Nevada regents OK early deal toward UNLV stadium

By Oskar Garcia

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 11 2011 3:30 p.m. MST

LAS VEGAS — Nevada university regents on Friday gave the developer behind Staples Center in Los Angeles 150 days to exclusively negotiate with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on plans to build a 40,000 seat stadium on campus for football, basketball and other sports.

The preliminary agreement between UNLV and Majestic Realty Co. allows the Los Angeles developer that also owns the Silverton casino in Las Vegas to take their plan for 150 acres beyond conceptual sketches.

In supporting the proposal, UNLV President Neal Smatresk said the stadium along with student housing, retail and other components are necessary to elevate the university beyond a commuter school.

"We have to bring football home to our campus and provide our students with the amenities they associate with a major state university," he said.

The new stadium and a refurbished Thomas & Mack Center — where UNLV currently plays its basketball games — would prevent the school from losing revenue from special events moving elsewhere, Smatresk said.

"We stand to lose $5 million to $7 million a year if we lose our major events," he said, calling the Thomas & Mack the highest-grossing college arena in the country.

The stadium would be ready to host a professional sports team, but the plan doesn't hinge on an NBA, Major League Soccer or other professional franchise coming to Sin City, Silverton President Craig Cavileer said.

Majestic offered few new details about the project since unveiling the plans last week during a press conference. A flyover video showed renderings of what the developer hoped to create, but Cavileer told regents that final plans would need to be worked out — down to how many seats the stadium holds and whether it's domed or open-air.

Cavileer said there were no cost estimates or construction timetable because the plans were still in early stages.

To give an estimate now would be just "playing to the audience," he said.

The deal allows Majestic and UNLV to work out a plan with authorities including Clark County and aviation officials. The land on the west part of campus is close to the major airport that services Las Vegas, and aviation officials typically give input on building heights and other issues.

The agreement also allows time to seek state legislation to make the campus a special district so taxes generated there can be used to support the project. No legislation has been drafted, nor have Majestic and UNLV found a sponsor for their bill, Cavileer said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, a lawyer representing developers of a three-stadium project in downtown Las Vegas said the agreement would bind the university to a long-term deal without a public bidding process under state law.

Pat Lundvall, representing International Development Management, said it would be interested in offering a competing proposal if it would be allowed.

"You're auditioning Majestic without the opportunity for any other competitor to come in here and to audition and to compete," Lundvall said.

Lundvall said the agreement would not affect the three-stadium proposal for downtown.

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