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August 5, 2015

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Six questions:

UNLV campus arena gets thumbs-up from Vegas scion

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Thomas A. Thomas

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 »

Thomas A. Thomas, a member of one of the valley’s founding families, was present at the creation of modern Las Vegas.

So his endorsement of a proposal to build a sports arena at UNLV carried special weight.

His father, E. Parry Thomas, who will be 90 in June, helped finance the casino industry and was an adviser to Howard Hughes and Steve Wynn.

The elder Thomas’ banking acumen and the real estate savvy of his business partner, Jerry Mack, helped create what is now UNLV. Parry and Jerry are the names behind Thomas & Mack Center.

The younger Thomas, 53, spoke recently for the plan by Ed Roski and Craig Cavileer to build a 40,000-seat sports center on campus. The center would host the Rebels and possibly an NBA team. The developers would also renovate the Thomas & Mack, which seats 18,000 but is nearly 30 years old. There would also be an extensive retail component and student housing.

Thomas is the managing partner of the family firm, Thomas & Mack Co.

Where does your enthusiasm for education come from?

My dad was raised in a Mormon community in Utah, and Jerry Mack was raised in a Jewish community in Los Angeles. Embedded in Mormon culture and Jewish culture is an almost singular focus on education.

What’s wrong with the Thomas & Mack Center?

Go to the Thomas & Mack and Staples Center in Los Angeles. They’re similar in size. Thomas & Mack is sized for NBA numbers, but it is not designed for NBA patrons. It does not have all of the luxury boxes. It does not have a wonderful restaurant that looks out over the game. It does not have standing-room areas where people can be in a restaurant or bar, then watch part of the game and then go back and socialize.

Why do you think the Roski-Cavileer plan is better than the off-campus plans for arenas?

Wouldn’t it be ideal to have a stadium that brings football onto campus, as well as the NBA and the Rebels? And for millions of people coming through McCarran (International) Airport and hitting Tropicana (Avenue), the first thing they would see is UNLV with one of the finest state-of-the-art stadiums, and a mystique that any campus in America would die for.

Why is UNLV as a residential campus important?

Las Vegas has 2 million people. We have just one university, UNLV. Our focal point has to be in making UNLV the very finest on-campus experience that we possibly can.

Can hurdles, like building near McCarran, be overcome?

From a development standpoint, due diligence is starting with a piece of dirt and analyzing everything, from the underground utilities to the height restrictions of the FAA.

What about the next 50 years?

If you’re going to build a stadium and student housing and other amenities, you also have to tie that into the vision of graduate programs. Will UNLV have a medical school, for example? All those things have to be taken into consideration because this is a landlocked campus.

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