City Council approves negotiating agreement that could lead to new soccer stadium
The Las Vegas City Council took a step toward a new soccer stadium Wednesday by entering into a 180-day negotiating agreement with The Renaissance Companies Inc., which is interested in redeveloping Cashman Center.
The agreement will jumpstart discussions about luring a Major League Soccer franchise to Las Vegas, building a new stadium and redeveloping the 62 acres around it. Council members unanimously approved the negotiating agreement during a meeting Wednesday. Renaissance is a Nevada-based project manager and financial structuring adviser.
The Las Vegas Lights FC, a Division II soccer team in the United Soccer League (USL), has played at Cashman Field since its inaugural season last year. Any forthcoming development agreement between the city and Renaissance would require the Lights to make a bid with the MLS to become an expansion team.
“This is a special day and I understand there are more steps to this journey,” Las Vegas Lights FC owner Brett Lashbrook said. “This is our time and this is becoming a sports town. I can’t tell you how much this means as a taxpayer of Las Vegas.”
Lashbrook has been involved with U.S. soccer teams prior to his ownership of the Lights. He worked as chief operating officer of Orlando City FC, which went from being a USL (United Soccer League) team into an MLS expansion team.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman, seen sporting a Lights FC scarf during the council meeting, praised Lashbrook for the development and growth of the club and commitment made by the team to bringing the world’s most popular sport to Las Vegas.
“You have delivered on everything you said to use two years back,” Goodman said to Lashbrook. “Talk about being an ambassador to our community.”
Previous bids to bring Major League Soccer to Las Vegas failed to materialize in 2015 and in 2017. Lashbrook is more hopeful that investors will see the success of the Vegas Golden Knights and the potential growth of the surrounding areas of Cashman Field as a reason to invest in putting the MLS in Las Vegas.
“I think it’s a testament to our growth as a sports city,” Lashbrook said. “The fact that we’re putting out massive redevelopment that has been seeking it out for a decade I think is a real testament that we wanna get a deal done.”
Two investors, however, have been plotting to bring an MLS team into the Las Vegas Valley; The Review-Journal reported that Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley has emerged as a leader in this effort alongside Boston-based investment group Baupost Group, led by billionaire hedge fund manager Seth Klarman.
Per the negotiating agreement, any forthcoming development plan would involve the Lights ownership working with the city to make a bid with the MLS to be an expansion team.
Councilman Cedric Crear, whose Ward 5 houses Cashman Field, was enthusiastic about bringing a cultural piece of Las Vegas to the city.
“This is just a taste of what our city could be,” Crear said. “There is a great synergy when cities embrace soccer. It is gonna galvanize our city.”
Major League Soccer began in 1990 as a bid to host the 1990 World Cup in the United States. What has started out with only 10 teams has grown to 24, with 30 planned teams in the coming years.
All eyes now seem to be on the cost, particularly to the city’s taxpayers. The MLS turned down an offer of a $201 million soccer stadium in 2015.
“I hope it reaches full fruition, but I hope it doesn’t take a lot of taxpayers money,” Mayor Pro Tem Lois Tarkanian said. “The community already says they already spent a lot of money on the football [stadium]. But I wish you a lot of success. I’m very excited to see all of this.”