weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Swenson Street near UNLV renamed University Center Drive

UNLV kicked off homecoming week Tuesday by unveiling a new street name intended to better tie in the university to the community surrounding it.

After a yearslong student-driven effort, Swenson Street is now University Center Drive. It runs about 2 miles from McCarran International Airport, past the Thomas & Mack Center and the UNLV campus, winding down to Desert Inn Road, where the name changes to Joe W. Brown Drive.

“I hope you’re filled with pride each time you see University Center Drive emblazoned on signs along this entire street,” UNLV President Marta Meana said to students, alumni and staff at a campus event. “Because of you, millions of visitors will leave the airport and recognize that they arrived on our doorstep.”

It will cost the university $260,000 to change the 40 street signs along the route and to cover other expenses related to the venture. The name change is already reflected on GPS apps like Google Maps and Waze.

UNLV spokesman Tony Allen said the school never discovered who Swenson Street was named for, but it is believed that former casino owner Wilbur Clark named the streets in the area.

The change comes after over four years of work, involving students and alumni of the Lee Business School at UNLV and interacting with neighboring businesses and stakeholders, according to John Osborn, assistant dean for external relations for the business school.

“It’s a project that started in October of 2015 when an alumni of the business school came forward with the idea to change Swenson to something related to the university to show greater alignment between the university and the rest of the valley,” Osborn said. “We took it on as a project of the business school, we have a chapter of the American Marketing Association and we thought it would be a great student project.”

Students were involved over the four years of the project, with a student leader always working closely with Osborn, a faculty member and an adviser, conducting research, including focus groups and comparing how other cities recognized their universities through street names.

One of those students, Brandon Bragg, a UNLV graduate who works in digital marketing for Boyd Gaming Corp., said it was cool to see the years of work come to life.

“I’m pretty proud of it,” Bragg said. “I think we did a lot of good work for it and it’s really cool for the university as well. Whenever people are driving by, sometimes they don’t know there’s a campus here and I think this rebranding of Swenson, having it say University Center Drive, it will it will be good for the community.”

After coming up with several possible names, UNLV worked with McCarran, tourism and city and county officials and other area stakeholders, Osborn said.

The Clark County Planning Commission unanimously approved the change last year, and signage updates are expected wrap up by year’s end.

After reaching out to affected businesses and property owners along the now University Center Drive, the school found support for the name change.

UNLV is responsible for all costs businesses and residents along the route face with the name change, including business cards and business license name changes, marketing and the sign-changing process itself.

“It was really a civic lesson in how to get something done,” Osborn said.

Now that the years of hard work and learning for staff, students and alumni has paid off, Osborn said it’s a bittersweet moment.

“We’re thrilled to have that recognition for UNLV and that acknowledgment of our contribution and our role in this community,” he said. “It’s been a long haul for everybody involved.

They (students) keep graduating on us, which is great. The student involvement has been the sweet spot through all of this. Every year we pretty much started with a new student as the lead and that means we have several of our alumni, new fresh alumni, that will be able to point to that (the street name change) as an accomplishment.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.