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A new stadium at UNLV might sound like a bad idea. Think again

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Pro ambitions: Could a new stadium on campus entice an NBA team to town?
Photo: Sam Morris

At first blush, the proposal to build a 40,000-seat domed stadium at UNLV seemed like an incredibly bad idea. Cutting-taxes-amid-two-wars bad. With the state facing a record budget shortfall and the governor proposing a 17.7 percent reduction in higher ed funding, the move appeared to send an unseemly message: Nevada prizes athletics over academic programs and university research.

Our ears perked up, however, when details emerged. Developer Majestic Realty said that, unlike sports complexes elsewhere, the project would not require the support of local and state governments. Instead, a campus improvement district would be formed (slightly raising the sales tax imposed on nearby businesses), and alumni would be asked to pitch in $100 million. Factor in the thousands of construction jobs to be created and the possibility of landing an NBA or NHL team, and the idea started to seem worth exploring.

Then, Tuesday, we really got onboard. The reason? A competing developer parachuted in with a far less appealing proposal. International Development Management seeks to build a $1.57 billion complex Downtown comprising three stadium venues. Key to IDM’s vision are lease agreements with UNLV athletic teams—an arrangement the university wants no part of. Even before IDM announced its plan, UNLV President Neal Smatresk told the AP: “If another arena is built (in Las Vegas), I figure we lose something between $3 million and $7 million a year instantly. The impact of that would be devastating on our D-1 sports.”

We’re with Neal. If a stadium is to be built, it might as well be at UNLV. It would remake the campus, energize the student body and eventually help pay for athletic programs. If pro teams don’t show, maybe they can use it for a really big science fair.

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John P. McDonnall

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