EDITORIAL: If taxpayers cover stadium costs, they must get a stake


The first meeting of UNLV’s stadium authority board left no doubt that, less than one year from now, the panel would recommend building a new venue for sports, concerts and special events capable of drawing tens of thousands of fans.

The question is whether the board can put together a plan capable of winning the support of the Legislature and the public.

The authority board emerged from the ashes of UNLV’s previous stadium proposal, a $900 million public-private partnership with Majestic Reality that was torched by the gaming industry. Instead of enabling the construction of an on-campus stadium, this year the Legislature created a stadium district and a board to determine the project’s scope and cost, and to recommend funding options.

It’s no coincidence that the 11-member panel includes six current or former gaming executives. The surest way for a project to win gaming’s endorsement is to give the industry a powerful voice in shaping the plan.

Casino companies certainly would benefit from having a modern stadium in close proximity to the Strip. UNLV’s off-campus Sam Boyd Stadium is hopelessly outdated and inconveniently located, offering limited appeal for big concerts and special events. An on-campus stadium just a couple of miles from megaresorts would allow entertainment promoters to create new events or grow existing ones, attract more visitors and generate job-creating economic activity.

The benefits to the university would be tremendous. A stadium would attract huge numbers of visitors to the campus year-round, elevating the profile of the institution. It would spur investment around the entire university area. UNLV’s football program certainly would benefit, but the Rebels’ home games would be a tiny part of the stadium’s events schedule.

Monday’s board meeting at the Thomas &Mack Center showed clear support for a stadium. So who pays for it, and who gets a stake in the project? What role will gaming companies have in funding it? This project won’t move forward without a private funding component. On Wednesday, UNLV announced a $500 million capital campaign to help fund the stadium and a medical school. It’s a good start.

If the board recommends taxing local residents and visitors to pay some of the project’s cost, voters will be skeptical to say the least — and they won’t be afraid to let lawmakers know their opposition. The only way the public might be persuaded to support higher taxes for a stadium is to give them a stake. A share of stadium revenues must stay on campus, whether it’s for scholarships, facility funding or athletic operations.

If the public pays, the public should own it.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.