Nevada Basketball Could Play Games Inside a Casino Property by 2026


  • The current plan is to build a 10,000-seat arena as part of $1 billion in investment
  • The arena would belong to the state’s largest casino, Grand Sierra Resort
  • The NCAA recently returned to Nevada for the first time in decades

The University of Nevada basketball team could be relocated off-campus within the next three years as part of a 10-year plan driven by the state’s largest hotel and casino.

According to officials of the Grand Sierra Resort and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, the $1 billion investment will be the largest in the city’s history. The plan calls for a 10,000-seat arena, a 140-acre, 800-room hotel, a golf center, live shows on the water, and other commodities.

The arena, which will be fit for sports events, concerts, live shows, and other attractions, could also become the home of Nevada basketball if a deal is struck.

Working on a deal

Alex Mereulo of The Meruelo Group and University of Nevada President Brian Sandoval said they’ve maintained a mutual interest in joining the basketball team and the new resort. If everything falls into place, a deal “could make the arena their home beginning with the fall 2026 season.”

The project will be fully faded by private capital investment and will take nothing from the public fund.

“The vision is to transform GSR into a destination where community, sports and entertainment come together,” said Mereulo during a Wednesday news conference.

“This will be the home of the Wolf Pack," he said the same day at an announcement in a nightclub.

The plan is for the arena to be built on top of spare parking space in the lot of the hotel-casino that is already in place. It will be roughly 300,000 square-feet and will have suites and premium lounges for high-profile guests.

Sandoval graduated from Nevada in 1986 and was Nevada’s 29th Governor from 2011-19. He was appointed president in 2020 and believes that there will be a mutual benefit from partnering with Mereulo and GSR.

“[The University of Nevada 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,” said Sandoval. “It will create what I think is the greatest sports venue in the country.”

How would the move be received?

There has been concern that Nevada’s gambling-centric environment will cause problems for college athletes. The NCAA stayed away from Las Vegas during March Madness for decades until it finally returned to the famed city for the Sweet 16 earlier this year.

The NCAA is also finding out for itself how difficult it can be to keep student-athletes away from legal sports betting. A number of high-profile cases of gambling violations have made national headlines recently, especially with what is going on at Iowa and Iowa State.

Sandoval, however, believes that college sports have evolved, and the effects of sports betting can be regulated.

“I think there's been a recognition that sports betting has proliferated throughout the country and that it's regulated strictly and appropriately, and you can have this balance between the gaming industry and college sports,” he said.

Nevada coach Steve Alford, a 1987 national champion with the University of Indiana, believes his team would benefit greatly on the recruiting front with the introduction of the new arena.

“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,” Alford said. “It's a whole 'nother student-athlete that we're going to be able to get into homes and talk to.”

The University has done its fair share of leg work investigating the practicality of the deal, a school director said. They are airing on the side of caution but are optimistic a deal will be struck.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.