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May 29, 2015

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Regents approve on-campus stadium proposal for UNLV

Image

Courtesy UNLV Now

Renderings of a proposed stadium on the UNLV campus.

Silverton President Craig Cavileer

Silverton President Craig Cavileer

UNLV President Neal Smatresk

UNLV President Neal Smatresk

Nevada’s higher education leaders unanimously approved an exclusive partnership agreement Friday between UNLV and developers of a “transformational” mega-events center on the northwest corner of the Maryland Parkway campus.

The approval caps 15 months of preliminary planning and paves the way for university officials and developer Majestic Realty Co. to begin finalizing plans for “UNLV Now,” an on-campus, mixed-used development anchored by a 60,000-seat indoor stadium.

“Today marks an important milestone for UNLV Now,” said Craig Cavileer, Majestic’s project representative and Silverton resort president. “We’ve got a great team to make this thing happen.”

Despite more than a year of preliminary planning, key details about the project — including its final cost — are still being worked out. Last year, the Sun reported the project’s estimated cost at $2 billion, but university officials and developers were reluctant to cite a figure Friday.

The stadium portion of the project is expected to cost $450 million to $500 million, including costs associated with moving displaced facilities from the construction site and practice fields on Harmon Avenue. The 150-acre project also would require the purchase of some Clark County-owned land west of Swenson Street.

In March, UNLV President Neal Smatresk told regents the developers would need to raise $35 million per year for the next 20 years to fund the stadium construction. On Friday, Smatresk told regents that developers might have a “preliminary final cost” for regents’ review as early as December.

Developers are now moving forward on designs, traffic and land-use studies and plans for student housing, retail, dining and entertainment venues. Officials still are contemplating possible upgrades to the Thomas & Mack Center in conjunction with the project.

Cost estimates will be determined by developers for each stage of construction as designs are completed, officials said. University officials and an outside consultant will oversee the project and cost analysis, Smatresk said.

Whatever the final cost may be, UNLV officials and developers say no tuition dollars will be used to finance the project. Instead, they again will lobby the Legislature to approve a tax-increment finance district for the project early in the 2013 session. A similar attempt to allow tax dollars to be used to fund the stadium’s construction failed late in the 2011 session.

“Projects of this magnitude will have several setbacks until they succeed,” Regent James Dean Leavitt said. “It’s our hope to overcome the setback of the last legislative session.”

If the tax district is approved, construction on the project could begin as early as 2013, with the final project completed in 2015, officials said.

Under the agreement, if UNLV decides to terminate the project or move forward with another developer, it could be responsible for $650,000 in costs accrued by Majestic so far in the project’s preliminary development. That cost could be passed off to another developer, however. This provision would expire in September 2015.

If it’s built, UNLV Now will be a “game-changer” for Las Vegas, said Irwin Molasky, a longtime local developer who helped build the Las Vegas Convention Center. Molasky now serves as a member of the project’s advisory board.

Las Vegas lost out on major events in the past because it lacked a mega-events center, Molasky said. With a new stadium, UNLV might be able to attract the NCAA’s Final Four or an NFL exhibition game, he said.

“Right now, we’re dreaming big dreams,” Molasky said. “We hope everyone sees the great promise of this amazing project for UNLV and our region.”

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