Cordish’s Vegas Arena Raises Eyebrows

Despite the pending development of an MGM arena (l.) in Las Vegas, the city continues to work a deal for a second arena with developer David Cordish.

Special tax would pay for part of Symphony Park

Las Vegas continues to work with the Cordish Companies of Baltimore to develop a $390 million downtown sports arena. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the city will foot most of the bill?$239 million?generating some of that through a special tax on downtown businesses.

The city is considering extending a three-year-old exclusive negotiating agreement with Cordish, which would kick in $151 million for the arena, now known as Symphony Park.

At the same time, Clark County commissioners have approved the MGM Resorts International’s land use applications for its proposed $350 million, 20,000-seat arena behind New York-New York and Monte Carlo on the Vegas Strip.

“We’re eager to move ahead and intend to break ground this summer and open the new facility in 2016,” MGM said of the planned 20,000-seat arena, which will include restaurants, retail space, and a 10-acre park.

If City Council approves the Cordish deal, the parties would have until June 1 to finalize a development agreement, the Review-Journal reported. If it isn’t finalized by that deadline, Cordish would walk away with $2.4 million based on the 2010 agreement.

According to the proposed terms of the deal, the city would provide $187 million from bonds backed by arena revenue, plus about $52 million from a special improvement district tax on businesses in Downtown Las Vegas.

Jeff Victor, president and general manager of the Fremont Street Experience, said he was surprised to hear the city may “add a tax to the highest paying taxpayers in the city.” Victor added that he had not been informed of the tax plan. “I am kind of shocked,” he said.

Alan Feldman, MGM’s executive vice president of global government and industry affairs, also took a dim view of the Cordish plan. Feldman noted that the MGM arena proposal is “not asking for or seeking or using public money.” He added that the city should not be using public money to subsidize a professional sports arena. “The city doesn’t have unlimited bonding capacity so they are choosing what they are going to bond,” Feldman said. “What else isn’t getting bonded during that time?”

“It is not a slam dunk to open an arena,” said Neil deMause, who runs the sports stadium news website “They are expensive to build, they are expensive to run, and nobody wants to pay money to play.” He added that two big arenas in the same city could give would-be sports-team tenants too much negotiating power.

“You then are either going to have to cut a lowball deal to get a team or you are going to have to undercut the MGM arena to get concerts,” he said.

Others have noted that the Cordish project is not attached to a pro sports team, which could undermine its chances for long-term success.