LAS VEGAS-Real Estate Interests Group has been selected as the preferred developer of a major league sports arena in Las Vegas proper. The Bloomfield Hills, MI-based developer plans to incorporate the sports facility into an $8.5-billion, 85-acre mixed-use development on the West side of Main Street. The city council approved the overall development plan last month but had not decided which of six applicants would win approval to develop the arena. REI president John Weaver had said previously that without the arena his overall project would fall apart.

“We believe our site location, the size and scope of the arena itself, as well the fact that the arena is only one component our overall mixed-use development, were all determining factors in why we were selected,” Weaver says. “This combined with our ability to refine our financial structure to meet the criteria set forth by the professional leagues as we prepare to negotiate a lease will make Las Vegas an overwhelmingly attractive site for a major league tenant.”

REI has the property under contract to close in the third quarter of this year. Weaver told last month that he has secured senior debt financing and expects to start moving dirt next year for the first phase of the massive project. The cost of the land has not been released. The estimated construction budget is $8.5 billion. The project’s total value upon completion is estimated at $9.5 billion. “We plan on breaking ground in the third quarter of 2008 upon receipt of all necessary permits and design approvals,” he said.

The bulk of the development site is bounded on the north by East Charleston Boulevard, on the south by W. Wyoming Street, on the east by Main Street and on the west by the Union Pacific railroad tracks. The development area also includes a triangle of land west of the railroad tracks at the north end of the site and a triangle of land east of Main Street at the south end of the site that extends to Las Vegas Boulevard opposite the Stratosphere hotel-casino.

The extra chunk of land at the north end would be used in part to extend Grand Central Parkway across Charleston Boulevard, under the railroad tracks and into the development. The extra chunk at the south end would give the development a presence at the very north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

The first phase of development, slated for the north end of the site, would include the arena, 50,000 sf of retail, 100 condominiums and 3.5 million sf of permanent exhibition and office space for sporting goods manufacturers that would wrap around the arena. Weaver describes the exhibition space as similar to what the World Market Center here is to furniture designers and manufacturers and what the planned World Jewelry Center will be to that industry.

Arena construction is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2010, in time for the 2010-2011 fall sports season. The remaining phases would include 300,000 sf of casino floor space; 950,000 sf of casino-related retail, back-of-the-house and conference room space; 500,000 sf of commercial/retail space; 6,000 hotel rooms; 1,600 condo-hotel and timeshare rooms; and 1,500 straight condominium units.

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