Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 | 2 a.m.
More on stadiums
- Take a closer look at stadium proposals in and around Las Vegas in the Sun's Racing to Build Vegas' next venue report from July 15.
There always will be a special place in my heart for the Silver Bowl.
That’s what we locals call Sam Boyd Stadium, the starter home of sorts for the UNLV football program if the proposed UNLV Now project becomes a reality. UNLV Now, an estimated $800 million project for the UNLV campus, is a mega-event center designed to attract a Major League Soccer franchise, NFL exhibition game, NFL Pro Bowl and a weekend music festival, among at least 15 new events each year.
That message was delivered Friday in a presentation by Majestic Realty, UNLV’s private partner in the project, and other UNLV officials to Nevada’s higher education leaders at the Nevada Board of Regents meeting.
“This project is a game changer for UNLV and Las Vegas,” said Don Snyder, UNLV Now’s project lead. “It’s an important and significant project for the state, as well. It’s the next big thing.”
First, let’s get one thing straight: It’s tempting to refer to the project as a new home for UNLV football, but remember that’s only one part of the equation. A small part, actually.
This stadium is being touted on a much bigger scale. After all, you’re probably not going to be successful arranging financing or rallying community support for a new home for a team that averages fewer than 15,000 fans per game and has just three bowl appearances ever.
Instead, the facility is envisioned to host multiple events, generate nearly $400 million annually and be a boost to the tourism industry not only on the Strip but regionally, as well.
Among the events UNLV Now’s planners hope to draw are a neutral-site football game for BYU, the Las Vegas Bowl and a second college bowl game, the Pac-12 and Mountain West football championship games, a Bowl Championship Series playoff game, a weeklong UFC celebration in July and mega fight card, an NFL training camp, the National Finals Rodeo and the Final Four (pending the NCAA removing a ban that prohibits tournament games from being played here because of gambling). Organizers said the stadium is being designed to accommodate a professional soccer team.
So, yes, this would be a game changer for Las Vegas. That’s what excites the local in me about this project — while I love the 702, it wasn’t the ideal home for a sports junkie when I was growing up because, with the exception of UNLV basketball and the Las Vegas Stars, the options were limited. Now, it seems locals would have major sporting or entertainment options every weekend.
On some fall weekends, that would include UNLV football — the on-campus presence the Rebels have always lacked — and it would give them a chance to become a major player nationwide. Gone would be the long hauls on game days from Henderson or Summerlin to eastern Las Vegas, where sewer odors and the stadium’s deficiencies share part of the blame for unsuccessful football seasons.
UNLV Now, which would seat 25,000 for UNLV football but could expand to 60,000 if needed and for other events, would be a place fans would want to watch a game. Imagine tailgating all day on the UNLV campus, then walking into a brand new stadium to cheer on the scarlet and gray. Pretty cool. Bring on UNR.
Mark my words: This will be a reality for the 2017 season. Sure, there are several roadblocks — mainly financing — to overcome, but there is so much positive energy in the community, I’d be shocked if it doesn’t happen.
When I grew up in Las Vegas — traveling across town at that time required taking Tropicana Avenue, Flamingo Road, Sahara Avenue or Charleston Boulevard — spending a Saturday evening under the lights at the Silver Bowl watching PCAA college football action was all we knew. We also went to the Silver Bowl on the Fourth of July for a fireworks show that brought more enjoyment for us as kids than watching the Rebels play Long Beach State and other schools that no longer offer gridiron competition. Some in the community have suggested UNLV scrap its football program, too.
I say no.
A new era of Rebels football is on the horizon.
UNLV is a sleeping giant in college football. I truly believe that. Many who are involved with the UNLV Now project believe it, too.
That’s what makes this stadium a real game changer. It would change the face of UNLV football, UNLV athletics and the university as a whole. It would send a loud message to the rest of the nation that UNLV is serious about football.
A stadium to be proud of would boost the program, particularly in player recruitment, and start a significant domino effect. Let me explain.
It’s not too far-fetched to imagine UNLV football starting to win regularly, and because of the event center with all its bells and whistles, the program becomes an ideal pick for conference expansion. The Pac-12, which will host its conference basketball tournament starting in March at MGM Grand Garden Arena, with its built-in relationship with Las Vegas would be a perfect fit for UNLV.
UNLV will never have a winning team at Sam Boyd Stadium — no matter who the coach is. The opportunity to upgrade is here, now.
Don’t get me wrong, locals will always love the Silver Bowl and remember evenings watching Randall Cunningham, Ickey Woods and Randy Gatewood run up and down the turf.
Come 2017, let’s hope we can take photos with our friends and family in front of a Randall Cunningham statue entering UNLV’s new stadium.