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July 6, 2015

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Anger taints regents’ vote on proposed UNLV stadium

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Justin M. Bowen

Craig Cavileer, president of the Silverton hotel-casino, presents a plan to the Board of Regents on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, on the proposed UNLV stadium.

UNLV Stadium/Board of Regents

UNLV president Neal Smatresk presents his case to the Board of Regents Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, in favor of the proposed UNLV stadium. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

This is a conceptual rendering of a proposed on-campus, multi-use stadium for UNLV shown Tuesday, February 1, 2011.

Scrum!

Two university regents and a lawyer for a rival developer locked arms Friday and tried to stop a fast-moving proposal by two prominent real estate developers to build an arena on the UNLV campus.

The opponents failed. For now.

In the end, the developers — Ed Roski and Craig Cavileer — got a green light on the project, but not without a public jostling and a taste of things to come.

The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents voted 11-1, with one abstention, to negotiate with the developers long enough to seek another green light from the state Legislature.

Carson City holds the purse strings of higher education. The session ends in June and if the developers’ proposal, which involves a tax district, isn’t reviewed in time, they might have to wait for a special session or another two years when lawmakers enter their next session.

The key issue was exclusivity — UNLV talking only to Roski and Cavileer — and hot words were exchanged among regents before they voted to grant it.

“The vote was critical,” Cavileer said after the meeting. “To go into this with the time, energy and money” requires exclusivity.

“We just want to get through this legislative session and be taken seriously. How could we go up to Carson City and not have the confidence of this university?” Exclusivity “gives the Legislature the confidence that we’re the real deal.”

On paper, the developers would seem to be shoo-ins. Roski is part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, and his Majestic Realty helped build Staples Center. Cavileer is president of the Silverton, which Roski owns.

But Friday was more like a skirmish.

The lawyer for the rival developer, Christopher Milam’s International Development Management, which wants to build an arena for UNLV sports teams in downtown Las Vegas, raised the possibility of suing the regents.

Pat Lundvall said the regents were “auditioning” Roski and Cavileer and locking out other developers, such as her client.

Milam couldn’t go ahead with his plan if Roski and Cavileer build their sports complex near the Thomas & Mack Center.

Later, Lundvall said, “I don’t know necessarily that my client is screwed, but what I do know is that the university may face a legal challenge.

“What we’re trying to impress upon the regents from a pure common-sense standpoint is that it makes sense to look at other people and that they’re legally required to do that.”

Bart Patterson, vice chancellor of administrative and legal affairs, advised the regents that they could vote for exclusivity without looking at bids from rival developers.

During the debate, Regent Cedric Crear accused the developers of “bad taste” and “a public spectacle” by holding a news conference a week before their presentation before the board.

He asked pointed questions about cost, and Cavileer responded, as he has before, there was no price tag because a preliminary design hadn’t been fleshed out.

Crear pressed, “I know you guys have a number in your head.” Later, he wondered about UNLV and the public’s risk. “How do we not get stuck with the bill?”

Click to enlarge photo

Craig Cavileer, president of the Silverton hotel-casino, presents a plan to the Board of Regents on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, regarding a proposed UNLV stadium.

At this point, the regents’ chairman, James Dean Leavitt, who favors Roski and Cavileer, asked to wind up his questioning because regents needed to catch planes. Crear accused Leavitt of cutting him off. Tempers flared.

Regent Mark Alden, another skeptic, suddenly stood up and bellowed, “Let him ask questions!”

More hot words, then the vote. Alden voted against, saying exclusivity was unnecessary and that he wanted to head off the possibility of litigation by unhappy rival developers.

Crear abstained. He is a longtime public backer of the Las Vegas Arena Foundation, a nonprofit group that has proposed a 20,000-seat arena near the Strip.

The project is backed by Caesars Entertainment Corp., which would provide land for the arena, but opposed by gaming competitor MGM Resorts International because it involves public financing.

Marybel Batjer, Caesars Entertainment vice president of public policy and communications, is also an official with the foundation. Asked about suing the regents over their vote, she replied, “I don’t think we would ever enter into that kind of action.”

Asked about possible litigation, Cavileer replied, “Everybody is going to follow their own path, and we’ll see how it goes.”

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