Cordish Makes Case for Vegas Arena

Baltimore developer the Cordish Companies went to Las Vegas to talk up his planned $390 million sports arena (l.), set for the city’s Downtown district. But his emphasis on locals conflicts with the deal he made.

“Locals” haunt would not qualify for city funds

Late last month Baltimore-based real estate developer David Cordish went to Las Vegas to pitch his controversial project there: a $390 million arena in the city’s Downtown district. Cordish said the arena at Symphony Park would be a place for locals.

“The major customer of arenas are locals,” Cordish said. “The major day-in and day-out ticket holders are the locals. By locals I mean you all who live here.”

But Cordish may have put his foot in his mouth this time, as the development cannot qualify for city funds unless most of the revenues and taxes “will be attributable to tourists who are not residents of this state.”

“It would certainly present, I would think, a conundrum,” attorney Richard Jost told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “How could you then make finding that a preponderance of sales taxes would be generated from tourists?”

On January 22, City Council voted 4-3 to extend Cordish’s years-long exclusive negotiating agreement until June. Critics have complained it’s a sweetheart deal underwritten by taxpayer money. A previous version of the agreement provided even more money from a tax on downtown business owners. That raised a hue and cry from the business community, and the special tax was dropped.

The latest plan presented to council said only that $52 million in “additional gap funding” would come from a tourism improvement district and more private investment.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman did not address the apparent inconsistency, and only said, “We are in exploration, really, over the next four months in trying to figure out ways we can have proper funding.”

Cordish revenue projections include income from the National Finals Rodeo, which now takes place in the Thomas & Mack Center, as well as a number of boxing and Ultimate Fighting Championship events now hosted by MGM. Neither of those events is likely to move, Goodman agreed.