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October 22, 2014

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UNLV Campus Improvement Authority Board:

Consultants tease UNLV panel with examples of newest college, pro stadiums around the country

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Paul Takahashi

UNLV Now project leader Don Snyder updates Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents on the status of UNLV’s stadium proposal on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.

UNLV President and stadium board chairman Don Snyder has weighed in on one of the key questions for the proposed UNLV football stadium:

Open-air or covered stadium?

Snyder said today that he favored an open-air stadium that could host a mix of collegiate and professional events on campus. He pointed toward collegiate stadiums, like Baylor University’s new McLane Stadium, and professional venues, like the Sporting Park soccer stadium in Kansas City, Kan., as examples of what UNLV’s stadium might look like.

“Baylor Stadium is not a bad model,” Snyder said. “I do like an open-air facility with a shading structure.”

Snyder’s comments come as the UNLV Campus Improvement Authority Board heard its first major presentation from its project manager, CSL International. The stadium consulting firm has been tasked with helping the UNLV stadium board conduct a feasibility study and draft recommendations to the Nevada Legislature by this fall.

CSL International is now conducting email surveys with 100,000 students, alumni and UNLV ticket holders to gauge interest in a new UNLV stadium. It is also conducting between 20 and 30 telephone interviews with key community leaders, from regents to tourism officials, about the potential need for a UNLV stadium.

In addition, CSL International plans to talk with several event promoters to see how many events could relocate to Las Vegas as a result of a new UNLV stadium. The surveys are expected to be completed in a month.

Meanwhile, CSL International gave stadium authority board members a flavor of stadiums around the country. During a two-hour presentation on Thursday, CSL International president Bill Rhoda went over various stadium models, from smaller collegiate stadiums, like the one at the University of North Texas, to major professional stadiums, like MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

The proposed UNLV stadium must be a hybrid of the two types of stadiums, Snyder said. An on-campus stadium must accommodate football games but also cater to major events that could benefit the resort community and the Southern Nevada economy, he said.

The biggest question still left unanswered, however: How much would this new UNLV stadium cost?

Rhoda said that question was still premature and that more analysis was necessary to determine the answer. However, he did have some cost estimates for building several collegiate stadiums in Las Vegas, taking into account regional construction cost differences.

Building a replica of Baylor’s open-air McLane Stadium would cost $378 million in Las Vegas. A venue styled after the University of Minnesota’s open-air TCF Bank Stadium would cost $446 million in Las Vegas. A domed, "cost-efficient" University of Phoenix Stadium could cost upwards of $917 million in Las Vegas.

In many professional and some collegiate stadiums, developers relied on personal seat license sales to cover some of the construction costs, Rhoda said. These licenses allow ticket holders special rights to purchase season-ticket access for club and loge box seating.

Other developers used a special “stadium builder license” fee to pay for part of the cost. Such licenses allow ticket holders lifetime rights to a seat and can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.

MetLife Stadium offered personal seat licenses on more than half of its seats, costing fans from $1,000 to $30,000 per seat. The New York Jets expect to recoup about $325 million and New York Giants $400 million from the premium seat sales.

A proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium, slated to open in 2016, would place a stadium builder license fee on the majority of seats. Costs range from $500 for upper deck, corner and end zone seats to $9,500 for field club seating. Developers expect to reap revenues of about $514 million from seat fees alone.

It isn’t just professional stadiums that are using premium seat sales to pay for construction, Rhoda said. Recent collegiate stadiums with successful football programs and passionate alumni — like Texas A&M University, Texas Christian University and Baylor University — are also using this tactic.

The new stadium at Baylor University features six “founders’ suites,” which required a minimum contribution of $10 million, and 36 luxury suites that required a contribution between $1 million and $3 million. Loge boxes required gifts between $40,000 and $250,000, and club seats required gifts from $5,000 to $150,000.

These premium seat sales are expected to generate $162 million annually to defray Baylor University stadium’s $260 million cost.

At the University of North Texas stadium, premium club seat licenses can be purchased with a one-time gift of $3,125 to $12,500 with an annual $500 donation to the athletic department and $350 for season tickets.

Asked whether UNLV’s football program could generate that kind of revenue from premium seat sales, Rhoda said he wasn’t sure.

“I don’t think (UNLV will) generate that revenue,” Rhoda said. “Baylor and TCU have football teams in the top 10. It’s a different dynamic here.”

Snyder wasn’t deterred by Rhoda’s remarks, however. Given the Las Vegas resort industry’s interest in a neutral-site stadium’s ability to host major events that could drive foot traffic and hotel room sales to the Strip, Snyder said he was confident resorts could play a big role in purchasing premium club seats.

“Las Vegas is different,” Snyder said. “We want to end up with a facility that is more than just a football stadium, one that will be host to NFL-like events. I think it’s feasible that the resort industry will drive the economics.”

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