Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 | 2 a.m.
His work day has included plenty of construction noise and dust over the past year, and Thomas & Mack Center executive director Mike Newcomb gets plenty of use out of the hard hat he keeps near his desk.
Slowly but surely the 32-year-old facility’s $72.5 million modernization project has started to take shape. The upgrades — everything from three new escalators, updated concession stands and a 36,000-square-foot addition that includes a 2,500-square-foot observation deck overlooking the Las Vegas Strip — give the arena all of the bells and whistles of a modern facility.
More important, it will also get the Mack up to code and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The 18-month project addresses state and federal codes that have changed over the years, increasing handicap seating from 26 to 98, and widening parts of the concourse. Additionally, there’s $20 million in electrical, air conditioning and plumbing improvements.
“Anyone with a history of going to this place will be amazed,” Newcomb said.
Fans of UNLV basketball, the arena’s primary tenant, saw some changes last week when they arrived for the scarlet and gray scrimmage. The highlights were new flooring on the concourse, all new seating in the arena, a new sound system and bathroom enhancements.
Because of the addition of more ADA seating platforms, the arena capacity is down about 500 seats to 18,000.
Newcomb said some season ticket holders had to change seats, but the team benches and the student section are configured in the same spots. The upgrades also include a new basketball floor, which will be sent out for bid this week.
“This will be great for Rebel fans,” Newcomb said. “The statement it makes is big. ... It remains a home that can host large events.”
The arena holds 150 events annually that bring 850,000 visitors. It has hosted fights, the NBA Summer League, graduations, concerts, the National Finals Rodeo and much more. Next October, it will host the final presidential debate, which you could argue will be the most significant night in the arena’s history. The Democratic debate at the Wynn Las Vegas last week was watched by 23 million households on CNN, meaning there will be plenty of eyes on the Mack next fall.
The center’s last major cosmetic change happened in 1999, when the escalator to enter the center was added. The current project is paid for by slot-tax bonds, donations from the families of Nevada bankers E. Perry Thomas and Jerome Mack, the facility’s namesakes, and a $12 million loan, Newcomb said.
It includes two new portal entrances from the ground level, two new elevators, 13 updated concession stands and doubling the size of the Si Redd Room. As part of the modernization, fans can walk directly from the arena to the Si Redd Room through portal No. 104.
The observation area, which is on the west side of the arena and directly under the player entrance tunnel, could also be rented out for social events. The addition is 36,000-square-feet — 10,000-square-feet inside for functions, 2,500-square-feet for the attached outside deck and the rest for storage.
The first phase of the project, which includes roof replacement, is 90 percent complete. They are putting on final touches such signs and wall murals. The outside deck will be finished in September 2016.