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Consultant sees TV gold in new UNLV stadium

In their pitch for a new on-campus stadium, UNLV officials and their consultants have rarely mentioned the university’s football team.

Until now.

UNLV stadium consultant Mark Rosentraub says a new on-campus venue — combined with the growing size of the Las Vegas region’s media market — could appeal to major football conference TV networks, to give the university leverage to join a BCS conference like the Pac-12 or Big Ten and to draw millions of dollars in new TV revenue.

A new University of Nevada, Las Vegas stadium would allow flexibility in game times and allow UNLV to play afternoon games, which appeal to college TV networks that want to offer the biggest slate of games possible, Rosentraub said. UNLV plays at night at Sam Boyd Stadium, seven miles from campus, because of the afternoon desert heat.

Revenue derived from playing in a big conference with a lucrative TV broadcast rights deal would deliver millions of dollars to UNLV — money that administrators could use to keep a lid on student fees and underwrite other sports programs.

A new on-campus venue “would let UNLV pursue its longer-term aspirational goal of being an attractive addition to a BCS conference and its TV network,” Rosentraub told the Review-Journal.

“Such a linkage for its football and basketball programs would enhance TV revenues allowing UNLV’s athletic program to minimize dependency on any other revenue sources, including student fees,” Rosentraub said.

The Las Vegas TV market is the 40th largest in the country, but Rosentraub argued its growth will land the TV market in the mid-30s in future years.

Rosentraub on Thursday is scheduled to appear before the UNLV stadium board to discuss the array of planned and recently-built college stadiums. The 11-member panel, made up of Regents, casino company representatives and public officials, is studying the need, scope, cost and funding of a proposed stadium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

UNLV previously floated a $900 million, 60,000-seat domed stadium concept with private developer Majestic Realty. But after cutting ties with Majestic, the university is now partnering with Las Vegas’ casino-hotel industry — through the stadium board — to determine whether a dome is needed and recommend the proposed stadium’s number of seats, size and price.

Universities across the country have jumped from their traditional conferences to other conferences in the name of increased TV revenue. Consider schools such as Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers, which have switched to the Big Ten.

The Big Ten has one of the biggest TV contracts in college sports. According to published reports, the Big Ten distributes $24 million to each school, with the TV payout spiking potentially to as much as $35 million in 2017, while the Pac 12 distributes about $21 million to each member school.

Those annual payments dwarf the $613,636 in national TV revenues that UNLV’s football program received this season.

In total, networks pay more than $10 billion in annual college football broadcast rights.

Former banker and ex-casino executive Don Snyder, who is spearheading the university’s push for a stadium as chairman of the stadium board, acknowledged the linkage between a new venue and appeal to BCS conferences and their TV partners.

“BCS conferences help define both our athletic and academic aspirations, and the enhanced media revenues which would result will be good for the university as a whole,” Snyder said Monday.

Regent Cedric Crear, a stadium board member, likes the concept.

“That’s one of the many positive factors that plays into why a stadium on campus makes sense,” Crear said.

Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, the non-profit that markets and promotes sports events and concerts in the region, warned that opening a new on-campus stadium is just one piece of the puzzle toward gaining membership in a BCS conference.

“It would enhance UNLV’s chances. It would be another piece of the puzzle to getting into a BCS conference but a new stadium by itself wouldn’t get UNLV into a conference,” Christenson said Monday.

Alan Snel can be contacted at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow Snel on Twitter at @BicycleManSnel.

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