UNLV to approach lawmakers about needed Thomas & Mack Center renovations

UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center needs renovations, and university officials are moving to get funding approved to bring it up to code, officials said Friday.

The university hired several firms to evaluate the 30-year-old facility, determine what improvements are needed and provide an estimate for the renovations, said Gerry Bomotti, senior vice president for finance and business. UNLV paid about $200,000 to contract with the firms.

A final report concluded the facility needs several renovations that are estimated at $59.2 million, Bomotti said. That would include improvements to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, adding restrooms, replacing seats and the locker room as well as mechanical, plumbing and electrical updates.

The restrooms improvement is significant, Bomotti said. “We are very low in the ratio,” he said.

Certain improvements during a renovation are required to bring a facility up to code, said University of Nevada, Las Vegas President Neal Smatresk.

Officials have submitted materials about the planned renovations to Chancellor Dan Klaich, Bomotti said. It’s not certain whether the renovation will be an action item for the Board of Regents before it’s presented to the Legislature. Smatresk said university officials plan to speak to lawmakers about the project, but a date has not been set.

They hope to ask for slot tax revenue to finance the project, Bomotti said. The Nevada System of Higher Education gets about $15 million every year from the tax, and about half goes toward major renovations, he explained.

The system has had that funding source for more than 30 years, Bomotti said. That’s the same type of funding that helped build the Thomas & Mack three decades ago and has helped cover previous renovations, he added.

Smatresk stressed the project is in the preliminary stages.

“It’s not a sure thing that this is going to go through the Legislature or that it’s going to get approved,” Bomotti said. “It may not.”

However, university officials hope for success, he said. University officials did the groundwork because they had to find ways to keep the building operating.

If the project ultimately is approved by the Legislature, Smatresk said, the university would then seek bids on the work. The best time to do the renovations would be from the end of the basketball season to the beginning of the next season, he said, because events wouldn’t be disrupted.

The Thomas & Mack is home to two very profitable events, Smatresk said. The National Finals Rodeo and Professional Bull Riders events not only benefit the university, but the community.

“Those clients have expectations of the infrastructure of the facility and the ability to do business here,” he said.

That project is completely separate from the UNLVNow project that would build a $900 million “mega-event center,” Bomotti said. For that project, UNLV is working with legislative leaders on Assembly Bill 335, which would help the university, its stakeholders and the resort industry come together in a partner­ship to best envision the mega-event center project, Bomotti said. The legislation would facilitate and ensure that stakeholders are included in the process by creating an “authority,” similar to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

If it became law, AB335 also would create a revenue mechanism to help fund university costs for the UNLVNow project, Bomotti said.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at or 702-383-0440.

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