Monday, Jan. 31, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Proposed UNLV stadium
- Should the proposed arena be built near the UNLV campus?
- Yes — 90.0%
- No — 10.0%
This poll is closed, see Full Results »
Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
- Mayor: UNLV domed stadium wouldn’t conflict with a downtown Las Vegas arena (1-27-2011)
- Report: UNLV domed stadium plans will be unveiled Tuesday (1-27-2011)
- Goodman: Arena project a key issue for next Las Vegas mayor (1-20-2011)
- UNLV acknowledges effort to bring stadium, football to campus (1-19-2011)
- Mayor: Sports arena ballot petition 'irrelevant' to city arena efforts (11-18-2010)
- Symphony Park targeted for sports arena (11-12-2010)
- Mayor: American League team says no to Las Vegas (8-26-2010)
- Mayor: Without public funding for arena, Las Vegas won't get NBA team (7-22-2010)
- Strip sports arena has very little support (6-10-2010)
- MGM Mirage opposes arena options seeking public financing (5-18-2010)
- County wants arena details, says public money unlikely (4-6-2010)
- Cowboys Stadium poses Texas-sized threat to Vegas (3-21-2010)
The surprise proposal to build a sports arena to replace the Thomas & Mack Center would burnish UNLV’s image, galvanize the sports programs and, at a time of state austerity, provide the campus with a source of nontaxpayer dollars, officials say.
But winning approval to build it won’t be a slam-dunk for the university or the developers who pitched the idea.
The devil, Regent Mark Alden says, is in the details.
Alden is one of 13 Nevada System of Higher Education regents who will review more details at a special meeting Feb. 11 and decide whether to approve further negotiations.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak cautions that “this has come to the top very quickly” and months of negotiation and hard thinking lie ahead.
Both Alden and Sisolak say they are excited about the idea.
The developers — Edward P. Roski Jr. and Craig Cavileer — have scheduled a news conference Tuesday to unveil specifics of their proposal before presenting it to regents.
Roski, who helped develop the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and Cavileer declined to comment for this article.
This much is known, according to people briefed on the project and familiar with similar projects:
• The arena would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take at least three years to build. The project could employ 2,000 or more workers in Las Vegas’ depressed construction industry.
• UNLV’s contribution to the public-private partnership will primarily be land — 40 acres or more in what is mostly parking lot at the southwest corner of the campus — and will require little or no taxpayer dollars.
• The tentative design involves 42,000 seats for football games and a structure that would shrink seating to 22,000 or more seats for basketball games, according to regents’ Chairman James Dean Leavitt. It won’t be large enough for the 60,000-plus seats needed to support a professional football team — if ever the NFL were to drop its opposition to a Las Vegas team. (The Thomas & Mack Center seats 18,000.)
• The Thomas & Mack, which is more than a quarter-century old, would be renovated at a cost of at least $10 million and converted to a nonsports venue of shops and other commercial enterprises. A bridge might connect the new and old arenas.
• The Roski-Cavileer project might help retain such lucrative sellout events as the National Finals Rodeo, which is being wooed by Dallas’ Cowboys Stadium.
But before all this can happen, there are hurdles, any of which could trip up the Roski-Cavileer project:
• Consideration by the Clark County Commission because the county owns some of the land at the site.
• Review by the Federal Aviation Administration on whether the new arena, because it is adjacent to McCarran International Airport, would pose a flight hazard to aircraft. But, according to Leavitt, the arena could be built 20 feet or so into the ground to ease such concerns. (In fact, excavations in Las Vegas are extremely expensive because of caliche, a very hard rock.)
• Review or action by the state Legislature because the project may require special tax treatment or the sale of public bonds. Like for all of higher education, the Legislature holds the purse strings for UNLV. The legislative session ends in June.
• Rivalry from two other arena projects, closer to the Strip, that are months or years along.
The project has excited UNLV officials because of the reputation — and money — of the developers.
Roski is part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and his company, Majestic Realty, helped develop the Staples Center. He also owns the Silverton in Las Vegas. Craig Cavileer is the casino’s president.
Presumably they would want an exclusive arrangement with UNLV to shut out rival developers.
For the moment, UNLV President Neal Smatresk is saying little.
He noted that “no specific path has been determined” after the regents meeting.
The land in question, mostly a parking lot, is shaped like a lamb chop a few thousand feet away from McCarran and adjacent to the Thomas & Mack.
The site is bounded on the west by Paradise Road and on the south by Tropicana Avenue.
The site is majority-owned by UNLV, but not developed as part of the campus. The rest is largely owned by the county.
Sisolak said he has talked with representatives of Roski and Cavileer, UNLV officials and regents, and has an overview of the project but no detailed design specifications.
“The jobs are a huge motivating factor for me,” Sisolak said.
“Construction costs are really, really low right now, compared to what they were three years ago or five years ago,” he said. Combined with the cost of renovating the Thomas & Mack, the Roski-Cavileer project could exceed $500 million, he said.
Financing the project is key, Sisolak said. The talk so far has centered on what is known as a “university improvement district,” and which would need to be reviewed by the Legislature.
Although almost all the negotiations would be handled at the UNLV and county levels, he said, the Legislature would need to act by its closing, or hold a special session or wait another two years.
Bill Arent, Las Vegas’ director of business development, said he knew nothing about the Roski-Cavileer project, which is outside the city, but such improvement districts were common funding mechanisms.
Property owners agree to tax themselves, then use the money as assets to back bonds sold to the public, Arent said. Typically, $1 could be used to raise $10 or more from the public, an attractive idea at a time of historically low interest rates.
“The first project that’s viable from a business plan perspective and funding perspective and goes forward would likely capture this market,” Arent said.
Also up in the air is the fate of Sam Boyd Stadium, the 36,000-seat football field which is used by UNLV but is several miles from campus. “One thing at a time,” Leavitt said when asked about the stadium’s future.
“We know the value of a stadium to donors, we know the value it will have to the sports programs, we know the value it will have to the university community,” Leavitt said.
“We’re going to turn this into much more of a campus-feeling school rather than a commuter school,” he added. “I can go on and on about the upside to it, and I see absolutely no downside to it.”
Sisolak agreed. “At some point the state is trying to wean universities off all state support for athletics,” he said. “With the state cuts that we’re facing, this is an opportunity to ultimately bring in more money for the classroom.”