MLS team in Vegas – million-dollar question



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Las Vegas MLS plans update October 2020 Image: The Renaissance Companies & Populous

Hope still floats that a proposed new soccer facility near downtown Las Vegas (US) will eventually be home to a Major League Soccer (MLS) club.

However, for one City lawmaker the die is cast – “We missed the mark and we’re not going to get an MLS team here.”

Major League Soccer is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States and Canada. The league comprises 26 teams – 23 in the US and three in Canada – and will expand to 30 teams by the 2023 season.

Councilwoman Michele Fiore objected on Wednesday to the City Council’s latest move to extend negotiations for six months between the City and a developer on the major project at Cashman Field near downtown.

Cashman Field is an historic 10,000-seat stadium located in the heart of downtown Las Vegas. The proposed project includes constructing a stadium and mixed-use development, including residential and retail outlets, on at least 62 acres at the city-owned Cashman Field site just north of downtown.

The conversations surrounding the new 25,000-seat soccer stadium has been extended twice since June 2019, before Wednesday’s most recent delay, and talks are simply not moving forward on the new stadium issue.

The stadium is seen as a catalyst to winning a bid for an MLS expansion franchise, but the project also calls for residential and retail development in the area as part of its first phase.

Fiore, the lone council member to oppose renewing negotiations, argued that the City-owned real estate was too valuable to offer at a discount if a professional sports team was not attached to the plan.

Bill Arent, the City’s Development Director, noted that officials had not yet contractually set a price, although costs have been discussed.
 

Luring MLS

Fiore further argued that giving it for a song would be like, “It’s kind of like a steal. And I could see, again, the City supporting something like that if we were to get an MLS team, which we are not, and I think that we need to be quite frank and quite honest about that.”

The City has sought to lure an MLS expansion club for years, and the league last year raised its number of teams from 24 to 30, but it has not announced plans to expand further.

Floyd Kephart, Chairman, Renaissance Cos. Inc, which is negotiating the project with the City, said that the MLS has consistently asked what would be built at Cashman Field, when it would be done and when the league would have access to a specific site. The latest inquiry came within the last 90 days, he said.

“What this amendment does is allow us to do the planning of that, so that we’ll reserve a site for MLS and show what will be built around it, and how that will be beneficial to the City,” Kephart said of the newest extension.

Two City lawmakers said it is clear that the City needed to work overtime to prove itself to MLS in order to be a contender, and that means developing its current United Soccer League club, the Las Vegas Lights FC, and youth soccer across the City.
 

Pandemic angle

Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the Lights and youth soccer have exceeded expectations, while Councilman Cedric Crear suggested the City was “burgeoning on the cusp of sports greatness” with the professional teams already in the broader valley.

Crear said with an air of confidence, “I think we’re in a good position. We just have to continue to develop it and get it right. And just because MLS doesn’t have openings today, doesn’t mean they’re not going to open it up.”

Under the plan announced in June 2019, the Lights would be sold to investor Baupost Group LLC and would become the MLS expansion team if the application to the league gets the green light.

In April, when negotiations were extended a second time, Goodman said it was nothing surprising taking into account the coronavirus scourge. On Wednesday, she suggested the crisis had affected MLS too, “The fact right now they’re not expanding, and obviously it’s reflective of all the constraints due to the pandemic.

Right now, the picture is such that will Las Vegas finally land a MLS team has become a million-dollar question.

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