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July 2, 2015

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

UNLV football rooting for ultimate Hail Mary with on-campus stadium proposal

Image

Sam Morris

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

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 »

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 »

Proposed project location

Bobby Hauck wishes he was walking through a construction site at UNLV, wearing a hard hat and clutching blueprints that he struggles to decipher.

He’s more than ready to rearrange his hectic schedule to grab a shovel for a ground-breaking ceremony. He’s been thinking about it constantly since the winter, when an on-campus stadium for his football program was proposed.

More than just a football stadium, the project would span 150 acres and include 600,000 square feet of retail shopping, restaurants and student residences. The centerpiece would be the 40,000-seat domed stadium for football, which could be transformed to seat about 20,000 for UNLV basketball games and other events such as concerts, soccer, boxing and bullriding.

This would be a dream come true, the game-changer that would make UNLV football relevant, instantly taking the program from one of the worst in the nation to potentially a perennial top-25 team . Yes, I wrote it, a perennial top-25 team.

Playing eight miles east of campus at Sam Boyd Stadium has long been one of the major pitfalls in growing the program into a winner, with everything from the dirt parking lot to out-dated locker rooms used as excuses for the team’s shortcomings.

This would have changed everything. But ...

Some six months after the proposal was the talk of the town, the dim reality is setting in: It is a long-shot — let’s say 100-1 odds — worse odds, even, than the chances of the Rebels this fall winning the Mountain West Conference.

“It is something that a lot of us, me included, can get passionate about and fired up about,” Hauck said Tuesday during the league’s media day at Red Rock Resort. “I certainly hope for the betterment of UNLV itself we can move forward with that at some point.”

Finding creative ways to finance the multibillion-dollar project — the stadium alone is estimated at $600 million — is easier said than done amid the massive recession Las Vegas residents are painfully enduring. The economy is as bad as it’s been in 70 years, and it’s important to remember the project isn’t just about building a place for the football team to play.

It brings more housing and retail shops to a city that doesn’t need it — housing prices continue to drop and several retail stores have gone belly-up. It makes no sense to add more, even if the artist renderings look too good to be true.

The project took another blow in June when the Nevada Legislature didn’t approve a special taxing district that would have helped in being creative with the financing. This made it more difficult to find financing for the idea, which was proposed by Ed Roski, chairman and CEO of Majestic Realty and owner of the Silverton, and Silverton president Craig Cavileer.

If it were years ago, when the economy was booming, it would be a different story and UNLV would be playing games on campus.

Instead, a typical college football Saturday in Las Vegas is spent at a sports book rooting for your parlay to come in. The new stadium concept, funding aside, would have given the area a true feeling of college football.

Imagine how a game day would look and feel: the football players walking past a playing band and tailgating families into the stadium, a true home field advantage with more than 20 students in the crowd and plenty of good times after the game at the nearby restaurants.

“It is one of those things where having an on-campus venue, in terms of the collegiate experience and the atmosphere on campus, is a big deal,” Hauck said. “Football Saturdays are fun on campus. That is not to say we can’t have fun in our current venue. But to have a football Saturday on campus is really a cool part of the college experience. It would be a good deal for UNLV.”

Hauck, unlike former coach Mike Sanford, refuses to use Sam Boyd’s perceived weaknesses as an excuse. “Sam Boyd is a fun place to watch a game. There are good seats,” he said.

And that’s not Hauck toeing the company line. He is sincere. But he is also sincere about the benefits of a new stadium.

It’s something everyone would love to see, but don’t expect Hauck to learn how to read blueprints any time soon.

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