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December 22, 2014

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Six questions:

UNLV campus arena gets thumbs-up from Vegas scion

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Thomas A. Thomas

Proposed UNLV Stadium

Invited guests look over conceptual renderings during a preview of a proposed on-campus, multi-use stadium for UNLV on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Thomas A. Thomas, a member of one of the valley’s founding families, was present at the creation of modern Las Vegas.

So his endorsement of a proposal to build a sports arena at UNLV carried special weight.

His father, E. Parry Thomas, who will be 90 in June, helped finance the casino industry and was an adviser to Howard Hughes and Steve Wynn.

The elder Thomas’ banking acumen and the real estate savvy of his business partner, Jerry Mack, helped create what is now UNLV. Parry and Jerry are the names behind Thomas & Mack Center.

The younger Thomas, 53, spoke recently for the plan by Ed Roski and Craig Cavileer to build a 40,000-seat sports center on campus. The center would host the Rebels and possibly an NBA team. The developers would also renovate the Thomas & Mack, which seats 18,000 but is nearly 30 years old. There would also be an extensive retail component and student housing.

Thomas is the managing partner of the family firm, Thomas & Mack Co.

Where does your enthusiasm for education come from?

My dad was raised in a Mormon community in Utah, and Jerry Mack was raised in a Jewish community in Los Angeles. Embedded in Mormon culture and Jewish culture is an almost singular focus on education.

What’s wrong with the Thomas & Mack Center?

Go to the Thomas & Mack and Staples Center in Los Angeles. They’re similar in size. Thomas & Mack is sized for NBA numbers, but it is not designed for NBA patrons. It does not have all of the luxury boxes. It does not have a wonderful restaurant that looks out over the game. It does not have standing-room areas where people can be in a restaurant or bar, then watch part of the game and then go back and socialize.

Why do you think the Roski-Cavileer plan is better than the off-campus plans for arenas?

Wouldn’t it be ideal to have a stadium that brings football onto campus, as well as the NBA and the Rebels? And for millions of people coming through McCarran (International) Airport and hitting Tropicana (Avenue), the first thing they would see is UNLV with one of the finest state-of-the-art stadiums, and a mystique that any campus in America would die for.

Why is UNLV as a residential campus important?

Las Vegas has 2 million people. We have just one university, UNLV. Our focal point has to be in making UNLV the very finest on-campus experience that we possibly can.

Can hurdles, like building near McCarran, be overcome?

From a development standpoint, due diligence is starting with a piece of dirt and analyzing everything, from the underground utilities to the height restrictions of the FAA.

What about the next 50 years?

If you’re going to build a stadium and student housing and other amenities, you also have to tie that into the vision of graduate programs. Will UNLV have a medical school, for example? All those things have to be taken into consideration because this is a landlocked campus.

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  1. This interview is absurd. If he wants to pony up the money great, otherwise he is just another guy with an opinion. So what?

  2. Ok, time for some facts.

    Thomas has no vested financial interest in the UNLV Now! project. The T&M building is named, in part, for a member of his family.

    The project IS privately financed. Private money + public land = stadium, renovated T&M, campus housing, retail, and hotels. Private company fronts the entire cost and takes all the risk-INCLUDING IF IT FAILS, YOU NAYSAYERS. They hold and manage the property until they make their money back plus profit. Then the whole thing gets turned over to UNLV for no cost.

    The only problem with this scenario is not with the plan, but with nutty Republicans. Nutty Republicans in this state like Sandogibbons want to destroy higher education before UNLV Now! is even built. So, if Democrats can stop the nutty Sandogibbons and his crowd, private business can help our state take a big step out of the recession by creating a fantastic public/private partership that has succeeded in plenty of places elsewhere (take ASU for example).

    Then again, nutty Republicans could ignore the private sector, blow the whole thing up, and then blame someone else. Taking responsibility is not their strong suit, after all.

  3. Mr. Hilton--The project will rely on sales tax monies diverted to securitize the bonds (a dedicated flow of cash). That is not private money. It will require the legislature to create a special district encompassing the UNLV campus. The project will use UNLV land (public university property) Tell me how this is private?

  4. Mr. Hilton:

    Please join reality and check your facts. If it were a matter of private money, the University could forge ahead. It is not, sir. There is no shortage of hotel rooms and shops sitting empty in this town that were financed by private investors. Right now, these folks are in a heap of trouble.

    Now comes UNLV, where the public will underwrite this project through the diversion of tax revenues to carry the debt. See the lesson of the stadium in Reno where the Aces play.

    Thus far we have seen very little of billionaire real estate developer's cash. I wonder why?

    As for the fantasies expressed by Mr. Thomas in this article, he can certainly pony up to pay so millions exiting the airport can view this white elephant.

  5. Monitoring UNLV stadium stories to show his disdain for the project has become a full-time job for Turrialba.

    Thankfully, it seems a majority of the city sees the need and wants this built (and disagrees with the troll(s)).

  6. Care to correct errors in my statement snyderm?

  7. A lot of people want the arena. It is just no one wants to pay for it. That is the rub.

  8. Ok, Turrialba. Pay attention.

    The sales tax monies this project needs are created by the shops, housing, arena, hotel, and other commerce that will be built first. No current sales tax monies will be lost or diverted. If not for this project, there would be NO additional sales tax monies, Get it?

    There will be no public cost. The land you mention is being used as a race track for tumbleweeds and closed rental car shops. Its not being used for anything else. So, again, no public cost.

    It is a matter of private money. Private corporations will build it with their money, bringing 2000 construction jobs to the valley, and the special tax district will pay them back through the sales tax. When that is finished, the sales tax will revert to the state, since its a state institution that will run it (UNLV).

    The billionaires, as you call them, have not put up any money yet because its not time to build. If you spent the time to listen, you would learn that they want to hear from UNLV and the county first regarding their design. Then they will need the legislature to pass the special tax district this session. They are prepared to change the plans to meet the needs of the university and the community at large.

    And I think I'll trust the expertise of those who built the Staples Center over a blogger. Thanks.

  9. OH Hilton don't be a fool. You seem to suppose that first, these are a diversion of revenues, tax revenues used to support services.

    The assumption is first, that revenues will be sufficient to cover costs and that any revenues will not siphon revenues from other businesses. If this were private monies than there is no need to go the legislature.

    To date I have seen no private money. Any private monies that flow will be guaranteed by the public (hence the need for a tax district and secured revenues).

    The boys who built Staples can't even tell us what the project will cost. Feel free to trust your money to these guys, just don't trust mine. The roadsides of the US are littered with this stuff and the public will be held holding the bag if this doesn't work financially.

    I would be happy to have the university donate the use of property, but let the boys bring their own money.

  10. Personally, I want the Arena. But then again, I also want a city that has a positive identity, supports education, and can come together to solve a budget crisis.