UNLV seeks to pursue commercial development at stadium site

UNLV officials are looking at commercial developments including a 30,000-square-foot entertainment building, restaurants and retail stores as possible money-makers to help buy a 42-acre football stadium site at Tropicana Avenue and Koval Lane, near the MGM Grand parking garage.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas officials need to generate the revenue because they want to buy the land from Wells Fargo for $50 million, whether a $523 million, 45,000-seat stadium is built or not. Even if the stadium is not built, UNLV says it still needs the land for uses such as classrooms.

Gerry Bomotti, UNLV senior vice president for business and finance, recently outlined the possible development plans when he updated a Board of Regents committee on the university’s proposed land deal.

“We believe we can monetize the land along Tropicana in public/private partnerships, but it is hard to estimate those values right now, and they vary significantly as to whether there is a stadium there eventually or not,” Bomotti wrote in an email.

“We are assuming that for about five years we would have to hold the land before we could see these other revenue stream options,” he said.

In addition to the 42-acre site, UNLV also wants to acquire 38 acres controlled by Clark County that sits between the stadium site and the Thomas & Mack Center. So in effect, a total of 80 acres is in play.

UNLV is working with Clark County on a general memorandum of understanding for the 38 acres, Bomotti said. That agreement does not include specific details on the land transfer, so the specifics regarding compensation and value would have to be hammered out down the road, Bomotti said.

Bomotti has his work cut out to create a funding proposal to buy the 42 acres because the closing date is Dec. 18. He will appear before the Board of Regents’ Investment and Facilities Committee on Oct. 23 to update the panel. The Board of Regents will not approve any allocations for UNLV to buy the 42 acres, so UNLV will have to borrow the money, Bomotti said.

UNLV’s stadium site planning consultant, SmithGroupJJR, prepared images that showed where the stadium would sit on the 42 acres. The consultant and UNLV are also working on connectivity issues such as how to link the stadium site with the rest of the campus and with local roads.

UNLV is paying its consultants $115,000 for the planning work, Bomotti said.

The Board of Regents would have to approve UNLV going into debt to pay the $50 million for the land.

“We would seek financing in the normal ways with the issuance of debt that was purchased by investors and we (would pay) back this debt like a home mortgage over time. All debt is technically under the Board of Regents and their authority, but the individual institution is responsible for the repayment,” Bomotti said.

“UNLV has the bonding capacity to execute this level of debt,” he said.

As of June 30, UNLV had an overall debt of $194.8 million, Bomotti said.

Regent Kevin Melcher, who chairs the facilities panel, said he can understand UNLV needing to buy more land. But university officials “will have to sell the funding source to the board,” he said.

Fellow Regent Mike Wixom said the land deal will have to work with or without a stadium.

“It has to be a good deal without the stadium,” Wixom said.

UNLV can make money from existing billboards on the 42 acres or by renting space to restaurant or retail developers.

The consultant, SmithGroupJJR, listed examples of UNLV-themed restaurants and quick-service restaurants that could be possible brands at the site. For example, they cited brands such as Dave & Busters and Pita Pit, but there has been no contact with them.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com. Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel

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