Agassi school fund makes first investment in Las Vegas

The school campus at 9625 W. Saddle Ave. just got sent back a few grades.

Thanks to a funding assist from tennis great and native Las Vegan Andre Agassi, the vacant, former University of Phoenix site has been remodeled as Doral Academy West. The arts-centered K-8 charter school is the first local investment for the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, a nationwide effort to move charters from stopgap buildings into permanent campuses.

Doral, which opened in August, will celebrate its launch with a visit today from Agassi and Gov. Brian Sandoval. And its debut marks the beginning of a new push by Agassi to build charter schools in Southern Nevada.

“My belief is that (charter school) operators will want to do many more schools,” he said. “Frankly, we’re way overcrowded here, especially in K-8. Creating more seats is crucial.”

The Canyon-Agassi fund will help create those seats by serving as a real estate investment fund. Charters operate independently of school districts and are not guaranteed classroom space or building funds. Many charters rent space in former warehouses or business complexes. Canyon-Agassi renovates or builds facilities the schools lease to own.

Doral Academy West is different because it started in its new building, rather than operating in a temporary facility. Its opening is a homecoming of sorts for Agassi. He built his first charter school, the $40-million Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, in West Las Vegas in 2001. But when he helped start up the Canyon-Agassi fund in 2011, he told the Review-Journal that Nevada’s below-average per-pupil spending, pricey commercial land and education-financing laws might keep him from building more charters here.

Things are different today. The cost of commercial property has fallen dramatically, and building vacancies are still well above normal levels. And in 2013, the Nevada Legislature opened charter access to state bond funds, which carry substantially lower interest rates than traditional bank loans, said Agassi Foundation spokesman Francisco Aguilar.

The changed market means Canyon-Agassi could bring “hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure to our community for best-in-class charter school operators that will be able to educate our children better than the public schools,” Agassi said.

Depending on project size, the investments could finance six to 30 local charters, Agassi said.

“I’m really proud to bring (the fund) here. I’m proud of Gov. Sandoval for being really instrumental in creating the bridge-to-ownership equity these operators can now access, and I’m thrilled to be raising real estate values around here,” Agassi said. “You build a school in an area that otherwise would have nothing, and now you’ve got 900 kids there, and ideally 1,800 parents coming every day. All of a sudden, that starts making businesses in the area a lot more attractive. It has multiple implications. For me to do this in my own backyard, I’m very proud.”

For Doral, the Canyon-Agassi fund allowed the “impossible” — a startup in a state-of-the-art, 56,000-square-foot college campus, said Principal Bridget Bilbray-Phillips.

“It lets us to come into the education system with some equal footing,” Bilbray-Phillips said. “One of the biggest challenges for charter schools is that their funding has to support the bricks and mortar, whereas the Clark County School District gets bond funding to support buildings. Canyon-Agassi freed up additional funding to utilize for our curriculum and materials and to get support directly into the hands of our teachers.”

The new building also supports the school’s academic mission, which involves incorporating arts into the curriculum. Elementary students research historical figures and reenact important events, complete with costumes and scenery. Middle-school students create original choreography, music or scripts based on what they learn in English class.

“Charter schools with an arts-integration focus are some of the highest-achieving in the country,” Bilbray-Phillips said. “Children are engaged, using different modalities to learn, and we see those successes in academic achievement throughout the country.”

With its new building, Doral’s mission is more secure. It cost about $9 million to build out the site, said Ryan Reeves, director of operations for educational management company Academica Nevada, which helped connect Doral Board Chairwoman Joani Williams with the Canyon-Agassi fund. The school is leasing the building from Canyon-Agassi, with an option to buy it in three years for $9.9 million — a 10-percent return for the investors.

“If we are stable, we can issue bonds and buy the building ourselves,” Reeves said. “The 10-percent return at buyback is unheard of for real estate development. Investors usually seek more from an entity that is brand new.”

Agassi and Bobby Turner, former chairman and CEO of Canyon Capital Realty Advisors in Los Angeles, launched the Canyon-Agassi fund with investors that included Citigroup, Intel Capital and Kansas City-based entrepreneurship think tank Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The fund started with $550 million in investments and loans to finance new buildings or to retrofit spaces for 40,000 students nationwide by September 2015 About 65 percent of the fund has been spent, helping complete 29 schools in Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. Its second local project, Somerset Academy of Las Vegas, is scheduled to open in August on Losee Road with 1,150 students. A third project, Doral’s Cactus Campus in Mountain’s Edge, also is on track for a fall opening.

For Agassi, there’s just one big problem: waiting lists. Doral Academy West has 900 students hoping for a seat. One Canyon-Agassi-funded charter school in Florida has 20,000 kids on its waiting list, he said.

So sometime in the spring, Canyon-Agassi will offer its second round of funding, this time roughly $750 million. It shouldn’t take more than a few months to raise capital now that the concept is proven, Agassi said.

“We’re going to have to turn people away. We have a track record that shows a return, and that shows a win-win across the board,” he said. “(Former International Game Technology Chairman and Canyon-Agassi investor) Charles Mathewson said to me, ‘Andre, it was like I’d just had one of the best meals of my life, and the chef told me afterward that it happened to be good for me as well.’ ”

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.

Ceremony Recognizes Refugee Students, Graduates
Rosy Mibulano, a graduate of Las Vegas High School who came to America from the Congo in 2015, was recognized in a ceremony for refugee students in Clark County. Like many other students relocated to Las Vegas from countries around the world, Rosy had a challenging high school experience, from learning English to adjusting to American customs and taking care of her family. On top of that, she wants to go to school to become a nurse so she can take care of her mother, who suffers from diabetes. The annual Refugee Recognition Ceremony celebrates the enormous lengths these young adults go through to create a new life for themselves. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Water leak at Mandalay Bay convention center
The convention center area of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas experienced major flooding Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Melinda Cook
Hollywood Memorabilia Up For Grabs at Las Vegas Auction
Elvis Presley's car, Marilyn Monroe's bras, Han Solo's blaster, and Jerry Lewis's "Nutty Professor" suit are just some of the items that are up for auction at Julien's Auctions at Planet Hollywood June 22 and 23. The auction's viewing room at Planet Hollywood is open to the public 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Saturday at Planet Hollywood. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Springs Preserve Exhibit Shows Off "Nature's Ninjas"
"Nature's Ninjas" arrives at the Springs Preserve, in an exhibit and live show featuring critters that come with natural defenses, from armadillos to snakes, poison dart frogs to scorpions and tarantulas (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossRoads of Southern Nevada psychiatric urgent care to open in Las Vegas
Jeff Iverson, who operates the nonprofit sober living facility Freedom House, is opening a private addiction treatment center that will operate a detoxification center and transitional living for substance users trying to recover. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser gives update of officer-involved shooting
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser provides an update about an officer-involved shooting at Radwick Drive and Owens Avenue in the northeast Las Vegas on Thursday. A robbery suspect was shot and killed. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Wayne Newton surprises burglars
Wayne Newton and his wife, Kathleen, arrived at their southeast Las Vegas home shortly before midnight on Wednesday to find two burglars inside their house. The burglars fled and were seen heading north through the property. Las Vegas police quickly set up a perimeter and launched an extensive search of the area, but the suspects were able to escape. It was unclear if the burglars got away with anything of value. Several items, under the watchful eyes of the police, were seen on the ground near the home's main driveway. Neither Newton, nor his wife, were injured. The Newtons were not available for comment.
Police Officers Turn Off Body Cameras
In four separate body camera videos from the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting released Wednesday, officers in a strike team are instructed to turn their body cameras off and comply with the request.
Debra Saunders reports from Singapore
Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent talks about the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.
How long will North Korea's denuclearization take?
In Singapore, Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent Debra Saunders asks President Donald Trump how long North Korea's denuclearization will take. White House video.
LVCVA purchase of gift cards hidden
A former LVCVA executive hid the purchase of $90,000 in Southwest Airlines gift cards in records at the agency. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, said the money was for promotional events and did not disclose that it was for gift cards. Lawson also instructed Southwest employees to submit invoices without mentioning the purchases were for the cards. More than $50,000 of the cards cannot be accounted for. The convention authority is publicly funded . Lawson recently resigned.
Kim Jong Un visits Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his entourage visited the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore briefly Monday night, local time. (Video by Philip Chope)
Coca-Cola Bottle Purse Has 9,888 Diamonds
Designer Kathrine Baumann and jeweler Aaron Shum set the Guinness World Record for most diamonds (9,888) set on a handbag. The Coca Cola bottle-shaped purse was on display at the Coca Cola Store on the Strip. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sentosa Island a pleasure resort with a pirate past
The site of Tuesday's U.S.-North Korea summit is known for theme parks and resorts. But before that, it was known as a pirate island. (Debra Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Judge Sandra Pomrenze's comment about girl's hair
Nevada Races Full of Women From Both Sides
It's already been a historic election season for women in politics. Record numbers of women are running for political office all over the country - including Nevada. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
East Las Vegas home damaged by fire
Clark County Fire Department crews responded to a house fire in east Las Vegas Thursday morning. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
911 call: Mom tries to get to son shot at Route 91
A woman stuck on the interstate during the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, tries to get to her son. 911 call released by Las Vegas police.
Las Vegas 911 caller reports people shot on Oct. 1
A 911 caller on Oct. 1, 2017, reports several people shot at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.
911 call from woman under stage in Las Vegas shooting
A 911 call from a woman underneath the stage at the Route 91 Harvest festival during the Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas shooting.
LVCVA facing scandal over gift cards
LVCVA is facing a growing scandal over airline gift cards. LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest Airline gift cards between 2012 and 2017. Now auditors can’t account for more than $50,000 of the cards. CEO Rossi Ralenkotter and his family used $16,207 in gift cards on 56 trips. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, was responsible for buying and distributing the cards. He recently resigned.
Siblings separated in the foster care system get a day together
St. Jude's Ranch for Children and Cowabunga Bay Cares program partnered to bring 75 siblings together for the day to play on the water slides and in the pools at the Henderson water park. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People flee the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Las Vegas police released footage from a camera on Mandalay Bay of the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Aaliyah Inghram awarded medal of courage
Aaliyah Inghram, a 10-year-old girl who was shot while protecting her 18-month-old brother and 4-year-old cousin during a shooting on May 8, awarded medal of courage. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Las Vegans Pack Public Lands Open House
A crowd filled the Clark County Library conference room Tuesday afternoon where Clark County officials hold their first -- and possibly only -- public meeting on plans to open almost 39,000 acres of federal land for development just outside the Las Vegas metropolitan area. County commissioners are set to vote June 19 on a potentially controversial resolution seeking federal legislation that would set aside tens of thousands of acres for conservation while giving Nevada’s largest community more room to grow. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police search Henderson Constable's home and office
Las Vegas police served search warrants Tuesday at Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell's home and office. The investigation was sparked by a Las Vegas Review-Journal story showing Mitchell wrote himself $70,000 in checks, used ATMs at casinos and video poker bars, and traveled to places his adult children live. All using county funds. Police refused to comment but Mitchell's attorney said he did nothing wrong.
Vegas Golden Knights fans shows his colors for community
Vegas Golden Knights superfan Lynn Groesbeck has wrapped his new truck with Knights logos and images. He loves how the Golden Knights are bringing community back to Las Vegas. People stop him on the street to take photos and share his support. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like