Major League Soccer not coming to Las Vegas, stadium dead

Posted: Feb 12, 2015 3:01 PM PST

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LAS VEGAS — Major League Soccer notified the City of Las Vegas Thursday the city would not be selected as a site for an expansion franchise in the 2017 or 2018 seasons.

In a letter to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Don Garber, the commissioner of Major League Soccer said:

“Unfortunately, given the timing of our expansion rollout and the uncertainty as to when we might be able to move forward in Las Vegas, we are no longer considering Las Vegas as an expansion market until after 2018.”

The city says the stadium proposal is now dead. The city had been courting the league with private partners in an attempt to bring a MLS team to downtown Las Vegas. The plan called for a $200 million soccer stadium as a home for the team.

The Cordish Companies, who helped spearhead the MLS movement, released a statement:

“In light of the MLS announcement, we absolutely respect the City’s decision and we are sympathetic to the rationale that waiting beyond 2018 was simply a bridge too far given the strategic importance of the property to the City. The Mayor, staff and Council should be commended for their efforts, leadership and vision. There is no question a stadium and MLS team in Symphony Park would have ignited new development, created thousands of jobs, and brought significant new revenues to local downtown businesses. Our partnership with Findlay Sports and Entertainment was committed to investing $450M in downtown Las Vegas. Findlay Sports and Entertainment and the Findlay family should be commended for their tireless efforts in trying to improve their community which they love so much. Professional sports have a profound impact on cities beyond the economics; they give a city life and passion, and act as a catalyst for broader development. I hope the City holds on to its vision of having professional sports in downtown Las Vegas.”

Planned stadium will be state’s ‘next big thing,’ UNLV official says

A model of the UNLV Now stadium project is shown here at the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents meeting on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. UNLV and its private developer partners updated regents on the project, which now features a 100-yard-long video screen and six VIP suites seating 300 people. Launch slideshow »
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Take a closer look at stadium proposals in and around Las Vegas in the Sun’s Racing to Build Vegas’ next venue report from July 15.

UNLV’s 60,000-seat stadium proposal will feature a 100-yard-long video screen, making it the “world’s largest multimedia immersive experience,” according to developers.

UNLV officials and its private partner, Majestic Realty, presented an update to Nevada’s higher education leaders on Friday, revealing more design details and information on the “mega events” stadium – dubbed UNLV Now – and what it is expected to bring to Las Vegas.

“This project is a game changer for UNLV and Las Vegas,” said Don Snyder, UNLV Now’s project lead. “It’s an important and significant project for the state as well. It’s the next big thing.”

UNLV Now will be fully enclosed, and feature two clubs, six 300-seat VIP suites, and more than 50 conventional suites seating 10 to 24 guests.

Developers still have not put a price on the center – widely reported to be in the neighborhood of $800 million – but Snyder confirmed UNLV would be seeking more private funding beyond what Majestic provides. The Las Vegas Area Convention and Visitors Authority, casinos and hotels – “the industry” as Snyder called it – also will be asked to contribute an undetermined amount toward the stadium.

“This is a three-way partnership between UNLV, our private partner (Majestic) and the industry,” Snyder said, “It’s natural that they play a role.”

Snyder has talked with many of the major casino and hotel executives in town, and said he is confident the hospitality industry will help fund UNLV Now because the stadium would extend their ability to put more “heads in beds.”

“Nobody has said we don’t need this stadium,” Snyder said, referring to his conversation with Strip resort executives. “There is broad-based support for this project.”

A study by the University of Michigan’s Center for Sport Management determined that with 15 events annually, a mega-events center would produce a total of $393.2 million in new direct spending for Las Vegas’ hospitality sector.

These new events might include a Mountain West Conference football championship game, a new college football bowl game, a NFL exhibition game, the UFC International Fight Week, a championship boxing match, a soccer expo, a smaller Electric Daisy Carnival music festival, the American Country Music awards and touring concerts.

“We will secure a lot more events if we have this stadium,” said Pat Christenson, the president of Las Vegas Events, which seeks to attract major events to southern Nevada. “Because this venue itself will become an attraction, it’s going to help sell more tickets. With the event, the Las Vegas (Strip) and the venue, it’s going to be a highly powerful marketing combination.”

Craig Cavileer, Silverton resort president and Majestic’s project representative to UNLV Now, said the stadium would be more on the order of a giant theater with the 100-yard-long video screen and interactive lights.

He said the design elements drew from Cowboys Stadium – which opened in 2009 in Dallas and plays host to everything from NFL football games, the Cotton Bowl Classic, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games and concerts – and London’s Olympic Stadium, which was constructed for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The centerpiece of the UNLV stadium will be monstrous video screen, which Cavileer said would be viewable from 80 percent of the seats in the venue. The main screen would be a full 40 yards longer than the one in Cowboys Stadium, which currently is the largest high-definition video screen in the world. Plans also call for smaller video screens in each of the stadium’s four corners.

“When Vegas puts on a show, people expect something amazing,” Cavileer said. “People are going to expect an over-the-top facility. (UNLV Now) should be phenomenal and iconic.”

Dan Meis, an architect with Woods Bagot, worked with Cavileer on the Staples Center in Los Angeles and is designing the UNLV stadium.

Friday’s presentation to the Nevada System of Higher Education regents was for information only; regents will be presented with the estimated costs during a public workshop, scheduled for Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, Snyder said the stadium was entering a “critical phase” in the coming six months. During that period UNLV will be:

• Seeking approval from the Nevada Legislature to allow a tax-increment finance district for the project. If the district is approved, the project would be exempt from paying property, sales and live entertainment taxes for an estimated 25 to 30 years. Developers could still collect those fees and keep the money to help pay off the project’s debt. A similar attempt to allow tax dollars to be used to fund a stadium’s construction failed late in the 2011 session.

• Contacting the LVCVA, hotels and casinos to seek their pledges.

• Seeking approval from regents for an “area plan” for the stadium.

• Completing the “basic economic terms” between Majestic and regents, expected in late February.

If all goes according to plan, UNLV and its developer partners hope to break ground in the next two years. The stadium could be completed by 2017.
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