Recalling UNLV’s golden days when her husband, Jerry Tarkanian, coached the Rebels to a national basketball title, Las Vegas Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said Tuesday that the community should be as thrilled by what the university has planned in the coming years.
“I remember how excited our city was and how united we were, and it was truly an amazing time,” Tarkanian said, speaking at the third-annual Nevada Economic Development Conference at UNLV. “You know what — we’re still in an amazing time right now in Las Vegas.”
Additions to UNLV, both on campus and off campus, especially the School of Medicine on West Charleston Boulevard, which is in Tarkanian's Ward 1 district, should excite the community, she said.
UNLV President Len Jessup laid out the school’s plans, which include pursuing Tier 1 university status, according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions, the gold standard of college rankings. He said UNLV is a year-and-a-half into to its 10-year plan to achieve that ranking.
“We want to be a Carnegie research institution at the highest level academically, and we want to be competing athletically at a level that makes us attractive to Power 5 conferences like the Pac-12 and Big 12,” Jessup said. “Our plan is driven around doing that.”
Infrastructure is a big focus as UNLV looks to expand its footprint. The School of Medicine, which accepted its first class of students this summer, is in the funding stages for its new building.
Jessup said the school has about $50 million in the bank for a project that at a minimum will cost $135 million. “It will be a state-of-the-art building … with all kinds of interesting collaborative spaces for a very innovative, problem-based, or case-based curriculum,” he said.
The $57 million Hospitality Hall, a public-private partnership, housing the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, will open this fall. “That will help a world-class program now that they have world-class facilities,” Jessup said.
Additionally, the $12 million renovation to the Beverly Rogers Literature and Law Building, which houses the Honors College and the Brookings Mountain West, was completed in 2015.
The university has long aspired to be in a Power 5 athletic conference. When UNLV "flirted" with the Big 12 last year, Jessup said, officials told him UNLV needed to have three things:
“No. 1 you already have — Las Vegas. You have the location and media market,” he said. “Second, academically, with everything you've got going on, with the medical school coming, you’re good enough for the Big 12. (But) third, your missing ingredients are in athletics.”
UNLV has been working with the Oakland Raiders on the planned 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion stadium to be located on Russell Road just west of Interstate 15.
“The NFL-ready, domed stadium checks off a huge box for us,” Jessup said. “Negotiations are ongoing with the Raiders right now with the joint-use agreement, and we hope to have that wrapped up this fall. Everything is going well, and it looks like it's on pace.”
The planned 70,000-square-foot Fertitta Football Complex is a go after the Nevada Board of Regents approved a funding plan for the complex last week. Construction on the estimated $28 million complex is expected to begin later this year.
“That building will be phenomenal for what it does for the football program,” Jessup said. “They’ll play six or so games at the new stadium, but 359 days out of the year they’ll be in this (Fertitta Football Complex) building. It’s where they’ll eat, train and study.”
Having both the stadium and practice facility will be transformational for UNLV, reaching beyond just athletics, Jessup said.
He also mentioned the recent $72 million renovation of the Thomas & Mack Center and the baseball program’s $4 million clubhouse addition.
“It rivals not only the best in the NCAA — it rivals some of the best clubhouses in Major League Baseball,” Jessup said. “We believe it will help our Rebel baseball program get back on top.”
To improve the campus experience, UNLV is building the U District, new apartments off Maryland Parkway and Cottage Grove Drive.
Phase 1 of the project is scheduled to open in the spring. It will feature about 750 beds in almost 300 apartment units. At full buildout, the entire project will add about 3,000 beds for students to live on campus.
“They’re desperately needed to accommodate the growth on campus,” Jessup said.
The Gateway project on Maryland Parkway now features a parking garage that has 820 spaces, with 630 of those for UNLV.
Approvals are being sought to begin construction in front of the parking structure that will feature UNLV offices, retail and possibly more living space, Jessup said.
Jessup also mentioned the 128-acre Harry Reid Research Park, at Sunset Road near Durango Drive in the southwest valley, already has two tenants, and UNLV is about to announce the third in the coming months.
The College of Engineering, which has seen its enrollment almost double to 2,500 students, is seeking to expand into a $35 million, 45,000- to 50,000-square-foot space.
The Lee Business School is looking for a new space for a future building as well, which would be privately funded. The building would likely be part of the UNLV Maryland Parkway midtown development and be located between the Flora Dungan Humanities (FDH) building and The TAM Alumni Center.
UNLV also has 2,085 acres in North Las Vegas, where Jessup said he envisions a collaborative space with other educational institutions.