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Alan Snel

UNLV may trade Sam Boyd Stadium to Clark County for a better site

1 November 2015

If sports players can be traded, why not a stadium?

UNLV officials covet 38 acres of Clark County land sandwiched between Thomas & Mack Center and a 42-acre site for a possible new stadium, so one scenario could be the university considering swapping Sam Boyd Stadium for the county property.

But that deal would only be considered if a multi-purpose/UNLV football stadium is built on the 42 acres at Tropicana Avenue and Koval Lane, across from McCarran International Airport.

The notion of UNLV including Sam Boyd Stadium in a land swap with Clark County is significant because valley residents have been wondering what would happen to Sam Boyd Stadium if UNLV gets a stadium built on campus. Sam Boyd Stadium seats about 38,000 fans and sits seven miles from campus near the Las Vegas Wash. Many event promoters believe Sam Boyd is too small for a market the size of Las Vegas.

"If there was a stadium on that (42-acre) site we would likely want to talk with the county about some trade of properties that included the current Sam Boyd Stadium site," said Gerry Bomotti, UNLV senior vice president for finance and business.

"If there was a new stadium on this 42 acres at some point in the future, I don't see how UNLV would ... continue to maintain and operate Sam Boyd Stadium, so it is very logical we would have discussions with the county, since they own all the land surrounding Sam Boyd Stadium," Bomotti said in an email Friday.

The Review-Journal reached out to Clark County government twice in the last several weeks for comment on the 38 acres, but no staff member was available to comment. Clark County government offices were closed Friday for Nevada Day.

There are several moving parts to this land equation of a total of 80 acres.

For example, besides the 38-acre deal with Clark County, UNLV wants to buy the other 42 acres by Dec. 18 and would need Board of Regents approval before that date to borrow money to buy that land from Wells Fargo for $50 million. The 42-acre parcel is west of the county's 38 acres.

Plus, UNLV desires a covered stadium with at least 55,000 seats on the 42 acres and wants to partner with the gaming, hotel and tourism industries to build it. The stadium concept is a separate process from buying the 42 acres.

Earlier this month, Don Snyder, former acting UNLV president who now carries the title of presidential adviser for strategic initiatives, said he hopes a new gubernatorial tourism infrastructure committee would package the stadium with the LVCVA's convention center improvements and Southern Nevada transportation updates under a single funding umbrella.

For years, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has been interested in the county's 38 acres, which are vacant and sit across from McCarran.

And as recent as Monday, UNLV Planning and Construction Executive Director David Frommer met with Clark County about fashioning a general agreement called an "MOU," or memorandum of understanding for the land. The MOU is not a final agreement document; that is, it represents the mutual support and cooperation between the two parties on an issue.

In fact, UNLV had reached an MOU with Clark County about the 38 acres long before the separate 42-acre site came into play, Bomotti said. That was a few years ago when UNLV considered a previous "mega-events" stadium proposal that has since been shelved. But the new stadium proposal has surfaced, so a new MOU needs to be drafted.

It's premature for UNLV to identify any exact elements of any new land deal with Clark County because those depend on the final uses of the 42-acre site to the west, Bomotti said.

UNLV discussed possible land uses on the total 80 acres during a recent Board of Regents meeting this month.

UNLV submitted a planning document to the Regents that offered two scenarios based on whether a stadium was built or not. That document can be found online here.

Under the stadium scenario, UNLV proposes 200,000 square feet of office space; 120,000 square feet of public-private commercial development; 280 housing units; 8 acres of athletic fields and facilities; 10 acres for the stadium and 3,100 parking spaces.

Under a campus village, nonstadium scenario, UNLV proposes 600,000 square feet of office space; the same 120,000 square feet of commercial development; 550 housing units; the same eight acres for athletic fields; and 3,400 parking spaces.

One of UNLV's objectives is to move athletic/recreation fields from the campus' west side to the 80 acres to free up land there for academic space and parking.

The combined 80 acres sit across from McCarran International Airport, so the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration will offer comments on the land's uses, too.

"There are various levels of airport/FAA issues for most of this land, so that has to be considered on specific uses," Bomotti said.