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Alan Snel

MLS team back in play for downtown Las Vegas

17 August 2015

Jason Ader and his business partners want to bring a Major League Soccer team to Las Vegas.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman wants a major league team downtown, and any sport will do.

So, once again, Goodman said she's willing to listen to a plan for pro sports in Las Vegas.

This time, Ader's group wants to redevelop Cashman Field on Las Vegas Boulevard on the edge of downtown into a home for professional soccer.

It could mean first drawing a minor league soccer club in hopes of showing Major League Soccer that Las Vegas is a feasible market. That team would share the facility with the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team during an interim period before trying to land an MLS franchise, Ader said Friday.

"This is the first step of a thousand-step process," said Ader, who owns a Manhattan fund management company and is a director and shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

"It's not the easiest deal. But it's a location that works," Ader said. "So, let's start the process with the city."

Goodman said the city is open to hearing a proposal by Ader group, which is not asking the city for public dollars.

"We need something substantial to consider," Goodman said after a supermarket ribbon-cutting Friday. "We need to see something."

For the Cashman soccer proposal, Ader is teaming with Scott Watt and Bob Schulman of Watt Cos. and Laus Abdo of AGP Capital. Helping the group is Roger Tabor, a Las Vegas investment manager and advocate for professional soccer in downtown Las Vegas.

Ader said to build a soccer-specific stadium and purchase a MLS franchise would cost from $300 million to $500 million. A second option is to pursue a minor league franchise and build a fan base.

The group's plan is to not only rebuild Cashman for soccer, but to redevelop the blighted Las Vegas Boulevard corridor from U.S. 95 to the Cashman complex into what the group is calling "Cashman Village." The mixed-use development would include four-story multi-family buildings, offices, restaurants and retail with a focus on walking, according to an Aug. 11 letter from Abdo to the city.

But the long-term plan is to land a new or existing MLS franchise, Abdo wrote.

This initiative follows a failed attempt by the city and its partners, Findlay Sports & Entertainment and Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos., to land an MLS team. The league in February dumped Las Vegas from its expansion list and ultimately picked Minneapolis.

The Findlay/Cordish proposal included public funding for a new $200 million, 24,000-seat soccer stadium in Symphony Park, which proved politically volatile.

The Ader group would need to cut a deal with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which manages the 50-acre Cashman complex, which includes an exhibition hall and theater and is accessible from Las Vegas Boulevard, Maryland Parkway and East Washington Avenue.

"Under our memorandum of understanding with the city of Las Vegas, they are reviewing any proposed ideas for the redevelopment of Cashman. Our understanding is that this project is in the preliminary stages and we haven't had a conversation with the city about it, so it's too early for us to speculate," LVCVA spokesman Jeremy Handel said.

Additionally, an agreement would have to be reached with the 51s, the New York Mets' Triple A affiliate of the Pacific Coast League. The 51s' owners — Summerlin developer Howard Hughes Corp. and several Summerlin residents — want to move the team from downtown to a new ballpark near Downtown Summerlin.

"We think professional soccer might be an appropriate and good use for Cashman as long as it includes support for moving the 51's baseball team to a new stadium in Summerlin," said Tom Warden, a Howard Hughes Corp. Summerlin spokesman.

Right now, there is no imminent ballpark plan for Summerlin, and the 51s have a lease with the LVCVA to play at Cashman Field until 2022. The 51s paid rent of $321,171 to the LVCVA in 2014.

There are about 10 sports venues where baseball teams share facilities with soccer clubs, including Yankee Stadium. One of MLS's most successful teams, the Portland Timbers, plays in a former Triple A baseball park that was rebuilt for soccer.

51s president Don Logan is open to seeing what the group has to offer and said creating a minor league soccer team as a precursor to an MLS club could "demonstrate to the powers that be that it's viable in Las Vegas."

The city also is evaluating the Cashman complex for a drone testing dome and as an incubator for green businesses.

Councilman Bob Coffin said having a soccer stadium at Cashman is "one of the potential uses." He said it could co-exist with other uses.

MLS officials could not be reached for comment Friday.