UNLV stadium pointman Don Snyder says he’s hitching his stadium aspirations to a new gubernatorial tourism infrastructure committee, which he hopes can suggest packaging the stadium, the LVCVA’s convention center improvements and Southern Nevada transportation updates under a single funding umbrella.
“This three-legged stool is critical to the future of Las Vegas,” Snyder said Friday in an interview at his University of Nevada, Las Vegas office.
“The stadium should be part of the tourism (efforts). The stadium is the missing link,” said Snyder, former acting UNLV president who now carries the title of presidential adviser for strategic initiatives. “It’s visionary of the governor to connect those three critical elements into the committee.”
In early July, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed an executive order creating the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee to prioritize tourism improvement projects, explore funding methods to pay for tourism initiatives and submit a report by July 31, 2016.
Snyder, who spearheaded the Fremont Street Experience and Smith Center for the performing arts projects, is using new strategy to frame the stadium proposal by pitching it as a vital tourism project under the governor’s new tourism infrastructure committee.
The panel is chaired by Sandoval’s top economic official — Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The committee’s vice chairman is UNLV President Len Jessup.
“To bring (the stadium) under the (tourism infrastructure committee) umbrella is the logical thing to do,” Snyder said.
Snyder’s new strategy means the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee’s consideration of a new stadium on 42 acres at Tropicana Avenue and Koval Lane across from McCarran International Airport would eclipse the work done by a prior public committee that studied the stadium issue only a year ago.
That previous committee, officially known as the “Campus Improvement Authority Board” and created by state legislation, last year suggested a $523 million, 45,000-seat open-air stadium with a shading system. That committee was made up mostly of gaming industry leaders and Board of Regents members.
But Snyder believes a domed stadium for seating of up to 60,000 is needed to serve not only the UNLV football team but the entire Southern Nevada tourism market. Snyder said a domed stadium would function like a giant Thomas & Mack Center, a neutral sports and entertainment venue for the Las Vegas market.
Snyder noted that only 16 percent of the Thomas & Mack’s revenues are actually generated by university events and that major events pass over Las Vegas because the market lacks a major stadium facility.
Snyder suggested the new tourism infrastructure committee and Southern Nevada take the long view of 30-50 years and understand that a 60,000-seat domed stadium is the way to go to bring new major events to Las Vegas and even attract an NFL team down the road. Potential new events could be concerts and neutral site football games between major college teams.
At the last tourism infrastructure committee meeting in September, several event promoters said Las Vegas needs a big domed stadium to stage events year-round.
The Review-Journal reached out to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to find out its reaction to Snyder’s suggestion that the stadium be part of an overall funding package that would also include the LVCVA’s $2.5 billion convention center expansion and overhaul project.
The LVCVA offered this statement: “We are looking forward to presenting the Las Vegas Convention Center District (LVCCD) and the importance of our project in attracting business travelers to Las Vegas later this month. We are the convention capital of the country, and we need to ensure that we maintain that status by staying ahead of the competition. The convention, trade show and meetings industry is a critical piece of our tourism mix, and we need to make sure that we maintain our No. 1 status in that sector.”
LVCVA spokesman Jeremy Handel noted, “Right now we are focused on presenting the LVCCD to the committee later this month.”
Hill said one of the committee’s benefits is that it can “look at these projects as a whole instead of individually and prioritize them and come up with an overall set of recommendations that would include funding.”
Hill said the need for a new stadium has been demonstrated, but the new committee’s goal is to recommend the venue’s size and scope — and offer funding ideas.
Sandoval could not be reached for comment Friday.
UNLV still has some of its own infrastructure work to do for the stadium. University officials want to close a deal to buy the 42-acre stadium site at the Tropicana/Koval corner, which is across the street from the MGM Grand parking garage. UNLV hopes to buy the land by Dec. 18, and will need approval from the Board of Regents before that to borrow the money to close the deal.
The next Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting is Oct. 22 to discuss convention centers. The 11-member committee includes representatives from MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands.