With key resort execs at table, UNLV stadium authority board kicks off discussions

Majestic Realty Co.

A rendering of the UNLV Now mega-events center.

UNLV Now Stadium Renderings

UNLV Now mega events center rendering. Launch slideshow »

The 11 members of the new UNLV Campus Improvement Authority board of directors on Monday got their first look at the pile of work that lies ahead of them in the newest bid to build an on-campus football stadium.

At the inaugural meeting of the board charged with delivering a recommendation to the Nevada Legislature on the scope, cost and financing of a stadium, members reviewed a rough checklist of the steps involved in delivering the report to lawmakers by the Sept. 30 deadline.

The board was established by legislation approved in the last session, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who made a brief appearance Monday to answer questions.

The biggest difference between the new effort and the failed UNLV Now proposal to build a stadium that began in early 2011 is that the board has representation from Southern Nevada’s resort community, including executives from Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Boyd Gaming and Wynn Resorts. The earlier proposal involved an exclusive negotiations agreement between UNLV and Majestic Realty, whose owner, Ed Roski, built the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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UNLV President Neal Smatresk speaks during an announcement of a $15 million donation from the Ted and Doris Lee family to the UNLV business college on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.

The UNLV Now plan faltered when the resort community through the Las Vegas Resort Association publicly questioned the size, cost and financing of the proposed stadium.

But there is some continuity from the UNLV Now plan. Don Snyder, who had been the point man for the stadium project, was elected chairman of the new authority board. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s representative on the board, Boyd Gaming executive Paul Chakmak, was elected vice chairman.

The resort community’s participation on the board is deemed critical to the success of the stadium, which not only would serve as the future home of the UNLV football team but could host major entertainment and convention events too large for any of the city’s arena venues.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk told board members the development of an on-campus stadium could be as meaningful to the school and the community as the opening of the Thomas & Mack Center, which propelled the UNLV basketball program to national prominence.

“We want a facility that will be transformational. That opening 30 years ago became the heart and soul of what it means to be a Runnin’ Rebel,” Smatresk said.

Smatresk said locating a stadium and related amenities on campus would be a step toward drawing additional support that would transform UNLV into a top-tier university.

While several board members made it clear that they hoped a new stadium proposal would be tempered in scope and cost, representatives of the Development Advisory Board that addressed the authority are still hopeful of including some of the bells and whistles proposed in the UNLV Now plan. Development Advisory Board members fear that removing some of the iconic features of the initial proposal — including a 100-yard-long video wall — would doom the stadium to mediocrity.

Before delivering the report to lawmakers next year, board members will also:

• Review the work that’s already been done on previous stadium proposals to determine what research will help members reach conclusions on the feasibility of the new plan.

• Review a more detailed flow chart and timeline for developing the report to be presented at the board’s next meeting by a subcommittee comprising Snyder, Chakmak, Regent Michael Wixom and Rick Arpin, senior vice president and corporate controller for MGM Resorts.

• Review legal ramifications of the exclusive negotiations agreement with Majestic.