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Chris Jones

City of Henderson to Reiterate Bid for $8 Million Grant

31 March 2004

The city of Henderson plans to again bring up its request for $8 million in grant payments from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to help pay for a proposed public plaza adjacent to its City Hall.

City leaders said the convention authority funds, which are collected as part of a 9 percent Clark County room tax charged to area hotel and motel guests, would be used to construct an outdoor venue that could host concerts, parties, weddings and events held at the Henderson Convention Center.

Dubbed the Plaza at City Hall, the project's total cost is expected to approach $16 million.

Henderson City Manager Phil Speight said Tuesday a formal request for a recreational facility capital improvement grant will likely take place April 13 at the next convention authority board meeting.

The item was previously scheduled on the board's Feb. 10 meeting agenda. But Speight on Feb. 9 requested a delay so Mayor Jim Gibson could further discuss the item with his 12 colleagues on the convention authority board prior to their vote.

Speight said the proposed plaza would replace a similar venue that was torn down to make room for the $40 million expansion of Henderson City Hall, which opened in December. Early plans call for an amphitheater, fountains and seating areas designed to lure visitors and locals to events in Henderson's civic core on Water Street.

"It primarily creates an optional venue for our hotel and tourist businesses to be able to come to," Speight said. "(Nearby businesses could) bus people in from Lake Las Vegas or Green Valley Ranch (Station) for a concert, let's say, and it gives meeting planners a chance to look at other types of venues instead of just at a hotel."

The prospective convention authority grant is much like those it previously awarded to the city of Las Vegas to help construct and improve its Fremont Street Experience, an approximately $70 project initially built in the mid-1990s using $8 million in grant money awarded in May 1993. The downtown attraction's signature lighted canopy is now undergoing a significant upgrade financed in part by $7 million in convention authority grants approved in December 2002.

Speight concedes it's unlikely Henderson's plaza would have the same tourism impact as Fremont Street Experience, which last year was cited as the primary reason for visiting downtown Las Vegas by more than 7.5 million local tourists, according to the convention authority's 2003 visitor profile study.

Still, Speight said the project deserves consideration based on Henderson's past contributions to the convention authority's budget, including nearly $2.5 million in room tax revenue in fiscal 2003.

"If you compare the city of Henderson to Laughlin or Mesquite, for example, we're in pretty decent shape as it relates to the amount of room tax generated, and yet the support that we've received in the past from the convention authority doesn't match what those two (cities) get," Speight said.

Laughlin ($3.27 million) and Mesquite ($888,402) combined to earn more than $4.1 million in room tax revenue in fiscal 2003 -- about 40 percent more than Henderson alone -- yet those two areas benefit from specialized convention authority marketing programs while Henderson does not.

The Henderson City Council on Jan. 6 unanimously approved a measure to request the $8 million grant for the planned plaza on Jan. 6. The council's request called for the first of eight $1 million installments to be paid Aug. 1, followed by seven more equal payments each Aug. 1 through 2011.

If Henderson fails to secure money from the convention authority, Speight said city leaders would reconsider their options, perhaps downsizing the project or building something different on the site.

"I don't think we have the ability to look at $16 million on our own," he said.