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Funding plan for new UNLV stadium still relies on tax infusion


Courtesy UNLV Now

Renderings of a proposed stadium on the UNLV campus.

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The public-private partners behind a proposed on-campus stadium at UNLV say they will need tax money to build it, after all.

Last September, after the Legislature rejected a special tax district to fund the $2 billion stadium, dormitory and retail project, university officials and Majestic Realty Co. started working on a funding plan they said wouldn't require tax money.

In a project update to the Nevada System of Higher Education's Board of Regents on Thursday, UNLV President Neal Smatresk outlined a new funding plan for construction of a 50,000- to 60,000-seat, closed-top stadium on the west side of the university's Maryland Parkway campus.

The stadium portion of the project is expected to cost $450 million to $500 million, including costs associated with moving displaced facilities from the construction site and practice fields on Harmon Avenue. The project also would require the purchase of some Clark County-owned land west of Swenson Street.

To fund the stadium construction, UNLV would need to raise $35 million per year for the next 20 years, Smatresk added.

"That should take your breath away," Smatresk told regents, adding he remained "ironclad" in his commitment not to use student tuition or general fund dollars to pay for the project.

The project would require four sources of funding, Smatresk said:

• Gifts and pledges from "founding partners" such as corporations, wealthy individuals and municipalities. There have been "a number of prominent entities who have stepped forward to offer support," Smatresk said, adding the “founding parties” would be a significant source of funding.

• Naming rights to the stadium, which may bring in $200 million to $300 million, Smatresk said.

• Future revenues, concessions, ticket sales and advertisements, which would be a smaller portion of the funding equation, Smatresk said.

• Finally, a tax-increment financing district, which would divert tax dollars in a legislatively approved area to be used for economic redevelopment or a special project. The stadium itself would not raise enough tax dollars, but public-private partners are hoping the stadium plus the mixed-use development of retail stores and restaurants would generate necessary funds.

Despite the project's setback last summer to secure the special tax district, university officials and builder-partners are hopeful they can sway public support for the project during the year until the next legislative session.

That calculus comes as the developers released preliminary revenue projections for the new stadium on Thursday.

Currently, the Thomas & Mack Center — with a capacity of 18,000 seats — draws $250 million annually in direct revenue for the state, excluding tax revenue, officials said.

With a UNLV stadium more than double, maybe triple, the size of the Thomas & Mack arena, developers say the stadium could attract larger events, and with them more tourists to the city. UNLV is hopeful the stadium would play host to 15 "major events" each year.

Developers say they conservatively project the stadium's revenue around $500 million annually from lodging, gaming and dining in the region.

"If you want this, you'll need to help us get it," said Craig Cavileer, a stadium developer and president of the Silverton resort. "It can't just be the university and Majestic. It has to be the community."

UNLV and Majestic Realty are expected to present finalized cost projections and funding plan by the June Board of Regents meeting. Construction on the stadium is expected to begin in late 2013.

Developers are still "imagineering" what the university dormitories and retail shops would look like. Renovating the Thomas & Mack Center would come later, Cavileer said.

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  1. The tax dollars required should certainly be supported by this community. It is not going to hurt anyone's pocketbooks while creating numerous jobs and revenue for this city and state. I don't want to hear any sports bashing because of this project. This project is about this city and this University. It has some large names behind it and with stadium naming, this deal won't hurt anyone. This is definitely something that needs to be passed to upgrade this University.

  2. 200-300 million for the naming rights? There is no way! Bring real numbers...

  3. Build it! i am not sure why the legislature would reject a project that will increase taxable income in hotels and gambling when the land they are going to build on doesn't bring ANY revenue. Build it and they will come!

  4. The community needs this but don't expect it to be the fix for UNLV football. Bill Parcels and Texas Stadium couldn't fix that monstrosity.

  5. I'm not willing to pay more tax dollars to build a stadium. If they want a stadium so badly, then they should pay for it. It's not like they're broke.

  6. Maybe Steve Wynn could help us...he is donating 100 million plus to China.

  7. Here's a no BS article on plans for a Seattle stadium, coming form a guy that doesn't even want stadium but explains why it's needed.

    The stadium isn't really even about sports necessarily. More like large concerts and events from outside sources not related to UNLV necessarily. It's a money generator.

  8. Let those who will make the profit from ticket sales pay to build it. I'm tired of the tax payer footing the bill for these projects and then once built the same tax payer has to fork over big bucks just to buy a ticket to enter the very building their tax dollars paid to build.

  9. Professional Stadiums have topped out at 20 million per year for naming rights (and that's NYC, before the financial meltdown). There's NO WAY this stadium, which will have NO professional sports team associated with it (capacity too small) will bring in 200-300 million in naming rights. They will be lucky to get 5-8 million per for an off strip marquee. Just like the monorail and the Desert Express, these shysters are ALL coming in with over inflated numbers to justify their cause. GET REALISTIC NUMBERS and then we'll talk money.

  10. Build the stadium if UNLV football/basketball can move to the Big 12. It would be huge to have the Big 12 Conference championship game here every year. I think a Texas vs Oklahoma match up would work in football to generate money for the city. Basketball semis with UNLV Kansas Oklahoma Texas for example; The Thomas & Mack center would be rockin like the old days. Build it and they will come...

  11. The indirect gain from people coming to watch games would offset the cost by way of casinos. When Wisconsin comes to town, you know they not only fill Sam Boyd, they fill the casinos too with thousands of people playing the slots, lodging in the hotels, and flying into McCarran.

  12. Set up a fund something like an "IPO" if private citizens want to invest in the stadium make them partners where they can share in the profit......I'd buy shares.