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City council reviews proposal for downtown plaza


P3 Partners rendering of the proposed Nsports Hotel and Performance Center.

Reno City Council expressed enthusiasm at last week’s council meeting for a proposal by P3 Partners to purchase CitiCenter Plaza and develop a non-gaming hotel there. The group also wants to convert the National Bowling Center into a multi-sports center and manage the National Bowling Stadium, Reno Events Center and Ballroom. 

P3 Partners’ presentation comes six months after their initial proposal to the council in May, when they were up against several others. P3 says its new Nsports Hotel and Performance Center would drive sports tourism, including youth and e-sports, as well as contribute to revitalizing Reno’s downtown. 

Despite their excitement about the project, Council moved to examine more details before moving ahead with the sale.

In his presentation to Council, Steve Nielsen, a senior manager at P3 Partners, shared a list of local and national public-private partners in the athletics, education, entertainment, e-sports, and hospitality industries, which offered support for the project. He said the P3 Partners’ proposed non-gaming hotel and multi-sports center would “enhance the use of the existing public facilities and change the future and the way downtown Reno is perceived.” 

According to Nielsen, expanding the National Bowling Stadium to include other sports facilities would allow groups like the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) to organize tournaments and competitions such as basketball games, gymnastics tournaments, and cheerleading competitions at the facility and drive Reno’s economic growth.

How CitiCenter Plaza looks today. Image: Bob Conrad

The non-gaming hotel, with its close proximity to the multi-sports center, would allow travelers to have a family friendly place to stay while they attended their children’s games or tournaments, Neilsen added.

P3 Partners is requesting to purchase the CitiCenter land for “Fair Market Value” for the mixed-use project. They also asked the city to sign a Qualified Management Agreement for the other facilities.

In the terms of the agreement P3 Partners would invest $20-25 million into the public facilities and would operate and manage those facilities, but the city would own all improvements. In turn, they asked the City to contribute to the project with 50 percent of the $2 surcharge funds for the next two years and accept and contribute the $1.8 million annual subsidy payment from RSCVA for four years.

Forward thinking but “fiscally distressing”

Councilmember Jenny Brekhus said she was worried about the fiscal distress the project might put on the city budget but remained optimistic. She said even though “[the City is] in a low-tax, low-service state with not good flexibility in our funding,” the project was “forward-thinking” and worth examining, with particular attention to how the city would fund the project.

Coucil member Neoma Jardon.

Councilmember Neoma Jardon agreed with Brekhus, acknowledging how much traveling basketball teams could contribute to the local economy. Jardon shared her support for the plan, which “could be what completely changes downtown,” but said negotiating the details of the proposal both on a financial front and a contractual one was important. 

Other councilmembers—Devon Reese, Naomi Duerr, and Oscar Delgado—echoed Brekhus and Jardon in their public comments. They also expressed the necessity of honoring existing contracts with groups such as the National Bowling Stadium, as well as meeting the needs of the community.

After discussing P3’s proposal, City Council unanimously voted to have city staff and P3 Partners draft a purchase and sale agreement along with a list of contract items along with a qualified management agreement, then deliver those agreements and list to Council for review and approval.

Investing in Nevada’s youth

Bart Thompson, executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA), was eager for the potential to host youth tournaments in the proposed multi-sports center and said the project ultimately represents an investment in Nevada’s youth.

“I’m an educator, and we are in the business of educating kids and getting kids through high school successfully so that they are prepared to contribute to society as they leave. One of the most effective ways to do that is for students to be involved in athletics and activities. We found that well over 90 percent of those students who participate, graduate,” Thompson said. 

Other agenda items

Reno Fire Department

City Council also listened to a presentation summarizing a study of the Reno Fire Department (RFD) by the Center for Public Safety Management. The Center for Public Safety Management said the RFD was adequately staffed, had access to the resources they needed, and an appropriate workload but suggested consolidating REMSA with fire responses to emergencies. Council directed staff on implementing those suggestions.

UNR Lake Street Abandonment 

After much discussion, the Council approved abandoning a parcel of land on Lake Street, where UNR will construct a parking garage. Brekhus wanted more time to review the proposed changes, stating, “This may seem like a tiny little thing, 28 ft by 348 ft, less than 10,000 square feet, but it’s our public right of way, and it’s an incremental step of community character changing going up at the university.” Brekhus worried about the parking garage’s implications for UNR becoming a commuter college. Duerr said she supported the university but echoed Brekhus’ desire to examine the impact of the parking garage further. Other members of the Council noted prior discussions and transparency with UNR, which included this expansion.

Sky Tavern Lease

Council unanimously approved Sky Tavern’s 30-year lease renewal, allowing the nonprofit to continue introducing Reno’s youth to outdoor winter recreation at an affordable rate.

The Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Church on Island Avenue is opposed to a luxury high-rise proposed to be constructed next door, due in part to shade issues. Image: Bob Conrad.

Shading Ordinance

In a controversial decision, the Council removed a rule about structures not casting a shadow on public parks or plazas between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on the shortest day of the year.

1,000 Homes in 120 Days

Council decided to keep applications for the 1,000 Homes in 120 days project open through the deadline on January 30 and decided to accept proposals falling outside of previously outlined opportunity zones as well as plans with fewer than 30 units.

Special Use Permit for StoneGate Phase Approved

Council upheld, with some stipulations, the Planning Commission’s approval of a Special Use Permit for developing a small lot as well as a map for 671 homes in the StoneGate project after three parties appealed the Commission’s decision. Council, however, reversed the Planning Commission’s decision on landscaped parkways and approved a variance to eliminate them from the plan. 

Council Appointed the following individuals to committees:

  • Senior Citizen Advisory Committee: Carol Crane and Elton “Mac” Rossi
  • Recreation and Parks Commission: Peggy Nelson-Aguilar
  • Ward 5 Neighborhood Advisory Board: Elton “Mac” Rossi
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller is a freelance writer and multimedia journalist based out of Reno, Nevada. She is fascinated by storytelling, place, and the intersection of narrative and data analysis and holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography and English and American Literatures from Middlebury College. When she is not tracking down a story or listening to podcasts, you can find her hiking Nevada’s gorgeous terrain, perusing local bookstores, playing Quidditch, and discovering Reno’s hidden stories.