January 11, 2013
UNLV may have the worst Division I college football in the country. Over the last 25 years, UNLV is just 88-202, a woeful .303 winning percentage. UNLV has won two or fewer games 10 times in the last quarter century.
And while there are a variety of reasons for the football program's ineptitude, part of it may be that it plays in arguably the worst Division I facility in the country.
The Rebels play their home games at the dark, dingy off-campus Sam Boyd Stadium. It's about a 20-30-minute ride from UNLV's city-center campus and is located in an industrial area with little around it. It's tough for college students to get to and locals have all but sworn it off.
So, for years, UNLV has been hoping to build an on-campus stadium. On Thursday, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, it asked the Las Vegas Visitors & Convention Authority for $125 million to help fund a proposed 68,000-seat facility.
The cost of the stadium is expected to be close to $900 million, the newspaper reported. In anybody's world, that's a lot of money. The LVCVA has sponsored numerous events over the years in Las Vegas and issued a statement to the Review-Journal that acknowledged the need for the stadium.
UNLV plays an important role in our community, and the LVCVA understands the potential of the proposed stadium project. Tourism is the lifeblood of Southern Nevada's economy, which is why the LVCVA's priority is promoting Las Vegas to attract visitors.
With the Southern Nevada tourism industry in a gradual recovery, having the necessary resources to promote and market our No. 1 industry to the world is critical.
Realizing the need for the facility is one thing, but getting it through the political process, raising the funds and getting it built is entirely another. Don Snyder, the point man for the proposed stadium, told the Review-Journal an economist estimated the economic impact of the stadium at $393 million with 15 additional events.
One way for certain the stadium would generate money is by hosting boxing and mixed martial arts matches. Major fights in the venue would help it pay down its debt service.
UFC president Dana White has for years spoken of doing a super fight in a stadium. Much of the talk for a proposed Anderson Silva-Georges St-Pierre fight has centered around Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because of its 100,000-seat capacity and state-of-the-art electronics.
UNLV's long dreamed about stadium would never be complete in time to host a Silva-St-Pierre fight, but it would be the kind of event that the planned facility would be a natural for the facility to host.
Both of boxing's major promoters, Top Rank and Golden Boy, would likely be interested in putting on a few shows a year in such a facility. Las Vegas is the Fight Capital of the World in large part because the casinos subsidize many of the costs to bring big fights that attract high-rolling gamblers.
So a stadium that not only could help the UNLV football team resurrect itself from virtual obscurity but that would also put thousands of fight fans a year into it with big events would benefit both the university, the casinos and the overall Las Vegas economy.
When Las Vegas-based Top Rank was trying to work on making a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight a reality, it advocated use of a temporary stadium on the Strip that would seat at least 40,000.
A UNLV football stadium with a capacity 70 percent higher than was proposed for the temporary facility would have been the perfect venue for what at the time was expected to have been the richest fight in history.
Top Rank's Bob Arum loves to do shows in unique venues. He hosted a super welterweight title fight between Yuri Foreman and Miguel Cotto at Yankee Stadium in 2010 that drew in excess of 20,000.
He also attempted to put a show in Miami's Marlins Park last year, but that plan fell through when proposed main eventer Timothy Bradley wasn't interested.
There wouldn't be a lot of fights in either boxing or in mixed martial arts that would be significant enough to put in such a large venue.
But without question, there are always one or two in each sport a year that would fit that bill.
That would help to generate needed revenue for the stadium. And given that both Arum and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta are avid UNLV supporters, they could help the university's football team improve dramatically while also helping themselves.