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Consultant says UNLV stadium costs could approach $700M

Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 6:15 p.m.

UNLV’s proposed new on-campus stadium is estimated to cost between $490 million and $682 million depending on whether it’s open air, shaded or covered, according to the university’s consultants.

Conventions, Sports and Leisure International officials today presented several cost estimates for a 50,000-seat football stadium to the UNLV stadium authority board. The 900,000-square-foot stadium with three-tiers of premium seats would be located on 60 acres northeast of Swenson Street and Harmon Avenue.

Here are the cost estimates:

• Open-air stadium: $490 million

• Stadium with a shading structure covering 40 to 95 percent of seats: $497 million for a 40-foot shade, $505 million for a 75-foot shade and $514 million for a 125-foot shade

• Stadium with a $142 million Teflon-fabric cover: $632 million

• Stadium with a $192 million retractable roof: $682 million

Cost projections for a concrete domed stadium and a retractable soft-covered stadium were not available.

These projections include preliminary site improvements such as excavation and foundation; construction costs like playing field, scoreboard and seating; and soft costs like insurance and bonds.

However, they do not include expensive off-site improvements, such as the relocation of athletic fields currently at the site, construction of 11,000 new parking spaces and traffic improvements. These infrastructure improvements are expected to add an additional $200 million to the overall stadium cost.

Michael Wixom, UNLV stadium board member and Nevada regent, said figuring out these ancillary costs is a “critical question” that must be answered before the board decides on the project's feasibility.

“How are we going to get our arms around these costs?” Wixom said. “I need to know these costs before making a decision.”

UNLV Now, the university’s previous stadium concept that seated 60,000 fans and featured a 100-yard-long video screen was estimated to cost $800 million to $900 million. The majority of UNLV Now's cost would have been borne by private developer Majestic Realty.

The current stadium proposal could approach that same cost, and it's unknown yet how much UNLV and taxpayers will be on the hook. Next month, CSL is expected to present revenue projections and a financing plan for the stadium.

Thursday’s UNLV stadium meeting represented the first major discussion of the project’s cost. Although the UNLV Campus Improvement Authority Board didn’t decide on a stadium concept, board members had a spirited debate with a panel of nearly 20 hospitality officials about whether it should be covered.

About half of the hospitality officials — representing the resort industry, event promoters and tourism agencies — said they would prefer a covered stadium to attract more than 20 new concerts and athletic events to Las Vegas.

Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank Boxing, encouraged the board to consider a covered stadium that would allow UNLV to host a variety of events. Some events, like boxing, require overhead supports and rigging to support cameras, lights and other equipment — something that would be harder and more expensive to do with an open-air or shaded stadium.

DuBoef also pushed for a large jumbotron, which is being adopted in professional stadiums across the country. Las Vegas must invest in a stadium that will attract “tent-pole” or big tent events to the economically beleaguered city.

“AT&T (Stadium), the way (Jerry Jones) operates it, it’s the way it should be done here,” duBoef said. “They know how to do it. We have to be proactive.”

Stadium board members, three of whom toured professional and collegiate stadiums in Texas earlier this month, seemed mixed on the idea of a covered UNLV stadium.

UNLV President Don Snyder said he likes Baylor University’s shaded stadium concept, which is now under construction. After visiting the stadium earlier this month, Snyder said he remained supportive of a shaded concept, but one that will offer more shade coverage than Baylor’s.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani questioned whether a fabric-cover stadium would last in the harsh desert. Others, like Caesars Entertainment's Jason Gastwirth, said they were worried a shaded or covered stadium would preclude it from featuring a natural grass field — something that would be important in attracting a European soccer event to Las Vegas.

Regent James Dean Leavitt reiterated his supportive for a domed or retractable-roof stadium that would be an iconic addition to the Las Vegas skyline and one that boasts majestic views of the Strip and mountains.

“You have to keep reinventing yourself, and Las Vegas needs to do it again now,” Leavitt said. “We don’t have that product now. I hope we think big and we think long-term.”

Ultimately, the board’s decision will come down to finances, MGM senior vice president and corporate controller Rick Arpin said. Although board members could push for a “visionary” domed stadium, UNLV and taxpayers may not be able to afford it, he said. Compromise may be key, he added.

“The funding of this is going to come from a limited number of sources,” Arpin said. “That’s just a harsh reality.”

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