WASHINGTON — The long-held ambitions of state education leaders to establish a North Las Vegas campus for UNLV would get a boost through a bill that was announced on Tuesday in Congress.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is finalizing legislation that would convey 2,000 acres of federal land near Nellis Air Force base to the Nevada System of Higher Education for a UNLV satellite that could someday dwarf the university’s main campus on Maryland Parkway.
The bill also would add 40 acres to the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, at the intersection of North Durango Drive and Elkhorn Road, and also 280 acres for the Pahrump branch of Great Basin College.
Its largest impact would benefit the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which state officials have argued is undersized at 340 acres shoe-horned a few blocks from the Strip.
"For our size and projected future, this is far too little," Gerry Bomotti, senior vice president for business and finance, said. Enrollment is 28,000 students.
An initial master plan envisions a variety of roles for a North Las Vegas campus focused on research and graduate studies, UNLV president David Ashley said on a conference call with Reid, university Chancellor Jim Rogers and other state college presidents.
Those include collaborations with the College of Southern Nevada, Nevada State College, Nellis Air Force Base and public-private research groups, he said. Expanses at the outer end of the campus would house large scale research on alternative energy and robotics.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a large piece of contiguous land," Ashley said. He added the property would be developed over a period of decades.
Unlike earlier drafts, Ashley said UNLV master plans no longer include a golf course, which at one point had been requested by the College of Hotel Administration for a field of study into golf course management.
"We are looking for a different kind of use," Ashley said. "I don’t think that public money ought to be used for a golf course."
Reid said the bill will be introduced on Thursday, which is expected to be one of the final days of this year’s session. He said he will work to pass it in the next Congress.
"This will be a landmark for Nevada’s education system," he said. "It is predicted the greater Las Vegas population will double by 2040 and the university system needs more room."
The legislation could turn on one potential hangup — the possibility of opposition from the Air Force, which has expressed growing concerns about Nellis missions being compromised by encroachment.
Reid said the Air Force earlier this year indicated "non-opposition" to the land conveyance. The military’s position was contingent on working out details of campus development.
The Reid bill would require the Board of Regents and the Air Force to sign an agreement before land could be officially transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the state.
"We will go over any development plans we have," Reid said. "It is extremely important this goes forward. I think it will be easy to work something out with the air base."