielk1 - Sep 6, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        “every week”…

  3. lvrplfn - Sep 4, 2014 at 11:54 PM

    This is not going to happen.

    Its just too much money and the Bob Beers, Bob Coffin and Stavros Anthony (3 City Council members) have all come out against the project not based on any one item in the funding plan but rather they are against the whole concept of public funding for the stadium That will be the end of it.

    At the end of the day, Las Vegas has next to zero track record of supporting pro soccer. It hosts very few top level matches and the ownership group involved here is a car dealer and a real estate developer. Hardly the deep wealth of sports experience one would hope for.

    This deal was never about Soccer – it was an opportunity play for some very valuable real estate. Would rather see Las Vegas get to MLS via USL Pro or NASL – prove the market, build the rabid fan support and then be ready for the next round of expansion sometime after 2020.

  4. coachbeck - Sep 5, 2014 at 2:25 AM

    It’s soccer….. If the NFL or NBA was coming then Vegas would build the stadium.

  5. El Pollo Loco - Sep 5, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    Las Vegas isn’t getting anything
    It isn’t a sports town it’s a betting town.

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