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May 19, 2010

Vegas officials, MGM Mirage cool to arena subsidies

Clark County held its first public hearing on competing Las Vegas arena proposals yesterday (there are now four, up from two in March), and county commissioners weren't exactly thrilled at the plans, especially the bit where all four would require public subsidies.

"I'm not against an arena," said commissioner Susan Brager. "I just don't think the funding mechanism is where it needs to be at this time." Added her colleague Larry Brown: "Public financing — it takes away the private competition. A pro team is not the panacea for Las Vegas."

Not helping matters was the stated opposition to public arena subsidies by MGM Mirage, which is not only one of the largest casino operators in Vegas, but also runs two arenas of its own at MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay. MGM Mirage officials complained that giving subsidies to a new arena while theirs go subsidy-free would create an uneven playing field; according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "a couple of commissioners seemed less inclined to back public funding" after MGM chief marketing officer Bill Hornbuckle testified.

Hornbuckle also warned that as the arena has no tenant lined up, Vegas could end up with an arena but no team, like Kansas City. Which is a point that many people, yours truly included, have made; but when the guy pointing it out is the big dog in your local economy, elected officials tend to sit up more and take notice.

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