UNLV regents balk at $1B land-lease deal with G2 Capital

University paid $50M for the 42 acres in Las Vegas near planned site of baseball stadium

G2 Capital Development's Frank Marretti III; Tropicana Avenue near Koval Lane just north of Harry Reid International Airport (Getty, Google Maps, G2 Capital Development)
G2 Capital Development's Frank Marretti III; Tropicana Avenue near Koval Lane just north of Harry Reid International Airport (Getty, Google Maps, G2 Capital Development)

First the lights blinked out, preventing state education officials from approving a $1.25 billion ground lease to G2 Capital Development in Las Vegas. Then regents balked at the deal.

Members of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents pushed back against a plan by UNLV to ink a 99-year ground lease for a mixed-use project by G2 Capital on 42 acres just north of Harry Reid International Airport, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The 99-year deal hammered out between the locally based developer and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas would generate $1.25 billion for the university. The regents are expected to vote on whether to approve the lease this month.

Several regents wondered if UNLV could get a better deal than the 99-year lease for the prime land on Tropicana Avenue near Koval Lane.

“I think it’s too soon,” Regent Susan Brager said at a meeting last week. “It’s the wrong time with what’s happening in our state. I think there’s much more value in this land.”

UNLV bought the land in 2015 for $50 million, or $1.19 million per acre.

The university said at the time the land could be used for a campus village or stadium project. Since then, the property has been mostly vacant –- and costs UNLV $3 million a year on debt service, security and maintenance. 

The ground lease would be overseen by G2 Capital Development, founded by Frank Marretti, which has not been forthcoming about plans other than a mixed-use development. The land is suited for hotel, casino or entertainment uses, according to its website.

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Plans would not include uses by the university, officials said.

UNLV President Keith Whitfield defended the 99-year lease proposal, saying it would provide “long-term significant, consistent and meaningful revenue” and was the most “advantageous” plan after a request for proposals went out two years ago.

David Frommer, associate vice president of planning, construction and real estate for UNLV, said the lease doesn’t put the university at risk for development costs, while it stands to gain all the benefits from improvements.

That wasn’t enough, however, to assuage concerns by university regents.

Brager and Regent Stephanie Goodman both said it would be better to wait to enter into a lease after high-end projects near the land, such as the planned Oakland Athletics’ $1.5 billion stadium, are built. Such projects could boost the value of the land.

“The last appraisal was done in March of 2023,” Goodman said. “It just doesn’t seem prudent to move forward with an appraisal that was done prior to the building of a major stadium.”

Regent Heather Brown asked if the murky plans by G2 Capital would be the best use for the  land, which she said is best suited for academic use. Whitfield said if UNLV wants to expand, it would grow its main campus along Maryland Parkway, or on 2,000 acres it’s slated to acquire in the north Las Vegas Valley.

— Dana Bartholomew

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