The only way Las Vegas can support a new sports arena is through public financing, Mayor Oscar Goodman told reporters during his weekly press conference this week. And without an arena, the city will never nab an NHL or NBA team. "There are no free lunches," Goodman said, when told it was difficult to find much local support for public financing. "With that kind of attitude, that kind of philosophy, we'll never have an arena. We'll never have a professional team here, end of story."
According to reports in the Las Vegas Sun, the mayor supports building an arena in the downtown's Symphony Park area and claims that public financing through a bond initiative on the ballot would make it a reality. One idea calls for the creation of a tourist improvement district that would pay for the public bonds, and a certain amount of the sales tax generated in the district would be used to retire the bonds.
Once an arena gets built, though, it needs to be filled by more than just seasonal sports teams. Increased competition for consumers' discretionary dollars is "crowding some forms of entertainment out" of multipurpose arenas in the current recession, Mark Rosentraub, a professor of sport management at the University of Michigan told AB earlier this year. "That creates substantial pressure on whoever financed and owns the facility. When you build an arena, you're basically adding 150 to 175 inventory days to a market. The question you then have to raise is, given the spending levels and income-growth levels, are you going to sell those days?"
On the other hand, Goodman claims that without a modern arena, Vegas could lose the profitable events it already brings to the city, including the National Finals Rodeo. Last year, 10 nights of competition drew 174,000 attendees, including 35,000 from out of town, according to the Sun, while injecting $50 million into the economy during the traditionally slow time of year between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.