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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.

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