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Developers put early plans for UNLV stadium, retail district on display


Sam Morris

Gary Plumlee, right, and Ed Uehling look at conceptual renderings during a preview of a proposed on-campus, multi-use stadium for UNLV Tuesday, February 1, 2011.

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011 | 2:30 p.m.

Proposed UNLV Stadium

Invited guests look over conceptual renderings during a preview of a proposed on-campus, multi-use stadium for UNLV on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. Launch slideshow »

KSNV: Proposed stadium

KSNV coverage of proposed domed stadium for Las Vegas, Feb. 1, 2011.

Proposed UNLV stadium

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Proposed location

Developers laid out plans today for a 150-acre master-planned development near the UNLV campus that would include retail space and residential housing, with a 40,000-seat domed stadium as its centerpiece.

The plans by billionaire real estate businessman Ed Roski and Silverton Casino Lodge president Craig Cavileer would bring UNLV football games to campus, replacing Sam Boyd Stadium. It would also provide a new home for the UNLV basketball team and stave off efforts by other cities to move the National Finals Rodeo out of Las Vegas.

The stadium and retail district would be built on property adjacent to the Thomas & Mack Center used as a parking lot at Tropicana Avenue and Paradise Road. The Thomas & Mack would be remodeled, although the center would still be able to host athletic events if conflicts arose at the new venue.

Cavileer said the stadium would have 40,000 seats to accommodate UNLV football games, with seating of about 20,000 for UNLV basketball games and other events such as concerts, soccer, boxing and bullriding. It would have the option of seating as few as 7,500 people.

Plans call for 600,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. Developer Majestic Realty will look to enter into a yearlong memorandum of understanding with the university during a special Feb. 11 meeting with the Nevada System of Higher Education regents. That would give Majestic exclusive rights to partner with UNLV and allow negotiations to move forward.

Cavileer stressed that no timetable exists for the proposed project, which is still in early phases of planning.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk on Tuesday called the development "a game-changer for our university."

"We have very few opportunities, particularly during these very stressful fiscal times, to really make a difference in our campus community," he said. "When a campus has a more residential feel, when there's a buzzing, vibrant campus atmosphere ... we will enhance (students') success. We will be able to recruit them. We will be able to attract them. We will be able to graduate them in higher numbers."

Cavileer said he didn't know the cost of the proposed project, saying it's "far too early" for a price tag.

Majestic Realty plans to ask the Nevada Legislature to create a University Enterprise District, Cavileer said. The company would retain tax revenue generated within the district, which would provide a future income stream that would allow Majestic to secure early financing, he said.

No taxpayer money would be used from outside the district, Cavileer said. The naming rights alone could bring in tens of millions of dollars, based on similar projects around the country, alongside expected revenue from donations, rent, advertising, suite sales and parking.

He also stressed that plans on display Tuesday were conceptual in nature, and many details of the design -- led by Dan Meis, who worked on the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati -- are still unclear.

The proposed development includes about 3,000 units of university housing and new gateways to the UNLV campus: one near the intersection of Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road, the other on Tropicana Avenue.

"We see this as a re-imagining of the UNLV brand and what that stands for," Cavileer said. It would provide student housing -- less than 10 percent of the university's students live on campus -- and a centralized location for students to shop and dine.

"This would be the fabric of the campus," he said.

To accommodate the increase in traffic that would come to the area, Cavileer said final plans would account for at least 15,000 additional parking spaces.

Cavileer also plans to meet with Randall Walker, director of the Clark County Department of Aviation, to get assurances that the project would be compatible with McCarran International Airport. The flight path of McCarran’s north-south runways is over the UNLV campus and the Federal Aviation Administration may need to review plans before the county can approve new construction.

FAA clearance has been necessary before some Strip projects like the Stratosphere Tower and Fontainebleau could be built.

Also of concern would be airport traffic egress with the removal of Swenson Street if some of the preliminary plans are developed. But Cavileer said his team “has about 23 different alternatives” that could be considered if Swenson access is removed.

Cavileer, a member of the UNLV foundation, said planning commenced in 2010 when athletic director Jim Livengood and football coach Bobby Hauck took their jobs at the university. Smatresk, who became UNLV's president in August 2009, said the school saw Majestic's plans as "an incredible opportunity" to bring the football team to campus and improve the overall student experience.

Questions were raised Tuesday about a professional basketball or hockey team coming to Las Vegas. Although Cavileer said the stadium would primarily serve UNLV, it would be ready to handle an NBA or NHL franchise as well, he said.

Roski, who ranked 524th on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires in 2008 and has a track record for building arenas and investing in sports businesses, has been trying to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles and bring a National Football League team back to L.A.

His company partnered to build Los Angeles’ Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers National Basketball Association teams and the Los Angeles Kings National Hockey League team. Roski is part owner of the Kings and Lakers.

Roski owns the Silverton in Las Vegas. Cavileer is the casino’s president.

Sun reporter Rick Velotta contributed to this report.

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  1. "Thomas & Mack Center would be remodeled into a commercial and retail center next to the stadium."

    Into what?

  2. Build it... Build it NOW!!!

    This would change UNLV from just an average commuter school into one of the best Universities on the West Coast!!!

  3. Hey Rick Velotta,

    What do the red lines on the "proposed area's location" image mean?

  4. Couldn't the rendering be in the school colors or is this project destined to be the "Cheeto Bowl"?

  5. the red lines are where the existing streets are/would be if ther arena is built. That way you can get a better idea of where it would sit.

  6. Private money putting their money where their mouth and dreams are. The way it should be.

    Will be a nice addition to UNLV and hopefully the guys putting up the big bucks can also get a decent return on their money.

    If this is built, we have no need for another arena in Las Vegas.

  7. DonMega,

    The red lines do not represent where roads are now; if they represent where roads would go, then it would have a road running through the district they want to build at Swenson and Trop. I don't think the red represents roads.

  8. look's like Noah's Ark

  9. Not much information. Now it is 150 acres? How much public money will this involve, including the upgrade to streets in the area? Still no answers to the question.

    How do you rebel fans feel about seat licenses? This is where this is headed.

    I guess the details will come out when the negotiaitons are over.

    I agree with the comment above that people don't want to send their kids to UNLV. I doubt this will change anything.

  10. What was the designer smoking? It's ugly!

  11. where are the students supposed to park? Where will the parking be for this facility?

  12. "Majestic Realty plans to ask the Nevada Legislature to create a University Enterprise District, Cavileer said. The company would retain tax revenue generated within the district, which would provide a future income stream that would allow Majestic to secure early financing, he said."

    In other words the public will pay for it through taxes. All revenues public and private will flow to the company under this scenario. No. No No.

  13. Rebel_Fan:

    The tax district is a revenue stream used to guarantee the financing.

    This doesn't sound like a bridge loan or a temporary but a permanent arrangement to secure lower cost financings with a secure revenue stream. Probably the only way to get financing for this type of project in Vegas these days.

    Essentially they are privatizing tax dollars to subsidize their project. Taxes belong to the public to support public programs. Further, it puts a private developer at a disadvantage. If a special tax district wants to impose additional taxes, other than those everyone else pays, that is different.

  14. @iamdjrebel

    My beloved University of Phoenix? I have never mentioned the name of that institution.

    As for your love of the project great. Pay for it with your money and not the public's.

  15. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is exactly that.

    People should be wary. Too many of these public-private parterships have turned into major fiascos here and elsewhere in terms of dollars and litigation.

  16. Yes, Build it. It is a win-win scenario for everyone!

  17. One thing thats missing from this project is the already being built Mendenhall Center... They wouldn't tear down a brand new basketball training facility would they? Also, what would become of the Cox Pavilion? Would the Lady Rebels/volleyball/any other sport that uses that facility be relocated? So many questions, so few answers. But I'm still all for it!

  18. So the public has put up 41 acres and a special tax district. What is the developer bringing to the table other than conceptual plans?

    Show me the money boys.

  19. Clifton,

    Earlier today there was a map attached to this story that is not here now (not the one that is part of the slide show) that had the cox pavillion and the mendenhall center buildings visible. The Lady Rebs would be fine.

    We could finally have a home Rebel B-Ball game at the same time as NFR in early December. Kruger and the boys will love that.

  20. @DTJ--41 acres was the estimate for the stadium that was being kicked around the other day.

    Today it is 150 acres and an urban village.

    I agree with your assessment about this deal. The tax district is only the first part. There is the leasing of university property to the developers. I wonder what sort of deal that will involve. There is also talk of donations in the article. Are we turning the keys over to the university to this developer?

    It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. If this deal happens it will be far more complex than described today. I can't see how they can do this without major road improvements in and around the university. I wonder who will pay for those?

  21. Thanks William. Surprisingly enough, Lady Rebs games are a lot of fun! Sure they don't win a lot of games, but anything you say, whether it be to the referees, players, coaches, or whomever will be heard in the Cox. Its fantastic.

    Anyone know how this will compare to the Carrier Dome?

  22. One last point--the proposal that was put forward is the whole deal. That is as big as it gets. Now follow the money.

    As this moves forward watch for the paring down of the project. These estimates for housing and retail space require money to build and cash flow to maintain. It remains to be seen what parts will ultimately be built (the developer uses the term years before anything gets built).

    The centerpiece of this whole deal is the stadium. Is this where the money is? Will this project yield a stadium and nothing else. Be prepared for big league prices at this place.

    Keep in mind that the developers are in it for the money. The most profitable parts of the deal will go forward, the lesser parts later if at all.

    These guys are in it for the money and if they are not, then we should really be worried.

  23. "Therefore, if you never set foot in it, it won't cost you a dime."

    This is only true if all the activity is new and no money is just being shuffled from one business outside the district to another inside the district.

    If a tax that is paid within the district would have been paid outside the district, then the state, county, etc lose. Those monies are either forgone or will have to be made up by another source. Whether the proceeds from the deal will be sufficient to cover these costs remains to be seen.

  24. When you take the UNLV flag off the product, it doesn't look much different than anything else we have seen heretofore --arena, special tax district and the like. This is just another plan to build an arena and everything else is just smoke and mirrors.
    These arenas don't work without public subsidies (see Oscar)

  25. @bgh:

    Let's say they build a coffeeshop on the parking lot. Each morning I stop for coffee at that shop, I am adding business to the area.

    However, if I currently stop at 7-Eleven on Paradise for coffee in the morning and switch to the coffeeshop built on the parking lot, 7-Eleven loses the business and the public the tax revenue.

    It is still one cup of coffee. The trick is to make it two cups of coffee at both the new location and 7-Eleven.

  26. I see the interest in the stadium and arena (there are a couple other competing proposals kicking around town right now).

    What I don't see is other than the arena, what interest to these developers have in building and operating student housing, movies theaters, and bookshops on behalf of UNLV?

    The euphoria of all of this will wear off and the hard bargaining will begin. Other than the cost of the stadium ($500 million), we have seen nothing but some glossy images and some developer mumbo jumbo. With sufficient subsidies the stadium can work economically for the developer, but we have not seen how it will work for UNLV or the taxpayers.

    There is no price tag on the project that was unveiled but we have been assured that only tax revenues from the special district will be used. There is no way in the absence of a cost estimate for the project that this statement can be defended. It is bs. The reality is that no one knows what the project will look like.

  27. There is the consideration of the guy who gets the job at the stadium. It is important that the new job doesn't result in someone losing their job. Suppose the clerk at 7-Eleven loses his/her job as a result of buying coffee at the parking lot?

    City Center is an example of this effect. There are new jobs there, but some people believe that the net effect has been small. Most of the business has been taken from other properties.

    I have serious doubts about the what will be built in the end--remember the only way the developer could make this thing fly polically, was to make some vague reference to the tax revenues and come in with a big plan that appealled to a number of constituencies. Anything less would have been in big trouble politically. These guys are competing with the other proposed arenas to get something done.

  28. When you look at this project as it was presented, there was something for everyone:

    student/faculty housing
    Stores, shops, retail

    All for free (or with only a tax enterprise zone (no estimate of value) and no other public monies); the leasing of some property; and no estimate for the cost of the project.

    The amount of money available drives what the project will be. The developers are happy to develop so long as they make their money--fair and reasonable.

    Let's suppose there is only enough funding to do three out of four of the items; how about two of four; how about one of four. Which one or ones do you choose?

    This is probably what is next for everyone--hard choices. The developers have their priorities, but what are UNLV's priorities in this? UNLV might get more if it gives more on the lease arrangements or the state helps with the roads. No one has ponied up anything except UNLV. No different than going to the car dealer.