UNLV is located in the Las Vegas suburb of Paradise, Nevada and was established in 1957. The Commission on Presidential Debates named UNLV the host for the third debate in September 2015 and the hope is that the exposure will increase admissions and interest in the school. It’s expected to bring the university the most attention it has received nationally since the Runnin’ Rebels won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1990.
Here’s a look at the university and how it has prepared for the debate.
1. It’s the Largest Public University to Host a Debate Since 2004
According to US News statistics, UNLV has a total enrollment of 28,605. That makes Hofstra University‘s 10,814 enrollment look tiny in comparison. But the biggest difference between the two is that Hofstra held its third presidential debate for the third consecutive presidential election and 2016 is UNLV’s first time on the stage.
The Las Vegas Sun notes that UNLV is the largest public university to host a debate since Arizona State University had the last debate between John Kerry and George W. Bush in 2004.
UNLV’s demographics are also far different than Hofstra’s. White students make up just 35 percent of the student population. Fifty-six percent of students enrolled in Fall 2015 classes were women.
“I think it’s quite fitting to have the final debate here,” Carl Reiber, UNLV’s senior vice provost, told the Sun. “Our region is highly influential.”
2. UNLV Just Completed a $72.5 Million Renovation of the Thomas & Mack Center
As the school notes, UNLV just completed a $72.5 million renovation of the Thomas & Mack Center, the venue where the debate will be held. The renovation and expansion “improved everything from the flooring to rafters and made numerous mechanical, electrical, and communications system upgrades,” the school notes.
According to the Sun, it cost an estimated $8 million to setup the university for the debate. The university and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which partnered with the school, estimate that the debate has generated $85 million in publicity already.
“I very quickly came to the conclusion that if we were going to do it, we’d need to have a partner. I felt that the [Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority] could see this as an opportunity to extend the brand of Las Vegas, while also extending the brand of UNLV,” Don Snyder, who was interim UNLV president when the university put in its bid to hold the debate, said in a statement.
3. In Order to Get a Ticket, Students Needed to Meet GPA Requirements
Likely due to the size of the university, UNLV decided to make GPA requirements for students to meet if they wanted to enter a lottery to receive a ticket. Hofstra and Washington University in St. Louis, which hosted the second debate, did not have such a requirement.
Quartz reports that undergraduates needed at least a 2.0 GPA and graduate students needed at least a 3.0 GPA to be considered.
UNLV said that over 3,600 students applied for a ticket to the debate. The Thomas & Mack Center has seats for 19,522.
“I think it’s a good thing because students who work hard [in class] deserve to attend big, historic campus events like this,” senior journalism student Jennifer Hurtado told Quartz. “I’d be worried if they were asking for 3.0 [for undergraduates]—2.0 is average and it shows the work they’re doing.”
4. The Thomas & Mack Center Hosted the 2007 NBA All Star Game
UNLV usually focuses on basketball around this time of year, but the debate has shifted away from hoops to politics. Still, the Thomas & Mack Center’s history as a great venue for basketball can’t be lost. The arena was home to the 1990 NCAA championship team, as well as the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. It was the first time the game was played in a city that’s not home to an NBA team.
“The first thing that came to mind was ‘that’s pretty cool,’ the national attention that it will bring to the Thomas & Mack and the university,” UNLV head coach Marvin Menzies told Fox Sports. “But then the second thought was ‘wow, that’s going to be a logistical nightmare.’”
Fox Sports reports that the Runnin’ Rebels haven’t been able to use their office since last Friday and can’t return until October 20. They had to take out all of the equipment they needed for a week while debate preparations were under way.
Menzies said that he found a positive in the situation, since it gives the young players a chance to learn how to adjust to sudden changes.
“Whether you’re going on the road to travel, whether you’re out because of an electrical outage. It gives your kids an opportunity to handle change. I think it can actually be beneficial depending on how you look at it and how you handle it,” he said.
5. UNLV Has a ‘Top Tier’ University Initiative to Become Among the County’s Top Schools
UNLV is currently not ranked on the US News Best Colleges Ranking, but the university is hoping to change that and become one of the best public research universities in the U.S. It’s part of its Top Tier initiative and the administration hopes that the debate will give its dreams a push.
According to the university, their goal is to be “recognized as a Top Tier public university in research, education, and community impact by 2025″ and to be among the 115 schools at the top of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
Len Jessup, the current UNLV president, said that the debate is perfect to help UNLV reach its goals.
The debate is perfectly in the sweet spot of the university’s strategic plan to reach Top Tier status. That has several pathway goals — they evolve around excelling at research, providing a great student experience, launching a great medical school, and fostering community partnerships. We recognize that, for us to be a great university, we need the support of the community, and in turn, we have a duty to help the community get to the next level as well. That’s the story we get to show to the world.