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September 1, 2014

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Majestic shelves ‘Plan B’ for UNLV football stadium

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Paul Takahashi

Majestic Realty partner Craig Cavileer packs up a cutaway model of the UNLV Now stadium project after the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents meeting on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.

Majestic Realty's plans to build an off-campus UNLV football stadium have been scrapped.

After UNLV nixed its partnership with Majestic in March, the Los Angeles-based developer entered into an exclusive agreement with Wells Fargo Bank to purchase 40 acres of privately-owned land at the corner of Koval Lane and Tropicana Avenue.

Majestic had intended to build a 60,000-seat stadium there, just down the street from UNLV's Maryland Parkway campus.

The project, dubbed the "Southern Nevada Mega-events Center," would have played host to UNLV football games and more than a dozen major events that some economists estimated would bring nearly $400 million annually to the Las Vegas Strip.

However, because Majestic failed to win public funding for its stadium proposal during this past legislative session, it was forced to automatically terminate its agreement to purchase the land from Wells Fargo. The property is now up for grabs to any developer looking to build another project near the Strip.

"We've now turned our heads and walked away from (this project)," said Craig Cavileer, Majestic's point man. "We're not in pursuit of a stadium at this time."

Although its alternative stadium proposal has been axed, Majestic may still be able to help develop the UNLV Now stadium project backed by the university.

Under its termination agreement with UNLV, Majestic has the "right of first refusal." That means the university must present any new stadium plans to Majestic, which has the right to build the project or pass it on to another developer.

That termination agreement expires after two years, however, which makes it unlikely Majestic will be able to utilize its right of first refusal.

It will likely take another two years for the UNLV Now stadium project, now approaching its third year of planning, to develop new designs and a funding model.

UNLV is now working with an 11-member planning committee to craft new plans for its stadium. It's a process that is likely to take time, reaching consensus between all the various stakeholders from the resort industry.

The university also plans to bring back another proposal for public funding during the 2015 legislative session. (A proposal to create a tax-increment financing district on the university campus failed to garner enough support during the last two sessions.)

Ultimately, Majestic's alternative stadium idea became a casualty of casino competition, bad timing and politics.

In late March, UNLV dropped its exclusive partnership with Majestic, arguing the developer was getting in between UNLV Now's two “true” partners: the university and the Strip resort industry. Majestic, founded by Los Angeles billionaire Ed Roski and owner of the off-Strip Silverton Casino, was ousted from the planning and development of the UNLV Now stadium.

Undeterred, Majestic brought forth a “Plan B” stadium to be built on the land owned by Wells Fargo.

However, Cavileer acknowledged Majestic's "Plan B" still needs public support – and especially UNLV's. Without a special tax district, Majestic couldn't bear footing the entire $770 million cost to build its stadium.

Despite offering UNLV's football team free use of the stadium for games and money to maintain Sam Boyd Stadium, Majestic couldn’t get any support from UNLV for its stadium project.

Instead, UNLV went back to the drawing board with its own stadium proposal – leaving Majestic alone in its endeavor to win lawmakers' approval.

Despite this setback, Majestic's mega-events center proposal was embraced by legislators and was gaining political momentum in Carson City, Cavileer said.

However, the lack of UNLV's support and time to lobby more lawmakers doomed Majestic's stadium idea, Cavileer said. Plans for a special tax district to help Majestic failed in the last week of the session.

"That really put a chill in the Legislature," Cavileer said of the lack of support by UNLV for Majestic's plan. "After all that we offered and put into the project, it's perplexing to me."

Majestic is now waiting to see what UNLV Now's planning committee comes up with in terms of a new stadium design. Ultimately, Cavileer – who is on the UNLV Foundation Board of Trustees – said he was in favor of any stadium project that benefited the university.

"I wish the university the best," Cavileer said. "(An UNLV stadium) is a great project that's great for Las Vegas. I'd love to see this still happen."

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