Reno’s largest hotel and casino announced Wednesday plans for a $1 billion private capital investment that would include a new off-campus home for the University of Nevada men’s basketball team that could be ready by 2026.
No public money will be involved in the financing. Officials of the Grand Sierra Resort and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve revealed the plans on Wednesday for a 10,000-seat sports, concert and special events arena plus plans for the 140-acre property that also include a new 800-room hotel tower, 300 “affordable” riverfront residential units to help address workforce housing shortages, a golf center and Las Vegas-like water shows in addition to other upgrades, the company said.
“The vision is to transform GSR into a destination where community, sports and entertainment come together,” resort owner Alex Mereulo, who also is the majority owner of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. Mereulo and University of Nevada President Brian Sandoval confirmed a partnership between the resort and the basketball team, “could make the arena their home beginning with the fall 2026 season.”
The new arena would cover approximately 300,000 square feet including suites and premium hospitality clubs. A member of the Mountain West Conference, Nevada men’s basketball has played on campus at the 11,500-seat Lawlor Events Center since the center opened in 1983. Before that, the Wolf Pack played in a convention center south of downtown. The initial plans are for Nevada’s women’s basketball team to remain on campus for its games.
“Now, as we get into a new era of basketball and how we go about doing our business, with the NIL (Name Image Likeness), with the transfer portal, to be able to sell this on top of our community, on top of our university, it just puts us at a whole ‘nother level. It’s a whole ‘nother student athlete that we’re going to be able to get into homes and talk to,” Nevada men’s basketball coach Steve Alford said.
Last year, Las Vegas hosted Sweet 16 games for the NCAA Men’s Tournament at T-Mobile Arena for the first time as the NCAA lifted its policy prohibiting its championship events from being played in Nevada. With legal sports betting spreading across the country, the NCAA now has no qualms about crowning its champions in Las Vegas. Others include hockey’s Frozen Four in 2026 and the Final Four in 2028, and a new arena in Reno could make it a potential early-rounds host in future bid cycles.
Sandoval, a 1986 Nevada graduate who served two terms as governor before he was appointed university president in 2020, said the school is “excited to explore the opportunity to partner with Alex Mereulo and Grand Sierra Resort as they develop a state-of-the-art arena and entertainment district that is unprecedented in Northern Nevada.”
Nevada Athletic Director Stephanie Rempe told reporters Wednesday one of the next steps will be to brief the state Board of Regents, which would have to sign off on any final agreement. The 2,000-room resort, located along Interstate 80 a couple miles from the main downtown casino drag, boasted the largest casino floor in North America when it opened as the MGM in 1978. It has been the Grand Sierra Resort since 2006 and under control of Mereulo’s current ownership group since 2011.
Schieve said the historic investment would be a “true game changer for our community … a massive win for our citizens, a win for the University of Nevada and a win for tourism.”