The Raiders stadium site is busy with construction equipment. Photo credit: Daniel Clark/

UNLV Gets Its Football Stadium: Using Raiders Stadium After Regents Approval



UNLV’s try at building a new football stadium has taken many forms over the years — from a “mega-events” center to an on-campus stadium. They were never realized.


But this morning, a Nevada Board of Regents vote settled the issue — the state’s university governing panel gave its blessing to UNLV to play its football games at the new $1.8 billion Raiders stadium starting in 2020.

Raiders stadium construction site. Photo credit: Daniel Clark/


Lawyers for UNLV and the Raiders included a new provision saying UNLV is not obligated to play football games at the new stadium. And two outside law firms that have billed UNLV for at least $190,000 for stadium joint-use negotiations have to submit legal opinion letters to the Regents saying that UNLV can get out of using the Raiders stadium if it wanted to down the road.


The Regents voted 11-1 to green light the Raiders-UNLV joint-use agreement.


But a few Regents had some beefs.


Regents Allison Stephens was not too happy with the most recent version of the Raiders-UNLV agreement Friday because she argued the Regents’ concerns that were expressed at a Jan. 4 Regents meeting were not addressed in the newest deal.


“We came back virtually with the same agreement,” Stephens said at the meeting at the Nevada System of Higher Education building across the street from the UNLV campus on Maryland Parkway.


Regent Rick Trachok also said Friday he was concerned about the price of what could be $250,000 for UNLV to pay the Raiders to use the stadium.


And Regent Trevor Hayes said only two of the 10 universities using NFL stadiums are Power 5 conferences and said the stadium will hurt the UNLV football program and not help it. Hayes said the UNLV officials who have lobbied for the stadium have said the stadium will help UNLV get a membership in a Power 5 conference, but Hayes said he didn’t believe the stadium would do that.


But in interviews with after the vote, UNLV President Len Jessup and Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois said the football team playing in the new stadium will help recruit better football players and generate more revenues than playing at Sam Boyd Stadium.


Reed-Francois said the new stadium will help the UNLV football team get over the hump.


The Raiders-UNLV joint-use agreement had to be in place before the stadium authority board could tie up its development agreement with the Raiders, which are building the 65,000-seat domed stadium on 62 acres on the west side of I-15, off Russell Road and Polaris Avenue.

Lots of activity at the Raiders stadium construction site Thursday. Photo credit: Daniel Clark/


At the end of the day, the UNLV football team will get its new home because an NFL team with a big brand decided to move to Las Vegas to build a stadium. And the Rebels will come along for the ride.


But the university did spend nearly $200,000 in outside legal fees to negotiate a deal for the UNLV football team to play at the Raiders’ new palatial venue. UNLV will get to receive all of its football game ticket sales and even sell the stadium suites for games.


The Las Vegas stadium board looked at other stadium deals where local universities use an NFL stadium for its football games and found that it could cost $125,000 to $175,000 per game for the university to rent the stadium for football games.  And UNLV’s outside lawyer, Dan Etna, mentioned at a recent Regents meeting that the per-game cost could be as high as $250,000 per game for UNLV. It costs about $50,000-$75,000 to hold an UNLV football game at Sam Boyd Stadium, which is about seven miles from the UNLV campus near the Las Vegas Wash. The price hike to use the Raiders stadium was the source of Trachok’s stadium concern.

UNLV plans to use the new Raiders stadium in 2020.


But the Raiders do not know how much it will cost to manage the stadium yet, so there is no exact price on what UNLV will pay to use the venue, Jessup said.


A key part of the UNLV-Raiders deal — and it’s also in the enabling state legislation, Senate Bill 1 — is that the university has a big “waterfall” payment in its back pocket if revenues drop when UNLV moves from Sam Boyd Stadium to the new Raiders stadium. UNLV can receive up to $3.5 million a year for 10 years from the state if there is a revenue stream loss by making the move to the new venue.


Sam Boyd Stadium hosts non-UNLV football events such as an international rugby tournament, a motocross race and monster truck spectacle. Those event organizers can move their events to the new Raiders stadium and sell more tickets, but it will also cost more to uset the NFL stadium.


The Raiders stadium site is on the west side of I-15. Photo credit: Daniel Clark/


The stadium authority board plans in April to sell the bonds that will help raise the $750 million that the state of Nevada will give to the Raiders for the stadium project. The biggest public subsidy in NFL stadium history drew the Raiders from Oakland. reported this week that Raiders owner Mark Davis visited UNLV in 2014 to discuss the Raiders-UNLV stadium idea.


General contractors Mortenson and McCarthy construction companies were picked by the Raiders to build the stadium. Photo credit: Daniel Clark/


Mortsenson described its Raiders stadium project here.




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Alan Snel

Alan Snel brings decades of sports-business reporting experience to Snel covered the business side of sports for the South Florida (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel, the Tampa Tribune and Las Vegas Review-Journal. As a city hall beat reporter, Snel also covered stadium deals in Denver and Seattle. In 2000, Snel launched a sport-business website for called After reporting sports-business for the RJ, Snel wrote hard-hitting stories on the Raiders stadium for the Desert Companion magazine in Las Vegas and The Nevada Independent. Snel is also one of the top bicycle advocates in the country.

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