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November 23, 2014

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First details of next UNLV stadium proposal released

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Steve Marcus

A few die-hard UNLV fans stayed until the end during UNLV’s home opener against the University of Arizona at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

Outside consultants studying UNLV's proposed new football stadium are recommending a "multi-purpose stadium" with 50,000 to 60,000 seats, including three tiers of premium seating.

After conducting community surveys and market research, Conventions, Sports and Leisure International is starting to recommend parameters for a new UNLV stadium, to be located on 60 acres northeast of Swenson Street and Harmon Avenue.

CSL is recommending a 1 million square-foot stadium with up to 60,000 seats, including up to 2,000 club seats, 30 loge boxes and 60 luxury seats.

The consultants are still working on a cost estimate for the proposed stadium, which is expected to be presented next month. Possible funding models and the results of a feasibility study are expected in June.

CSL's size recommendations are similar to the $900 million "UNLV Now" project, which was scrapped exactly one year ago today. UNLV's former private developer partner Majestic Realty had proposed a 60,000 "mega-events center" with several premium seat options, including several nightclub-sized suites holding up to 300 people.

Last March, UNLV severed ties with the well-heeled company over concerns from the Strip resort industry about Majestic's role in the project, especially over how much the company — backed by Los Angeles billionaire Ed Roski — stood to gain from its exclusive partnership with the university.

Since then, UNLV won legislative approval to create a stadium authority — comprised of university, community and resort industry representatives — that would recommend a stadium proposal to lawmakers by September.

The UNLV Campus Improvement Authority Board hired CSL International to help draft recommendations. For the past several weeks, the consultants surveyed more than 1,800 UNLV alumni, donors, season ticket holders and fans to determine the demand for an on-campus stadium.

Nearly two-thirds of CSL's survey respondents bemoaned UNLV's current football facility. Sam Boyd Stadium, which is located more than eight miles away from the main campus, is in an inconvenient location, has traffic congestion and has uncomfortable seats, according to respondents.

The majority of survey respondents said they would spend an additional $10 to $15 per ticket for a better stadium experience.

"A new stadium won't help the team score more touchdowns," Adam Kerns, a project manager with CSL International, said. "But if you move the stadium closer to campus and you have a winning team, people will come."

The consulting firm estimates the new UNLV stadium could have an annual attendance between 740,000 and 1.6 million people, depending on what kind of cover the stadium has and how many new events it can attract to Las Vegas.

UNLV is considering four cover options for the stadium: open-air, shaded, domed or retractable roof. The majority of survey respondents said they would like to see either a retractable roof or domed stadium — the most expensive option; however, UNLV officials are strongly considering a shaded stadium similar to Baylor University's new McLane Stadium.

CSL International estimated a new UNLV stadium could attract between 22 and 48 new events to Las Vegas, including possibly a Major League Soccer franchise, a new collegiate bowl game and a "major, non-recurring event" like a major collegiate basketball tournament game.

"This is an unique opportunity to create events that we haven't even thought of before," Don Snyder, UNLV acting president and stadium authority chairman, said. "We can create demand. When I think of opportunity, that's what I get excited about."

While CSL consultants nail down a cost estimate for the stadium, the UNLV stadium authority is planning to spend $5,000 for a fact-finding trip to Texas next month. The trip will be paid from a special fund created by the Legislature for the stadium authority.

Snyder, MGM Senior Vice President and Corporate Controller Rick Arpin, Regent Cedric Crear, and UNLV's senior vice president for finance and business Gerry Bomotti will tour Baylor's McLane Stadium, Amon G. Carter Stadium at Texas Christian University and the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.

The UNLV officials plan to learn how developers built the two stadiums and how they funded their construction and operations.

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