Despite publicly saying they see “no hurdles” in dealing with the Raiders, UNLV officials hired a lawyer versed in knocking them down after seeing the team’s first offer.
UNLV responded to the team-friendly proposal last week by retaining attorney Daniel Etna of Herrick Feinstein LLP, a high-priced titan in sports law, to advise the university in negotiations. The agreement between Herrick and the university can extend up to two years, though talks with the Raiders likely need to wrap in the next few weeks.
Etna’s services will cost UNLV $745 per hour. Other work from New York-based Herrick will cost less, starting with a rate of $280 per hour for paralegal services and ranging up to Etna’s fee. Those rates could total a significant expenditure for the university for a negotiation in which Sam Boyd Stadium executive director Mike Newcomb said he sees “no hurdles” at last week’s Las Vegas Stadium Authority board meeting.
UNLV spokesman Tony Allen confirmed the details of Herrick’s arrangement. Allen also said local attorneys with Snell & Wilmer are consulting with university officials on the agreement, and that their work began while the firm was being retained for unrelated real estate matters. Financial details of Snell & Wilmer’s arrangement were not immediately available.
“Analysis and negotiation of the draft joint-use agreement is ongoing,” Allen said. “We look forward to working with the Raiders and the Stadium Authority Board to give UNLV football — and our great fans — access to a stadium and accompanying game-day experience that will rival the best in college football.”
University Regent and attorney Trevor Hayes backed the Herrick contract as insurance for UNLV’s long-term interests.
“Getting the best possible use agreement for UNLV will dictate its future in athletics,” Hayes said. “I support spending money to hire the best experts. Even if it costs $100,000, that equates to $3,333 per year for the 30-year life of the (lease). A poor use agreement will put UNLV out of the Division I athletics business.”
The Sun reported exclusively on the first draft of a state-mandated joint-use agreement between UNLV and the Raiders, who will share their new $1.9 billion stadium with the Rebels football program as a condition of receiving $750 million in public funding toward the facility.
In that document prepared by the Raiders, the team asked UNLV for fee-free usage of more than 80 acres of land owned by the university for game-day and event parking. The Raiders plan just 2,400 parking spaces at their 62-acre Russell Road stadium site, which is less than 15 percent of the amount mandated by Clark County code.
The team also wants exclusive first rights to sell luxury suites and club seats, as well as major limitations on university advertising partners. All are major revenue sources university officials want to optimize to increase the take from their dates in the stadium. The parties also must agree on a rent formula that measures UNLV’s actual cost of using the stadium, which will not be a simple negotiation.
Officials from UNLV including Newcomb, President Len Jessup, and now-departed Vice President Gerry Bomotti met with the Raiders last month for an initial discussion. Stadium Authority staff representative Jeremy Aguero said at the last board meeting that the sides would meet again in the next couple of weeks. Jessup will be out of the country until July 30 accompanying Gov. Brian Sandoval on a trade mission to Panama, Peru and Chile.
Etna declined to comment on his consultation with the school, saying UNLV officials directed the firm to refer all questions back to the university. Etna is the chairman of Herrick’s Sports Law Group, and his clients include the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Nets, Tampa Bay Lightning and Major League Soccer teams D.C. United and New York City Football Club.
Etna worked on the formation of the YES Network and of Legends Entertainment, the stadium events management company founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Legends will work with the Raiders in the new stadium, though the scope of the firm’s work is not confirmed yet.
Raiders officials did not respond to a request for comment on the negotiations.