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September 22, 2014

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Anger taints regents’ vote on proposed UNLV stadium

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Justin M. Bowen

Craig Cavileer, president of the Silverton hotel-casino, presents a plan to the Board of Regents on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, on the proposed UNLV stadium.

UNLV Stadium/Board of Regents

UNLV president Neal Smatresk presents his case to the Board of Regents Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, in favor of the proposed UNLV stadium. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

This is a conceptual rendering of a proposed on-campus, multi-use stadium for UNLV shown Tuesday, February 1, 2011.

Scrum!

Two university regents and a lawyer for a rival developer locked arms Friday and tried to stop a fast-moving proposal by two prominent real estate developers to build an arena on the UNLV campus.

The opponents failed. For now.

In the end, the developers — Ed Roski and Craig Cavileer — got a green light on the project, but not without a public jostling and a taste of things to come.

The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents voted 11-1, with one abstention, to negotiate with the developers long enough to seek another green light from the state Legislature.

Carson City holds the purse strings of higher education. The session ends in June and if the developers’ proposal, which involves a tax district, isn’t reviewed in time, they might have to wait for a special session or another two years when lawmakers enter their next session.

The key issue was exclusivity — UNLV talking only to Roski and Cavileer — and hot words were exchanged among regents before they voted to grant it.

“The vote was critical,” Cavileer said after the meeting. “To go into this with the time, energy and money” requires exclusivity.

“We just want to get through this legislative session and be taken seriously. How could we go up to Carson City and not have the confidence of this university?” Exclusivity “gives the Legislature the confidence that we’re the real deal.”

On paper, the developers would seem to be shoo-ins. Roski is part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, and his Majestic Realty helped build Staples Center. Cavileer is president of the Silverton, which Roski owns.

But Friday was more like a skirmish.

The lawyer for the rival developer, Christopher Milam’s International Development Management, which wants to build an arena for UNLV sports teams in downtown Las Vegas, raised the possibility of suing the regents.

Pat Lundvall said the regents were “auditioning” Roski and Cavileer and locking out other developers, such as her client.

Milam couldn’t go ahead with his plan if Roski and Cavileer build their sports complex near the Thomas & Mack Center.

Later, Lundvall said, “I don’t know necessarily that my client is screwed, but what I do know is that the university may face a legal challenge.

“What we’re trying to impress upon the regents from a pure common-sense standpoint is that it makes sense to look at other people and that they’re legally required to do that.”

Bart Patterson, vice chancellor of administrative and legal affairs, advised the regents that they could vote for exclusivity without looking at bids from rival developers.

During the debate, Regent Cedric Crear accused the developers of “bad taste” and “a public spectacle” by holding a news conference a week before their presentation before the board.

He asked pointed questions about cost, and Cavileer responded, as he has before, there was no price tag because a preliminary design hadn’t been fleshed out.

Crear pressed, “I know you guys have a number in your head.” Later, he wondered about UNLV and the public’s risk. “How do we not get stuck with the bill?”

Click to enlarge photo

Craig Cavileer, president of the Silverton hotel-casino, presents a plan to the Board of Regents on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011, regarding a proposed UNLV stadium.

At this point, the regents’ chairman, James Dean Leavitt, who favors Roski and Cavileer, asked to wind up his questioning because regents needed to catch planes. Crear accused Leavitt of cutting him off. Tempers flared.

Regent Mark Alden, another skeptic, suddenly stood up and bellowed, “Let him ask questions!”

More hot words, then the vote. Alden voted against, saying exclusivity was unnecessary and that he wanted to head off the possibility of litigation by unhappy rival developers.

Crear abstained. He is a longtime public backer of the Las Vegas Arena Foundation, a nonprofit group that has proposed a 20,000-seat arena near the Strip.

The project is backed by Caesars Entertainment Corp., which would provide land for the arena, but opposed by gaming competitor MGM Resorts International because it involves public financing.

Marybel Batjer, Caesars Entertainment vice president of public policy and communications, is also an official with the foundation. Asked about suing the regents over their vote, she replied, “I don’t think we would ever enter into that kind of action.”

Asked about possible litigation, Cavileer replied, “Everybody is going to follow their own path, and we’ll see how it goes.”

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  1. With a wink and a nod, the old boys network is still firmly in place. Good job and great example.

  2. Unless a stadium is domed, or retractible dome, it is not worth it. Like the high speed rail, you need the most state of the art.

  3. Not sure how much clearer you can make it mred. The part of the headline that says, "proposed 40,000 seat domed stadium" did it for me.

    The other proposal just seems like you're trading one bad travel situation to your home games for another. Instead of going out to BFE and smelling the marsh, you get to go downtown and watch the bums pee in the alleys? The on-campus proposal is a marvelous, long overdue idea.

  4. Look up class action lawsuits involving Texas Pacific Group & Apollo....now Harrah's/Ceasars.

  5. LOL. An amazing meeting. They don't even have to disclose to the public what it may cost (other than the land 150 acres of UNLV land and a tax district) for the privilege to negotiate an exclusive agreement. Looks like this a done deal.

  6. So, the lawyer for the compteition objected to the exclusivity agreement and threatened to sue? Nice way to ask that your client's proposal be considered by the very people you intend to sue.

    And we have a regent who objects to the exclusivity agreement because he is behind a third, different stadium proposal? Did Crear mention that fact at the start of the meeting or did he wait until the vote or did the press have to actually ask why he abstained to get the reason? Since he's behind a competitive effort I can see why he objects to the exclusivity agreement-it would mean less money in his pocket.

    For Majestic to move forward and invest the time, effort, and money to even see if this is feasible it makes sense that they would want exclusivity. They are the private company footing the bill for everything, after all. And the agreement is only for five months, and no public money will be spent. This is only to fully develop the proposal.

  7. I agree with the competing developer: The domed stadium on campus will never be built, and all the rest is just a waste of time. The building would simply be too tall, since it is in direct line with a runway at McCarran Airport and less than half a mile away. The safety margin for aircraft taking off would simply be too thin. I don't know where else on campus it could be built, because the campus is essentially landlocked.

    I support the downtown sports complex proposal. I agree that an on-campus stadium would be more ideal for UNLV (especially the students), but there is simply no place to build it unless they demolish the Thomas and Mack and build it there. In that event the basketball team has no place to play while the new facility is being built. And forget the new dormitories. Great idea, but won't work for the same reasons.

  8. Though the public and developers make not like it, it's not always the case that the UN regents have to entertain competing proposals for the lease of UN land and development on it. As a result attorney Pat Lundvall better have a specific Nevada Revised Statutes section which she disclosed at the meeting, and also some case law to back it up, supporting her claims which The Sun reports.

    If Ms. Lundvall did cite a specific NRS in her comments, and The Sun didn't report it, shame on them because the public should be able to make their own decisions, by looking at the law, to decide whether the Regents are acting recklessly, and inviting costly litigation which could be avoided.

    Regents Crear and Alden were not speaking out inappropriately when asking how the financing of this mega-complex is going to be structured, so that the taxpayers do not get stuck with making payments if the project fails like the Las Vegas Monorail did.

    As for plans for the "special tax district" surrounding the new complex, which will provide sales tax revenue to pay for the new complex, I certainly hope that special tax district does not incorporate the UNLV Student Union which contains the student books store and restaurants where the students eat inexpensive food. It's been economically hard enough for UNLV students, given tuition increases, to pay for their education. Sticking the students with a 5% tax on their purchases at the Student Union to pay for this privately owned complex which the vast majority of students will never use would be VERY WRONG.

    Personally, I don't hold out a lot of hope that "municipal bond financing" of this complex, which is what Roski and Cavileer propose, will get off the ground in the near future. The market for sales of "municipal bonds" is so bad that just this past week, the City of Los Angeles was unable to attract any bond underwriter willing to purchase $55 Million in municipal bonds backed by a mortgage on that city's parking lots. With Nevada's economy in the toilet, and the State of Nevada's and thereby UNLV's finances being "under water" to the tune of a billion dollar annual deficit, I can't see municipal bond underwriters and bond buyers being wildly enthusiastic about their chances of being fully repaid with interest.

    In addition, the IRS sets a quota for each state each year, limiting the aggregate amount of "municipal bonds" which can be issued. I hope the municipal bond financing of this huge complex will not prevent the State of Nevada, its cities and counties, from getting a piece of that quota to build needed freeways, roads, sewers, water lines and other ordinary government buildings.

    As a result, the key point made by Regents Crear and Alden must be upheld. The State of Nevada's and UNLV's "full faith and credit" must not be used to promise or guarantee repayment of the bond financing of this huge facility.

  9. There are two futures at stake in regards to this issue:
    1. UNLV Athletics and the ability to make the school more than a commuter school by providing a real on campus living environment.
    2. Las Vegas' ability in the short term / long term to have a facility that is well above par to be able to secure a NHL, MLB or NBA team.

    The Thomas and Mack needs an upgrade. Sam Boyd is too far from campus. While it remains a great place to watch a game, parking is an issue and the cooridors are tight when the stadium is full.

    The fact that the NFR is being pursued by Cowboy Stadium also puts increased pressure on doing something.

    MGM Grand does not have any Suites and as the largest arena among the Casino facilities, it too is cramped when they host sold out events and it does not have the amenities to attract a pro team. Orleans is too small. Mandalay too small and without the amenities of the Orleans.

    The time has come for a new Arena facility to be built. The comments about not providing a figure about the cost of the building is a concern. Building a football stadium downtown does not solve UNLV's issues of trying to become an actual campus. However a sparkling new stadium would attract better players and make it a better experience for fans.

    Harrahs trying to get taxes to pay for them to build a facility on par with MGM seems a little too slick. Traffic would be a pain and continues to be ignored. Same too is if the facility would be on par to bring the NHL or NBA to Vegas and would Harrahs think beyond having this facility only serve their needs for a place to hold fights and special events. They dont even mention UNLV as a part of their plan.

    The Thomas and Mack drives so much revenue, UNLV can not afford to put their games in a facility where they can not make money from the venue. They also can not afford to lose the NFR and other events as they drive money to support the Athletic Department. Just do it right in either case, so we can have a facility that can stand up through the years as first class not as a Mandalay Bay events center or a University of Idaho Kibbie Dome situation. That wont get us an NBA or NHL team to come to Vegas. Do it right the first time so we dont have to put in renovations 10 years down the road to make it state of the art.