UNLV hopes to cultivate stadium romance with new players


Now that UNLV has dumped its longtime, deep-pocketed stadium partner and has rebooted the push to build a sports-and-entertainment venue on campus, it’s time for university officials to romance a new cast of players.

Namely, Las Vegas’ hotel-casinos.

Don Snyder, the point man for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, kicked powerhouse developer Majestic Realty to the curb in March because he said he wants the university to partner directly with the big guns of the Las Vegas hotel industry.

Snyder argued that Majestic, owned by California billionaire developer Ed Roski, was a wedge between the Las Vegas resort industry and the university, which hopes to deliver a 60,000-seat, domed Mega-Events Center that was pegged at $900 million. Under the UNLV-Majestic banner, the project’s price and scope drew a mixed, if not lukewarm, reaction from the casino owners.

So, Snyder and UNLV officials scrapped the $900 million plan and persuaded state lawmakers to approve a stadium authority board to be peppered with hotel executives. They await the appointment of 11 board members who will shape a new stadium proposal starting at their first meeting in October.

The goal is to get the resort industry directly involved in shaping a new stadium plan, which will be presented to the Legislature by Sept. 30, 2014. The tasks include confirming the need for a stadium, designing the facility, coming up with a construction cost and recommending ways to pay for it.

The Board of Regents will appoint the first four members to the stadium board. Then the Clark County Commission and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will each name one member. The Nevada Senate majority leader, the Assembly speaker and governor get to pick a member. Those nine then will choose two casino executives.

Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Page likened the concept of an 11-member board as pushing the restart button.

“This gives us more time and buy-in with more partners,” said Page, who once worked for Snyder in the banking industry.

Page also said the $900 million price was too high.

“The price tag has to be lower,” Page said. He also questioned whether a dome was necessary.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal surveyed major casino companies and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to find out what they thought of UNLV’s new strategy of restarting the stadium push by focusing on partnering with the big hotel chains in Las Vegas.

The results are below:

■ MGM Resorts International: The company that opposed the $900 million plan in February, saying the price “has grown too expensive for our community to support,” offered a one-sentence statement about UNLV’s new strategy. MGM spokesman Gordon Absher wrote in an email: “We support the university’s desire to build a football stadium on campus.”

■ Caesars Entertainment Corp.: The company didn’t ask Snyder to create a stadium authority board to partner with, spokeswoman Marybel Batjer said.

“We liked the stadium,” she said.

■ Boyd Gaming Corp.: “We appreciate the outreach and efforts to include us in the process,” spokesman David Strow said. “It’s a constructive and positive step.”

■ Station Casinos: “At this time we have not yet been contacted regarding the new stadium strategy to create an authority. Thus it’s premature for us to comment at this time,” spokeswoman Lori Nelson said.

■ Las Vegas Sands Corp.: “Our doors are always open to UNLV. We look forward to further discussion,” spokesman Ron Reese said.

■ The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority: “UNLV is one of the many partners the LVCVA and resort industry support in the community. We understand the potential of a new UNLV stadium and will continue to work with the university as we have in the past,” agency spokeswoman Dawn Christensen said.

The Nevada Resort Association and Wynn Las Vegas/Encore did not return calls seeking comment.

Snyder said that under approved legislation, slot tax bonding will help pay stadium authority costs such as hiring consultants to create a stadium plan.

He also expects the companies and organizations of the authority board’s members to chip in.

“If this is a true partnership in the resort industry, there needs to be a sharing of the costs and the administration of the authority to do its job,” Snyder said.

Snyder expects the new stadium process to start in earnest after the Fourth of July.

“Conversations about the authority and who will be appointed is just getting started. ... There is a lot of interest and nothing but good positive energy, including individuals and companies wanting to serve and be represented. That said, it is too early to say who will be appointed,” Snyder said.

The regents are required to appoint their authority board members by Aug. 31, and the quartet could be named as early as the July 19 Regents’ meeting. The other camps must make their appointments by Sept. 30.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.

 

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