Vegas Arena Group Pushes On

The Las Vegas Arena Foundation has filed documents with the state of Nevada for permission to solicit petition signatures to put an arena project, and a tax hike to pay for it, before lawmakers and, perhaps, voters.

The foundation would need to collect 97,000 signatures to put the proposal before the state Legislature. If lawmakers reject the proposal, it would go on the ballot for a public vote, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

“These are very tough recessionary times, but we can’t freeze in time; we have to be visionary,” said Harrah’s Entertainment spokeswoman Marybel Batjer. If the project is approved, Harrah’s would donate 10 acres for the site. “We have to look four to five years out to remain competitive and without a state-of-the-art arena, Las Vegas is going to lose out to other cities.”

The 674,000-square-foot, 18,000-seat arena is envisioned on Harrah’s land worth an estimated $182 million, according to the paper. The arena would be “suitable for use by a professional sports team from the national Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, or both.”

The foundation intends to pay for construction with the imposition of a Las Vegas Strip corridor tax of 0.9 percent, which would raise an estimated $40 million to $45 million annually, to pay off $300 million in bonds. Additional funding is expected from private sources, said Foundation president and former county commissioner Bruce Woodbury.

Confining the tax district to the Strip corridor means tourists would pay “probably 95 percent of the funding,” Woodbury told the Sun.

Three other groups were advocating a publicly funded arena earlier this year but those efforts took a blow recently when Silver State Arena withdrew its application from the Clark County zoning board. The development group wanted the county to revive a redevelopment district that would provide tax money to pay for 15 percent of its $400 million project.

County commissioners were already skeptical of public financing of an arena, and MGM Resorts International opposes such funding, having built comparable venues without public aid.

If that weren’t enough, voters might also be asked to vote on public funding for a downtown baseball stadium favored by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Woodbury told the Sun his group is prepared to hire a professional organization to start collecting signatures in September.

“We have a strong feeling that Las Vegas needs this very badly,” he told the paper. “If we’re going to move to the next level, or get back to our former level, in some respects, we need to keep the National Finals Rodeo and bring in new events with an arena that would compete with anybody out there.”