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The Thomas and Mack Center is celebrating 30 years, and collaborations to make necessary improvements and renovations are moving forward to remain a competitive venue. The Thomas and Mack center, located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has seen a lot since it’s opening in the summer of 1983, hosting Rebel’s basketball, Disney on Ice, Professional Bull Riders and sell out events such as the National Finals Rodeo, just to name a few. The improvements that are being planned for production will maintain the Thomas and Mack as a competitive and functioning venue for the numerous events that come to Las Vegas. The last major changes made to the Thomas and Mack were in 1999, which contained a majority of aesthetic improvements that were clearly recognizable by event attendees, including renovations to the front of the building and the addition of the Cox Pavilion in 200,1 connected on the east side of the center. A majority of the renovations, beginning construction in fall 2014, will be invisible to the public eye. The focus will be on necessary back of house upgrades taking just under half of the $47 million budget that has been approved by the Nevada Legislature, for the center that was originally built for $30 million.
Some of the proposed back of house elements that will be included involve smoke control, sprinklers, cooling, boiler, and Internet cable fiber. These improvements will assist in bringing key components of the maturing center up to code. “It is in bad need of maintenance and when they’re done they’ll have a fully modernized mechanical, and from now until at least 10 years you don’t have that cost of upgrading,” shares Pat Christenson, Las Vegas Events president and former director at Thomas and Mack, acknowledging the renovations that escape the public eye. Some of the major improvements that will be readily visible to the public include additional escalators at the front of the center, refurnishing the concourse, new seating within the arena, concourse restroom improvements, additional portals and additional Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) seating and parking modifications. The most notable advancement attendees will take away will be the improved flow of foot traffic along the concourse and leading up to the entrance of the building. Congestion along the concourse from the main entrance has been a noticeable problem, especially in the case of high attendance events. The first renovation that will assist in relieving the overcrowding is the addition of escalators located by the Cox Pavilion and on the west side of the center. “The major problems for customers at Thomas and Mack are getting in and out of the venue, and mostly from a convenience perspective there is only one set of
escalators. When you look at the flow into the concourse, our biggest problem is we send everyone through the front doors, right now about 80 percent.” mentioned Pat Christenson. Christenson remains optimistic that these changes will bring positive feedback and experiences. With a large majority of attendees coming directly through the front entrance, being aware of and using these additional points of access will help reduce the foot traffic congesting the main entrance. “During, for example NFR, if we are able to bus people and direct them to these alternative entries, they will be able to get to their seats quicker, not to mention the impact it will have on those that do use the main entrance. But it’s one of those things that people attending events will feel before they actually notice the improvement,” claims Tim Keener, vice president of operations and ticketing at Las Vegas Events, who has worked for over a decade producing events at Thomas and Mack. Once inside the concourse, the next improvement will move vendors further back away from the open walkway of the concourse. In conjunction with the vendors being pushed back, the lines for these vendors will also be moved away from the walkway and will wind left and right instead of the previous straight lines that would jut out and overflow into the concourse. This will allow foot traffic to flow more freely without the hindrance created from the line blockage.
An element that will be more directly noticeable will be at least 8500 new seats located in the bottom bowl that will utilize an estimated $6.7 million of the current budget. The retractable seating that allows the center to be modified according to the event is also proposed to be upgraded. The current system is time consuming and requires an excess amount of manual labor to set up. The new system will allow for faster set up time that will result in quicker turn around between events. Concourse restrooms will triple in size. In the same manner as the vendors along the concourse, restrooms will pull back to utilize available space resulting in additional facilities, sure to keep the lines shorter and contribute to reducing the congestion of along the concourse. ADA seating will be increased from 26 to 100. All ADA seating is currently at the concourse level. Additional seating will also be able to be modified to be increased or decreased depending on the demand of the event. In conjunction, there will also be an increase in ADA parking spaces. These upgrades to remain in code with ADA utilize just over $4 million of the allotted budget. Additional renovations include additional portals that will be added from the Redd Room, located in the north end of the building, directly to the auditorium. While a number of these items may seem like small changes, together they will contribute to an improved experience for event attendees that they will feel before they notice.
The mentioned changes are considered first phase changes that have been deemed necessary from a long list of desired improvements, to fit the $47 million budget. It was an extensive process as Mike Newcomb, executive director at Thomas and Mack, describes the process, “We came in with our list and labeled everything one, two or three. One, we needed, we had to. Two, we wanted it. Three, it would be nice. And went through and did it again and again and again. Then once we figured out that we got $47 million, we had to do it again.” Additional renovations seeking fundraising could be brought into fruition, including a new addition to the west side, refurbished locker rooms, and Redd Room renovations are among this list. “There’s still a lot to be determined on exactly what’s going to happen,” cautioned Mike Newcomb, as plans further develop and true costs come to life, it could effect what renovations actually move forward. Alex Regeski, UNLV alumni and frequent attendee shared her feelings on the proposed renovations, “I feel the new renovations at the Thomas and Mack will vastly improve many of the common complaints the average customer has when attending an event at the venue. Some of the improvements may seem as though they are miniscule but in the long run they will make large impacts on the overall customer experience. As a Las Vegas native and UNLV alumni I have participated or attended numerous events at the T&M and I can tell you from that firsthand experience that dealing with the crowds at the main entrance and on the concourse
isn’t pleasant. I am very excited to see the new changes at the Thomas and Mack and can’t wait to go to my first event!” There is much hope that other attendees and events coming considering Las Vegas have similar positive reviews and outlook as the planning and initial renovations move forward.