Circus Circus as it stands on Mon. Aug 26.  There is a building to the right of it with an billboard advertising Circus Circus and the City while trees and streetlamp are to the left of the building.
Jayme Sileo / Nevada Sagebrush
Circus Circus as it stands on Mon. Aug 26. Students began to move into Wolf Pack Tower on Sat. Aug 17 for NevadaFit.

As the new school year begins at the University of Nevada, Reno, students are moving into a brand new residence hall.

The university secured a deal with Eldorado Resorts after Argenta and Nye Hall sustained damages in an explosion on Friday, July 5 that left both dorms uninhabitable for the upcoming school year. The collaboration allowed the university’s Residential Life, Housing and Food Services to occupy the West Tower, also known as Sky Tower, of Circus Circus Reno.

The decision came after the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents voted unanimously at a special board meeting on Friday, July 19, to authorize Wolf Pack Tower as the proposed housing for displaced students during 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic school years. It is estimated Nye Hall will be back open for the fall 2020 semester and Argenta Hall is estimated to be open in the fall of 2021, according to University President Marc Johnson.

“We feel it is vitally important that the 1,300 students, who will not be living in Argenta and Nye halls this fall, still have a seamlessly integrated University housing experience, one that will include all of the support infrastructure we know is vital for first-year students’ success and retention,” said Johnson at the NSHE board meeting.

Students living in the interim hall of Wolf Pack Tower receive programs and activities, access to the university’s dining, study areas, a juice bar and laundry facilities. Each single room has a king-size bed and each double occupancy room hosts two queen-size beds. All rooms come with a television, mini-refrigerator, private bathroom, desks and dressers and a monthly cleaning service.

The university provides a shuttle service to and from the campus for Wolf Pack Tower residents. 

Residents are required to show their Circus Circus Wolf Pack Tower key card to board. Non-residents must show their University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Card to board and will only be permitted to board if capacity exists. Priority to the shuttle service will be provided to students with a Circus Circus Wolf Pack Tower Key Card first.

Shuttle service stops are at Wolf Pack Tower, North residence halls and Lawlor Events Center.

Incoming freshman Kea Espinada is one of the 1,300 students originally assigned to one of the dorm halls affected by the incident. 

“Initially I was skeptical about moving into a casino, but after hearing about all of the benefits of Wolf Pack Tower I am happy I was assigned there,” said Espinada. “It’s a lot nicer than I anticipated and the university really made it a smooth transition for everyone. My parents were also hesitant at first, but the university kept them informed and updated throughout the summer, and they feel secure with how above and beyond the school went to accommodate us.”

All entrances and exits to the tower are staffed 24/7 by university employees, as well as a security and services desk. The tower utilizes a key-card system for entry and there is no public access.

Additionally, the university’s police services maintain a substation in the building with officers on duty around the clock.

School officials addressed concerns of parents including safety, transportation and creating an environment that promotes student success at Wolf Pack Tower.

Lynda Moore, a parent of two students at the university, said the university’s move to house students in Circus Circus was relieving.

“As a mom of a second UNR student, I wanted it to be a good experience for my freshman son,” said Moore. “When I received a letter from the president of the university, I felt relieved that a police substation would be on site. I felt that the university was trying hard to make this a great experience for the students.”

A majority of the students moving into the tower had initially planned on moving into Argenta or Nye Hall. 

“Moving in was awesome,” Moore said. “There were lots of people to help answer questions, carry items to the rooms and give helpful directions. I honestly didn’t feel like I was in the Circus Circus hotel. It definitely felt like a spirited dorm environment.”

The explosions, which occurred on Friday, July 5, damaged Argenta and Nye Halls, two of the university’s largest residence halls. The explosions were an isolated incident that occurred in Argenta’s boiler room, according to the Nevada State Fire Marshal.

After the first smaller explosion, students and faculty were escorted out of Argenta Hall and the Downunder Cafe. A second explosion occurred shortly after, causing a majority of the damage to the building. 

University staff moved to secure the buildings and ensure the safety of students and staff. Eight people were injured, two of which went to the hospital with minor injuries.

The university provided counselors for affected students and staff in the residents halls where they were moved within three hours of the incident. The weekend following the explosion, members of the community dropped off items at Sierra Hall to donate to the displaced students.

The majority of the damage to the buildings was superficial and the structural integrity of the buildings was not compromised. The university mandates regular residence hall inspections and claims to not believe that an incident of this sort would occur again.

The university developed a first phase interim-dining facility on campus known as Howler Village. It will serve as the university’s interim dining facility until a semi-permanent structure is built later this fall.

Additionally, the Overlook Cafe offers dining to residence hall students with a meal plan.

Kennady Pine can be reached at or on Twitter at the @NevadaSagebrush