Sunday, July 15, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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There are four proposals in the works for major sports venues in the Las Vegas Valley, and for long-time residents, this may induce a sense of deja vu — or a visceral reaction.
Las Vegans have been down this road once or twice or ... who knows how many times.
You might remember the plans for a spring training facility or the big-league baseball parks. Yes, that’s been mentioned a few times. Maybe you’ll recall the planned basketball arena. Which one? Good question. We lost count some years ago at the various proposals for downtown, the Strip and elsewhere.
There have been so many of these plans, and despite the number of them, there hasn’t been one brought to completion. That’s partly because most of them have been wrapped around luring a major-league sports team here, whether baseball, basketball or hockey. None have come, although they have used Las Vegas to leverage better deals elsewhere.
Now, there are more proposals on the drawing boards, which the Sun examines today. Their fate will be decided in the months to come when they meet the reality of financing, the killer of many a stadium proposal. It isn’t easy to get the numbers to work out, particularly when it comes to finding public financing, which is now a prerequisite for stadiums.
Of the current proposals, there is one that stands out: the stadium at UNLV. That’s not to say that the others aren’t worthy of consideration. The plans will compete on their own merits, and it’s possible that the stadium could be built as well as one of the three arenas.
But the UNLV proposal is worth supporting now — it has the ability to be a great benefit to the university, the community and the region.
Under the plan, the university would build a 55,000-seat domed stadium near the Thomas & Mack Center. That’s good for the university in several ways. UNLV’s football team would finally move to campus, which would boost recruiting and attendance. The Rebels’ home, Sam Boyd Stadium, is on the edge of town, a healthy ride from UNLV. That hasn’t helped the program.
As well, the new stadium would raise the university’s profile. It would give UNLV the potential to gain entry into a major college conference, and that would bring another set of benefits.
The stadium is part of the UNLV Now plan, which also calls for an entertainment district with shops and restaurants and student and faculty housing.
That would be a great boost for the campus, and it could also provide a great economic benefit for the community. Although the Las Vegas Valley has five operating sports venues, it doesn’t have a facility for “mega events,” such as concerts and athletic contests that attract more than 20,000 people. With UNLV’s proximity to the Strip, the stadium would be in the right place, and it could increase tourism by opening the door to new events Las Vegas currently can’t handle.
One of the interesting things about the UNLV proposal is that it isn’t dependent on luring a major-league sporting team here. In fact, some project supporters have said that the lack of a major-league team could be a benefit. Las Vegas could become a spectacularly fun and neutral place to host college and professional games, including conference championships, bowls and all-star games, bringing yet more tourism and attention to the region.
There is still work to be done on this proposal, and UNLV officials are expected to bring a final plan to the university regents late this year.
Although the final details are still being worked out, this is encouraging. The community should support this as it moves forward. The stadium would elevate the sports program, distinguish the campus and boost the Southern Nevada economy. What’s not to like?
The bottom line: It simply makes sense.