Regents make appointments to stadium authority board

Don Snyder? Any Las Vegas power player knows Snyder, whose superhero moniker can be “Project Point Man.”

Point man for the Fremont Street Experience. Point man for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Point man for UNLV’s most recent quest for a campus football stadium/Las Vegas entertainment center.

So, Snyder’s recent appointment by the Nevada Board of Regents to a new University of Nevada, Las Vegas 11-member stadium authority board charged with drafting a UNLV stadium plan came as no surprise.

Snyder, a UNLV official, led the university’s previous go at building a $900 million, 60,000-seat domed venue. UNLV cut bait on that stadium plan a few months ago.

Besides naming Snyder to the new stadium panel, the regents appointed three of their own. That trio might not make front-page news, but they are well-connected to the Las Vegas movers-and-shakers scene:

■ Cedric Crear, 44, is a Las Vegas native and president of Las Vegas-based Crear Creative Group, an ad agency with offices in Los Angeles, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Tulsa, Okla. He’s a Howard University graduate and former Station Casinos marketing executive whose father was the second black doctor registered in Nevada.

■ Michael Wixom, 57, a lawyer in Las Vegas since 1986, is a shareholder in the law firm Smith Larsen & Wixom. He has served as Board of Regents chairman twice. His law areas include banking, real estate finance and commercial transactions.

■ James Dean Leavitt, 51, is a Las Vegas resident who has been a lawyer since 1991. Leavitt, like Wixom, served two years as Board of Regents chairman. Besides owning his own law practice, Leavitt was an instructor at UNLV in the Greenspun School of Communications from 1993 to 1998. His law practice is limited almost exclusively to criminal defense.

As for Snyder, he is 66, a Las Vegas resident since 1988 and a former bank and casino executive.

UNLV picked the stadium authority route toward its goal of building a domed football stadium/entertainment center on campus after it kicked its previous stadium private partner, Majestic Realty, to the curb this year.

At the time, Snyder explained the university wanted to work directly with the Las Vegas resort industry on the stadium project and saw Majestic’s role as a partner as a wedge between UNLV and the hotel-casino companies.

Winning public backing of stadiums under public-private arrangements is a daunting challenge, and the notion of public money flowing into sports and entertainment venues often causes fierce public debate.

The first four new stadium board members are aware of that. Contacted this week, they didn’t offer any personal comprehensive visions for a new stadium, saying they wanted the new panel to figure that out. The stadium board’s job will be to determine the project’s scope, cost and funding options.

As Crear put it, “It’s a clean slate. Everything is on the table.”

Asked how many seats the stadium should hold, Crear responded, “Whatever the research shows.”

Wixom used the term “breathtaking” to describe the previous proposed stadium cost of $900 million. He said any stadium must be close to the university for football, offer amenity revenues from neighboring shopping or residential uses and generate publicity for the UNLV brand.

“I’m going into the process with my eyes wide open,” Wixom said.

Leavitt said that he supports the dome concept, but that the cost will be a big discussion point.

“Everybody is in favor of a domed stadium, but not everybody is in favor of what it will cost,” he said.

Snyder, who goes from point man to one of 11 stadium board members, endorsed some form of covered facility. He wants any stadium study to look at options such as a fixed dome, retractable roof or some form of climate-controlled environment.

Snyder also is not locked into a specific number of seats. “The conversation will determine that,” he said.

That conversation will be stoked by consultant work, which can be paid, in part, by slot taxes, Snyder said.

The full board needs to be convened in October, and then the panel is required to issue a stadium report to the Nevada Legislature by Sept. 30, 2014.

The other stadium board members will be appointed during the next few months.

The Clark County Commission, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader will each appoint one person. That brings the number to nine, and those nine members will name two casino executives for a final total of 11.

Snyder said the stadium process must be “dialed in to meet the collective needs of the university and the resort industry.”

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