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September 23, 2014

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Stakeholders like MGM Resorts openly worried about stadium’s cost, scope

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Paul Takahashi

A model of the UNLV Now stadium project is shown here at the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents meeting on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. UNLV and its private developer partners updated regents on the project, which now features a 100-yard-long video screen and six VIP suites seating 300 people.

UNLV Now Stadium

A model of the UNLV Now stadium project is shown here at the Nevada System of Higher Education's Board of Regents meeting on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. UNLV and its private developer partners updated regents on the project, which now features a 100-yard-long video screen and six VIP suites seating 300 people. Launch slideshow »

UNLV Now Stadium Renderings

UNLV Now mega events center rendering. Launch slideshow »

Representatives of Southern Nevada’s resort industry are concerned about the cost and scope of UNLV’s proposed on-campus 60,000-seat football stadium, and one major company has withdrawn some support it had quietly committed months ago.

MGM Resorts International issued a statement saying that although the company supports a stadium concept and would continue to work with UNLV, it is concerned with how the stadium — with a price tag of $800 million to $900 million — is configured and financed.

The head of the Nevada Resort Association echoed those concerns.

“MGM Resorts was the first company in the industry to offer financial support for an on-campus stadium at UNLV, making a $20 million pledge to the effort to enhance the university campus community,” MGM said in a statement. “However, we are concerned the current UNLV Now concept has grown too expensive for our community to support. We remain committed to working with the university and others to refine and plan for an on-campus stadium for UNLV that is appropriately configured and responsibly financed.”

It’s unclear whether MGM intends to withdraw its financial pledge. A spokesman for the company said the company made the pledge without fanfare. When asked whether MGM would withdraw the pledge, a company spokesman said, “We remain committed to support a suitable stadium for the campus.”

MGM isn’t alone in wavering.

Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said Don Snyder, who recently was appointed to head UNLV Now’s efforts to explain and promote the stadium, met Friday with about 20 NRA members.

Valentine said most members left the meeting with concerns similar to MGM’s and are hoping to get more information about the size of the project and how it would be financed.

Donald Snyder

Donald Snyder

“Most of these guys, at one time or another, have probably looked at what it costs to build a stadium, so they have a pretty good understanding of what things cost and what essential elements go into a project like that,” Valentine said Thursday.

Some of the lingering questions:

• Is the project too large, and can the community support it?

• Are some of the elements proposed in the project essential to its success? Among the amenities that have been suggested for the stadium are six 300-seat VIP suites, more than 50 conventional suites seating 10 to 24 guests and a 100-yard-long video screen.

• Would UNLV Now seek to divert room tax revenue currently earmarked to the promotion of Las Vegas through the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for the project? Sources familiar with the project say UNLV Now wants a $125 million commitment from the LVCVA, and Snyder has asked to appear on the LVCVA board’s March meeting agenda.

• If funds were drawn from the LVCVA, how would that affect plans for its multimillion-dollar Las Vegas Convention Center upgrade project? A special meeting of the LVCVA on Feb. 26 will outline details of that project, which includes interior and exterior refurbishments to the Convention Center, construction of a World Trade Center facility to enhance business and development of a multimodal transportation center.

Other sources familiar with the project have voiced concerns that Majestic Realty, the private partner that is collaborating with UNLV on the project, has yet to sign a formal agreement with UNLV and that potential traffic problems that would be generated by the stadium could affect nearby McCarran International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration has not reviewed the plan.

Snyder, who helped engineer the development of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in downtown Las Vegas last year, was a former executive for Boyd Gaming and dean of UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration and was on the LVCVA’s board of directors in the 1990s.

He said MGM’s financial commitment may have been premature.

“It was a nice show of support, something that we applaud, but it was probably a bit premature,” Snyder said in an interview Thursday. “The early sign of support was helpful. It created a lot of positive energy around the project and moved the conversation forward.”

LVCVA spokesman Vince Alberta said there are still unanswered questions about the stadium and the resort community’s role in it.

“We and other stakeholders understand the important role UNLV plays in the community, and I think most of us support the concept of a stadium,” he said. “The heartburn centers on the costs and how it would be paid for. These are questions that still have to be addressed by the Board of Regents.”

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  1. Alright, keep at it there will always be disagreements. Where are our local philanthropists; Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Sheldon Adelson, Tony Hsieh, etc. Its just not about the stadium but the University. We are not going to stop once this is built the next project will come up and I hope it will be an on campus hospital like (Cedars-Sinai medical center). And I will donate as well. All Las Vegans relocated or born and raised we have wonderful community lets work together.