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Alan Snel

UNLV plans to ask LVCVA, casinos for $125 million for stadium

11 January 2013

LAS VEGAS -- UNLV will ask the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and Las Vegas's biggest casinos for about $125 million to help pay for a new domed football stadium on campus, Don Snyder, UNLV's pointman for the project, said Thursday.

In an interview at his campus office, Snyder said the request is appropriate because the casinos and tourism businesses will be the "biggest economic beneficiaries" of the 60,000-seat venue that UNLV is calling the "megaevent center." It's part of an overall campus redevelopment project that includes a student village with housing and retail that has been dubbed "UNLV Now."

Snyder, dean of UNLV's hotel administration college, sprearheaded The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and Fremont Street Experience public-private partnership projects. He said UNLV is justified in asking for the financial contribution from the gaming and tourism communities. He cited a $74,500 study by a University of Michigan consultant sports economist that showed a new stadium would generate $393 million in economic spending from at least 15 new events at the venue.

Snyder didn't say how much money the university hopes to get from each donor, or when it might be requested.

Contacted late Thursday, the LVCVA said in a statement that, "UNLV plays an important role in our community, and the LVCVA understands the potential of the proposed stadium project. Tourism is the lifeblood of Southern Nevada's economy, which is why the LVCVA's priority is promoting Las Vegas to attract visitors.

With the Southern Nevada tourism industry in a gradual recovery, having the necessary resources to promote and market our No. 1 industry to the world is critical."

Snyder declined to name a price for the stadium project, saying the final cost can't be finalized until consultants determine how high the stadium can be in light of its proximity to McCarran International Airport. After the Federal Aviation Administration provides that data, consultants can determine how deep they will need to dig below-grade for the stadium, a key element in the cost of construction.

University officials have in the past said they would look for donations from casino and tourism interests, without naming a dollar amount. On Wednesday, UNLV Regent Kevin Page told the Review-Journal that the Las Vegas gaming community needs to "buy in financially."

Mark Rosentraub, the University of Michigan sports economist who conducted the economic impact study, estimated the stadium project at $800 million to $900 million.

UNLV regents are to discuss the project Friday but Snyder said he will not provide board with a project cost estimate. He also said the public/private split between UNLV and private developer Majestic Realty for the project costs and the revenues generated by the stadium has not been finalized.

"There are a lot of moving parts. This is a complicated mother," said Snyder, a former bank and casino executive.

Studies have shown that the public usually contributes about two-thirds of the costs of public/private stadiums, while the private partner contributes about a third.

Snyder did say that Majestic will be responsible for any stadium construction cost overruns. In addition, the project's joint budget will include new infrastructure to serve the venue and to relocate campus athletic fields, but not student housing and retail space that will be built by Majestic.

Snyder said he will present final project costs and the public/private split for construction and revenue at a Feb. 28 regents meeting. UNLV plans to ask state lawmakers for a tax increment financing district that would encompass the campus, allowing taxes collected from retail development and sales to be used for the stadium. The Legislature goes into session on Feb. 4.

Majestic's stadium pointman, Craig Cavileer, plans to unveil a stadium model and renderings at Friday's Regents meeting. Majestic has hired sports and entertainment architect Dan Meis to design the stadium.

Snyder said he is impressed with the stadium's architecture.

"It's very visual. It has to be photogenic. It needs to be iconic," he said.

Snyder said there will be a public workshop on stadium details between Friday's Regents meeting and the Feb. 28 session.