Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 | 11:37 a.m.
UNLV’s plan to seek out a loan to complete funding for its football practice facility was approved by the Nevada Board of Regents on Thursday at a meeting in Elko.
The vote to approve was close, as the motion passed by a 4-2 count. Several regents expressed deep skepticism about the university’s strategy, and the dialogue between UNLV president Len Jessup and the regents grew tense during several exchanges.
UNLV has reported $18.24 million in pledged donations toward the facility, which is expected to cost $22.25 million. But the university only has $6.4 million in hand; the rest has been pledged but not paid yet. With the board’s approval, UNLV will now obtain a loan to cover the remainder of the cost, and repay the debt as pledged money comes in over the next five years.
Athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois spoke at the meeting, and head football coach Tony Sanchez video-conferenced in, still wearing his Rebels gear from a just-completed practice on campus. Both stressed the need for the new facility, to be named the Fertitta Football Complex, in order for UNLV to field a more competitive program.
The regents didn’t seem to take issue with the project itself, but with the funding plan. Business Finance and Facilities committee chair Trevor Hayes questioned Jessup’s comparison to the school’s Hospitality Hall project, which was similarly financed through a mixture of donations, pledges and loans and is expected to open in the spring of 2018.
“I support the idea of this facility and I see the importance of it and the need for it for coach and the team to flourish,” Hayes said. “But I also have a great deal of concern about the financing plan. I don’t have a great deal of confidence in the numbers I receive from UNLV on anything related to financing. The comparison to Hospitality Hall is one of the reasons I’m very reluctant to support this. We were told at the time, ‘It’s just going to be a bridge loan to pay off until the pledges come in.’ We still have not received enough pledges to pay for that.”
Regent Allison Stephens questioned Jessup about whether any shortfall in pledged money would be passed on as a student fee in the future. Jessup said students would not bear any costs.
Hayes and Stephens voted no on the proposal, while the rest of the board voted to approve.
Jessup said that if the plan were to be approved and the rest of the process went smoothly, groundbreaking could possibly begin by the end of the fall semester.
The football complex will be built adjacent to the practice fields at Rebel Park. The 73,000-square-foot building will house training services, study halls, coaches’ offices and other amenities.