Developer Chris Milam is rejecting claims he might be defrauding public officials in his pursuit of federal land for a massive sports arena complex in Henderson. As it stands, the project cannot be built or financed — unless his development agreement is revised, he says.
The CEO of International Development Management told Henderson city officials in a letter dated Nov. 30 that his Las Vegas National Sports Complex, “as presently contemplated,” is “not viable” and cannot get the needed funding. However, he wrote, “this can be resolved with a revised plan and new agreement.”
Milam did not offer any possible revisions but said he and his group wanted to meet with city staff on Monday morning “to begin work.”
No meeting was held on Monday and none are scheduled, city government spokesman Bud Cranor said.
Milam wrote that he has spent millions of dollars on architects, engineers, consultants and land fees to make the project a reality. Additionally, he said he has spent the bulk of the past four years on the project and opened a “continuous” dialogue with pro sports leagues, team owners and collegiate athletic officials.
Milam also wrote that he has staked his “professional reputation” on completing the project and that he’s “taken a great deal of punishment for attempting to do what many said could not be done.”
“And the claim is that I did all of this as a ruse to be nominated to buy a piece of land?” he wrote. “It would be an understatement to say that was not the case.”
Cranor said city officials will likely meet with Milam's group in the coming weeks. He said people need to continue working together "to determine ultimately what's going to happen."
Asked how city officials reacted to Milam's letter, he said they want to ensure the development agreement is "accurately interpreted and followed," and they will work to make sure "everybody's on the same page."
Milam’s letter comes after Henderson City Attorney Josh Reid, in a letter dated Nov. 29, asked U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials to quash the agency’s sale of about 480 acres near M Resort to Milam’s Silver State Land LLC, citing fraud concerns.
According to Reid, Milam deposited the balance of the purchase price into escrow Wednesday. Yet City Hall received a letter that same day — marked “hand delivered” and signed by Milam — that said Milam’s development group now believed the stadium project was not viable, and as a result, the group was terminating the master project agreement.
Milam also said in Wednesday’s letter his group was “fully committed” to developing the arena complex and would “continue to spend significant time and resources to achieve this goal.”
City officials now believe the land sale, which Milam won the rights to with a $10.56 million bid, “may not be valid and appears to be tainted by fraudulent representations” to the city and BLM by Milam, his agents and his business entities, Reid wrote. Milam and his group have been “actively promoting” the land for prospective residential development, “in direct contravention” of the BLM deal, Reid wrote.
Milam has allegedly said in marketing materials that even if sports facilities weren’t built, mixed-use and residential projects still could be developed.
In his letter Friday to City Hall, Milam said he and the city both had the right to terminate the development agreement. The fact that his group killed the deal “is somehow now an issue. That should not be the case.”
He also said there was “no support” for Reid’s accusation of fraud, saying it’s “not uncommon to see this word in an attempt to unwind a contract.”
Milam’s stadium plans have been viewed skeptically, partly because he has proposed other Las Vegas Valley sports deals that flopped. Also, no teams have said they would move to his Henderson project site.
Building a speculative U.S. sports arena or stadium — let alone a cluster of them, as Milam envisioned — is practically unheard of, given their huge price tags. Pro teams in general are also wary of moving to the casino and sports-betting capital of America.
Milam’s companies announced in February that Shenzhen, China-based China Security & Surveillance Technology had tentatively agreed to finance a $650 million, 17,500-seat indoor arena suitable for a basketball team. Once the arena was completed, Milam planned to build three other stadiums that could for soccer, baseball and football contests.
Their combined price was expected to be well north of $1 billion.
He told the Henderson City Council in April the China Security financing was “fully approved,” and construction of the indoor arena could begin as early as October.