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UNLV stadium consultant projects big events, but board members are unsure

A UNLV stadium board consultant on Thursday recommended building a new on-campus, multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 50,000 to 60,000 seats and offered a slew of proposed events the stadium could potentially host.

The two-hour session was a significant step for the 11-member panel, which heard for the first time proposed numbers on capacity, club seats (1,000-2,000), luxury suites (50-60) and a hot new trend — loge boxes (20-30). The proposed capacity is similar to that of a previous University of Nevada, Las Vegas stadium proposal discarded a year ago.

The consultant, Adam Kerns, project manager for Plato, Texas-based Conventions Sports & Leisure, also listed types of events the stadium could potentially stage in addition to UNLV football, including speculating that a Major League Soccer (MLS) team could call it home.

Kerns’ list includes 17 MLS games, six major music festivals, two Ultimate Fighting Championship fight shows, three rugby events, two neutral-site college football games and a new bowl game.

If that wish list came true, that would mean 48 annual events creating attendance of 1.586 million, dwarfing the 18 events and turnstile attendance of 296,000 projected for Sam Boyd Stadium in 2014. The potential attendance of nearly 1.6 million fans is based on a retractable roof stadium, which is the most expensive option of the four stadium scenarios under discussion. The other three are domed, shaded open-air, and open-air.

Kerns said he based event and attendance numbers on interviews with event promoters, but several board members challenged some of his event projections.

Member Rick Arpin, of MGM Resorts International, noted that his company is trying to rope in major music festivals, and said he doubts a UNLV stadium would be able to count on getting a half-dozen large festivals.

“We own a lot of land where we want them to come and you’ll be competing against us,” Arpin said.

Kerns later responded to Arpin’s warning, telling the Review-Journal that the CSL report is “always subject to further analysis.”

Board member Kirk Hendrick, UFC’s chief legal officer, also politely informed Kerns that it’s doubtful UFC would stage two annual fight show events at the proposed on-campus stadium.

“Two would be hard to commit to,” Hendrick later told the Review-Journal.

Kerns acknowledged that including a MLS team as a tenant is speculative, especially when the professional soccer league prefers open-air venues specifically built for soccer.

Kerns also presented premium seating recommendations — a major stadium issue because not only are clubs seats, suites and loges big revenue-makers but fans are also expected to make a one-time capital gift to UNLV.

Kerns based his premium seat data on about 2,100 surveys — about one percent of the UNLV athletic donors, season ticket-holders and occasional Sam Boyd Stadium ticket buyers.

Board chairman Don Snyder, UNLV’s acting president, has said he wants Las Vegas’ resort industry to be a partner in the on-campus stadium, expressed concern that the Strip’s big casino companies were not surveyed on the premium seating.

“What about resort interest in premium seating?” Snyder asked Kerns during his presentation.

In response, resort industry leaders will be invited to share their thoughts on the UNLV stadium.

In other UNLV stadium board news:

— Members Cedric Crear, Snyder and Arpin, along with Gerry Bomotti, UNLV senior vice president for finance and business, are travelling to Texas next week to tour Baylor University’s McLane Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and Texas Christian University’s Amon G. Carter Stadium.

— Board expenses will hit nearly $604,000, including $325,000 for its consultant, CSL.

— Estimated building costs will be presented at the next stadium board meeting on April 24.

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

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