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July 3, 2015

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Majestic seeking support for off-campus stadium for UNLV football

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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.

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 »

Majestic Realty has a new plan for an off-campus UNLV football stadium, but it won't go far without support from the very university that dropped its private developer partner two months ago to pursue new designs for an on-campus stadium.

That's according to Majestic point man Craig Cavileer, who this week confirmed plans for a "Southern Nevada Mega-events Center" that is cheaper and simpler than the UNLV Now proposal it and the university had pushed for in March.

"It's the same project in a slightly different location," Cavileer said. "But it has all the upsides (of UNLV Now) and eliminates all the downsides."

Majestic's alternative calls for a 60,000-seat stadium on 40 acres of privately owned land at the corner of Koval Lane and Tropicana Avenue — within walking distance from UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center and the Las Vegas Strip.

This off-campus project has several advantages to the on-campus stadium project being considered by UNLV, Cavileer said:

• It's cheaper: Majestic's proposal is expected to cost $770 million, which is lower than the $800 million to $900 million price tag for the UNLV Now stadium, just before it was scrapped. That's because Majestic's proposal will not force UNLV to construct new parking garages and relocate athletic fields.

In addition, Majestic will allow UNLV to host seven to eight football games each year at its off-campus stadium at no cost to the university. Majestic will honor its previous agreement with UNLV to pay $2.5 million per year to offset any loss in revenue to the university's Sam Boyd Stadium located in the eastern valley.

• It's fair: Majestic is hoping to partner with the state of Nevada on a 50-50 public-private partnership, with each partner kicking in $385 million. Profits from the new stadium would be split evenly between the state and Majestic.

Majestic — backed by Los Angeles billionaire Ed Roski — has increased its investment level, from $360 million for the UNLV Now project to $385 million for an off-campus stadium.

On the other hand, the public investment has been lowered, from $540 million for the UNLV Now project to $385 million for an off-campus stadium.

• It's less complicated: Majestic's off-campus stadium has fewer partners involved — just Majestic and the state of Nevada. UNLV Now on the other hand has several partners, including UNLV, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and several major Strip casinos.

Majestic's plan won't require a special tax district to fund part of the stadium cost, nor an investment by the LVCVA and the larger resort industry.

In addition, Majestic's stadium project is not underneath a flight path to McCarran International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration had taken issue with the height of the UNLV Now stadium, located underneath a flight path to McCarran.

Furthermore, Majestic's proposal would alleviate the parking problems many foresaw in an on-campus stadium design, because Majestic would build 9,000 parking spaces on surrounding property owned by Clark County and private owners.

Despite being dropped from the project, Majestic is eager to garner UNLV's support for an off-campus stadium, Cavileer said. Without it, Majestic's project is dead in the water, he said.

"We came up with the name and the vision (for the previous UNLV Now stadium proposal). We love it and we're passionate about it," Cavileer said. "Nothing will please me more than to work side by side with UNLV (on this new proposal)."

UNLV, however, does not appear to support Majestic's alternative proposal, Cavileer said. That could make earning state lawmakers' support more difficult.

The university issued a brief statement, reiterating that Majestic's stadium concept "is not affiliated with UNLV or the UNLV Now project."

"UNLV Now has evolved greatly over the past two years, and we believe the community understands the economic value a mega-events center on our campus would add to UNLV, Las Vegas and the state."

UNLV Now project leader Don Snyder was not available for comment Wednesday.

Cavileer said he was taken aback by UNLV's response to Majestic's new proposal when he spoke with Snyder last week.

UNLV had championed Majestic's vision of an on-campus stadium project for over two years, only to scrap it earlier this year, Cavileer said. Now, when Majestic proposes an off-campus stadium idea, the university "didn't give two minutes of thought to consider it."

"Really, it's perplexing," Cavileer said of UNLV's response. "I'm baffled."

Despite the simpler stadium proposal, Majestic has an uphill battle to persuade state lawmakers and university officials to support an off-campus stadium.

Without UNLV's support, lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval are less likely to support the project. It may take Sandoval or the Board of Regents to change UNLV's mind, Cavileer said.

Sandoval and state lawmakers must also make some "tough choices" about how to raise the public's portion of the $770 million project, Cavileer said. Majestic is proposing several taxes on the tourism industry — including those on taxicabs, rooms, rental cars and live entertainment — to raise public money for the stadium.

For the past several weeks, Cavileer has been meeting with lawmakers to push for a tax bill to support Majestic's stadium. With only several days left until the end of the session, it's unlikely that a new tax bill may pass, let alone be signed by Sandoval — who has promised to veto any new taxes.

Nevertheless, Cavileer said he is hopeful he would be able to sway enough minds — those of UNLV and lawmakers — to make Majestic's stadium proposal a reality. If all goes according to their plan, Majestic hopes to break ground in December 2014 and open the new stadium by summer 2017.

"Timing is everything with these projects," Cavileer said. "Why wait two more years to revisit the stadium when we visited it two years ago. There's no reason to do nothing, so we kept the momentum going."

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