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May 4, 2015

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Project leader still bullish on UNLV Now stadium


Majestic Realty Co.

A rendering of the proposed UNLV Now mega-events center shows how the stadium would look during a Rebels football game.

UNLV Now Stadium

A model of the UNLV Now stadium project is shown here at the Nevada System of Higher Education's Board of Regents meeting on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. UNLV and its private developer partners updated regents on the project, which now features a 100-yard-long video screen and six VIP suites seating 300 people. Launch slideshow »

UNLV Now Stadium Renderings

UNLV Now mega events center rendering. Launch slideshow »
Donald Snyder

Donald Snyder

Don Snyder is putting his head down and moving forward despite news this week that could cripple the UNLV Now stadium project he is trying to shepherd into reality.

MGM Resorts International, the first hotel-casino backer of UNLV Now, said it "cannot support the current UNLV Now concept," arguing its price tag of $800 million to $900 million was too prohibitive. The statement raised doubts about MGM's $20 million pledge for the "mega-events center."

In addition, the Nevada Resort Association and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority tempered their endorsement of the 60,000-seat stadium. The LVCVA, from which stadium officials are planning to seek $125 million, said its first priority would be refurbishing the Las Vegas Convention Center, not funding the stadium.

"This certainly slows us down and sets us back," said Snyder, UNLV Now's project leader. "But it's not unusual in a project of this magnitude and complexity. It's a natural and important part of the process."

The public statements opposing the stadium caused UNLV Now officials to hastily cancel their scheduled meeting next week to discuss the project's final cost and funding plans with Nevada's higher education leaders. That Feb. 22 meeting — now postponed indefinitely — would have paved the way for a legislative debate this year on a special tax district to help finance the project.

The project suffered its first major setback in 2011 when it failed to secure legislative backing for a tax-increment financing district to pay for the UNLV stadium.

Legislators at the time were concerned about the cost and scope of the project. Bundled with two other stadium proposals in Las Vegas, UNLV's stadium bill failed in the final days of the 2011 session.

This time, Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, is working with Snyder on a new bill for a tax district. That bill is "well advanced and close to ready to go," Snyder said.

But further delays in the cost and funding projections for the stadium could derail the bill in the budget-sensitive Legislature. If lawmakers fail to pass a bill this session, it could stall the stadium's construction for another two years.

"We don't have a lot of time. If everything isn't done this legislative session, we may need to go to the next session (in 2015)," Snyder said. "This is a large, complex and significant project. It's important for us to get it right than to try to hit a deadline."

Snyder, a former banker and casino executive who was instrumental in the development of several Las Vegas landmarks, recently stepped down as dean of UNLV's William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration to focus his fundraising efforts on the stadium.

Snyder said he remains optimistic about the stadium's future despite this week's setbacks.

MGM's $20 million pledge was made about a year ago, Snyder said. The commitment created a lot of "positive energy" around the UNLV Now project, which helped move the planning and designs forward, he said.

However, since that pledge was made, the project has changed dramatically. The size and scope of the stadium, which would include the world's largest video screen, could have made private stakeholders uneasy.

"This is a very different project than when it was first envisioned," Snyder said. "The intensity of these conversations (surrounding the cost and scope) may have created a little bit of angst."

Withdrawal of MGM's support could have wider consequences for the planners, who are seeking millions of dollars in private support from Strip resorts.

About 40 percent of the stadium's cost will be borne by Majestic Realty's Ed Roski, who developed the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The remainder would come from the tax district, a portion of revenue generated by the stadium and private donations from Las Vegas' hospitality industry.

Lack of support from an initial investor and the largest casino company in Las Vegas could spook other major investors.

Snyder said his team, which includes Majestic, UNLV's private developer-partner, is working on "properly dialing in" a cost figure that works for everyone involved. Stadium officials might be forced to scale back the project to attract more private supporters.

"We have a lot of stakeholders. Everyone has different interests and needs," Snyder said. "The what is the easy part of the project. The how is the next and harder part."

Snyder, a former board member of the LVCVA, said he remained confident the resort industry would come around to the stadium project. He pointed to a University of Michigan study, commissioned by UNLV, that found the stadium could generate nearly $400 million annually in direct spending to the battered Las Vegas economy.

"This is a good economic engine for us in a time when we need it the most," Snyder said. "The faster we can have a facility that can attract more tourists, the faster we can get our economic engine going."

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  1. MGM cannot support the "current" concept, just because of the price tag? Maybe they should re-do the whole thing with a reduced capacity of 50.000 and a not-so-fancy video cube in the center. That would certainly reduce the size of the whole building and make it symmetrical. Fact is, that there are no ohter serious stadium proposals for LV, and if this one isn't built, none will be. I am very curious about the fact, why only one proposed design exists. It should be at least 3 or 4, with a public discussion about which would suit best. If the stadium makers want more public support, then they should INCLUDE the public in the process of decision making!

  2. Money? You know, the Smith Center..500 million dollars later? The stadium seems to be a bargain..oh, but wait, the opening price is never the ending price tag..just ask the Smith Center. What ever happened to being real. We do need the massive stadium to compete...but where and how much and who has the most influence. Still in the wings, waiting to see...

  3. Does this public/private partnership include public/private profit sharing, or do the taxpayers just wait around for the indirect benefits? The short-term benefits of construction are a big selling point: If the Chamber manages to drive down prevailing wage, as it intends, how will the economic impact numbers be affected? What would a service tax and reduction in sales tax do in this district? When will this tax district expire? My money says never.

    Nevada is desperately in need of additional revenue. Whether it is a margins tax or a service tax, it is hard to support any increase in taxes when the city and state compel new and diverted taxpayer revenue to be invested in tourist venues or private ventures. Taxpayers should not be supporting entertainment, tourism, and retail. They can scarcely afford education, safety and basic services.

    For all the libertarian, free-market rhetoric emanating from this state, our fiscal and tax policy increasingly force taxpayers to subsidize every industry. It's one dollar for the taxpayers and three for the developers... I don't like the way public private partnerships are paying the public.

  4. The lack of support from MGM shouldn't be a problem. $20m is only 2.5% of the proposed $800m project.
    The real problem is costs are rising as we go along and the revenue projections are coming up short. That suggests there is going to be a huge hole in the financing and the logistical costs of traffic management haven't even begun.

    I think the whole project needs to be realistically evaluated. It is a great project, but the costs have been drastically underestimated and the revenue overestimated.

    All along I feel we have ignored Sam Boyd stadium and developing that area in to a campus. UNLV doesn't need to be located so close to the Strip, in fact there are considerable benefits if the campus was moved.

  5. MGM does not want to lose more events to a bigger more flashy Arena that has state of the art luxury suites. Pretty simple. Instead of updating their basic Arena, just shoot down the competition. MGM does not want to lose a big UFC card to a building down the road, they want to force it into the MGM Grand and it's narrow hallways and poor concession stand food.

    The comments from Snyder about the types and volume of events that this new building would be able to host are very out of touch. Pro sports, unless it is an NBA, NHL or Soccer exhibition, are out of the question. Many of the other events require people outside of UNLV to bring the event to the city. Synder is the same person not too long ago was pushing everyone in Vegas to support a high speed train from Southern California that only went to Victorville - a plan that anyone who understands Southern California geography knows does not get the job done.

    The Speedway was the one when no one from LA or UNLV wanted to touch Electric Daisy who stepped up. Does anyone want to go indoors to watch this spectacle over the vast space of the speedway? Also, where does UNLV expect people to park? Does UNLV also believe that the hotels with Convention Space or the new fast tracked renovated Las Vegas Convention Center are going to support a UNLV Stadium that is trying to book conventions or meetings away from them. NO

    A new building is needed for UNLV Football. Yet the team has a Coach that has not won and they can not pay off his contract to get a Coach who could win. There is a need, but there are alot of holes. Can anyone who does not have an agenda please stand up?