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August 30, 2014

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UNLV president disappointed that stadium bill failed

Neal Smatresk

Neal Smatresk

UNLV President Neal Smatresk said Wednesday he was “terribly disappointed” a bill that would have created a special tax increment finance district for a proposed 40,000-seat domed stadium near UNLV failed in the final hours of the legislative session Monday.

Senate Bill 501 bundled three Las Vegas-area stadium proposals — located near UNLV, the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Smatresk surmised the “unusual” packaging of stadiums might have caused its downfall.

“The combined complexity of the proposal gave it enough extra weight that it did not pass,” Smatresk told 500 UNLV students, professors and staffers on Wednesday during a budget meeting. “It is with sadness that I tell you we did not get that done.”

The proposal is far from dead, however, Smatresk said. UNLV is looking into alternative funding sources for the stadium, which is still being discussed among stakeholders, he said.

“We’re determined to press on,” Smastresk said. “We’re committed to a vision, and when you’re committed to a vision, you don’t take one step back. You keep pushing.”

Smatresk called the proposed stadium a “brand-changer and name-changer” for UNLV. The arena would be part of a 150-acre master-planned development, including retail space and student housing, at Tropicana Avenue and Paradise Road.

The stadium, which was announced with fanfare in February, would be built through a public-private partnership with real estate mogul Ed Roski and Silverton Casino Lodge President Craig Cavileer.

No academic dollars would be spent on the project, Smastresk said, although revenue and proceeds from ticket sales and rent may be used.

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  1. This was the best of the three possible arena proposals-Charwoman Kirkpatrick even said as much during the hearings in the Taxation Committee that were held on SB501.

    So, why didn't SB501 pass if the UNLV proposal was so good? Two reasons. First, the legislation was drawn up in order to make the three proposals (the 3 stadium Manadalay project, the Downtown project, and the UNLV project) compete with each other to "win" the special taxation district. It would have been MUCH better if the legislation had been written to support a single project. Both the Mandalay and the Downtown project were VERY FLAWED-asking for tax money that currently exists to be spent on their proposals in order for them to be successful; the UNLV project did not. The UNLV project was going to reinvest ONLY sales tax and property tax dollars that would have been created AFTER the stadium and retail districts were built. After the investors were paid off, the sales and property tax dollars would revert to the state and county. In other words, the UNLV project would have created additional sales and property tax money for the state and county that would be collected after the investors were paid off. The other two projects wanted existing tax dollars up front to guarantee to their investors and place the taxpayers on the hook for either project-a situation that neither the politicians nor those they represented wanted. Putting these three unequal projects together in the same bill doomed it from the start because it made it so complicated. A UNLV project paid for up front entirely by private dollars whose investors would be paid off only with tax monies created by a stadium and residential area that would not otherwise exist without their efforts is easy to support. Making sure that the financal support for bonds and diverting existing taxes to make sure that the other two projects were viable allows too much chance for taxpayers to get the shaft.

    The second reason SB501 failed was timing. A bill that satisfies the needs of three competing stadium proposals that are using different means of financing can't be introduced in the last week of the session-it has to be introduced in the first week. The UNLV project could have been introduced in the first week because it was unveiled months prior. For some reason, Sen. Horsford, the sponsor of the bill, wanted all three projects represetned in the bill and then decided to introduce it at the end of the session in front of a very smart senator, Sen. Kirkpatrick, who he should have known would pick it apart to protect the taxpayer. Which, thank God, she did.

    So, whats the lesson from SB501? Get behind a single project that doesn't force the casino barons to compete with each other and place both its construction and its management in the hands of people who have been doing this for decades. For these reasons, the UNLV proposal is still the best.

  2. The roads to any Stadium should be able to carry the automobile traffic in and out without hours of tie-ups. That eliminates all downtown stadiums including UNLV.

    The movement of 10-20,000 automobiles to attend one function, on top of normally heavy evening traffic would tie Tropicana into knots and prevent many attendees from coming again.

    People going to see a football game need not sit next to the University to enjoy the game. They would probably enjoy it more in open spaces with easy access. UNLV doesn't have enough space as it is for classes, let alone a football stadium to take up more parking and open land.

    A 'Greek' village does not need to accompany a football stadium and should be a separate issue, since people attending a football game will not be visiting the Greeks at the same time. Personally, I think a Turkish Bazaar would draw a lot more visitors.

    The motivations were financial pay-back, not academics. Prestige was tied to the wrong set of values.