UNR pays to use Lawlor Events Center, which sits on campus

Lawlor Events Center on the University of Nevada, Reno (SBG)

Anytime the University of Nevada, Reno wants to use the Lawlor Events Center, it has to pay to use the space. And that may sound unusual because the building sits on university land.

Lawlor, a 12,000 seat venue, was opened in 1983 and has been host to sporting events, concerts, business meetings, theatrical events, graduations and much more. About 120 groups and organizations book space in Lawlor every year. But everyone must pay.

"It was built through state bonds from slot tax revenues, and legislative intent was that Lawlor be built and be self-sufficient operating on its own without any state money," said Kerri Garcia UNR Director of Communications.

The Nevada State Legislature wanted the event's center to be responsible for its own profits and expenses. It didn't want any tax dollars to be used to build it or run it.

"It might look odd, but you have to go back to legislative intent. That was direction," Garcia said.

The Board of Regents owns Lawlor. The Nevada Athletics Department manages it.

"All of the users pay rent -- no matter where they come from -- do pay rent and expenses, so that helps us 100 percent cover our operating expenses," said Ann Larson, Senior Associate Athletic Director.

Every year Lawlor has been open, it's broken even or made a profit.

To rent the entire arena, the commercial rate is $4,200. Non-profits pay $3,750. And there is a cut rate for university functions, where university groups pay $3,500. The arena can also be partially rented out for less money.

But about seven years ago, during Reno's recession, the university president gave a directive to stop charging men and women's basketball teams for games and practices.

"Because the entire university had gone through an economic downturn with less legislate support, and that trickled down to the departments on campus and athletics was especially hard hit," Larson said.

The last time the teams paid was in 2011, when Lawlor collected a quarter of a million dollars from basketball rent.

Today, the basketball teams still don't pay, even though every other university department does.

The events center is still able to financially stay in the black.

"When our teams are doing well, the concession revenue is significant. And that goes a long way to off-setting those expenses," Larson said.

Charging a university for using a building that sits on its campus is not uncommon. Thomas and Mack on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus does it as well.

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