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Bob Cashell's impact on sports in Northern Nevada was immeasurable

Bob Cashell
Bob Cashell, second to the left, attends the 2010 Nevada football ring ceremony with former Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, left, and Chris Ault, far right, and his wife Kathy. (Byrne Photo/Nevada athletics)

To understand the impact Bob Cashell had on sports in Northern Nevada, all you must do is look at the name of the Wolf Pack's football facility: the Nancy and Bob Cashell Football Center.

Cashell, Nevada's lieutenant governor from 1983-87 and Reno's mayor from 2002-2014, died Tuesday at age 81. His legacy will forever be wrapped around his impact on Northern Nevada, which included changing the face of athletics in Reno.

"Bob Cashell was a giant figure in the history of Reno and the state of Nevada," the Wolf Pack athletic department said in a statement Tuesday. "He cared deeply about our state, our university and the Wolf Pack. We are forever grateful for his support and friendship. Our hearts are with Nancy and his family in this difficult time."

Cashell was a major supporter of Nevada athletics, his donations in 1989 and 1993 being the principle pledges for the renovations of the FieldHouse where Nevada's football offices are held, including coaching offices, meeting rooms, locker rooms, a weight and strength center and a players lounge.

"Our program would not be where it is today without the enduring support of Bob Cashell," the Nevada football account said in a tweet. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Nancy and his entire family on this very sad day."

Cashell would regularly stop by Nevada football practice and was close friends with former Wolf Pack athletic director and football coach Chris Ault.

"Very saddened about the passing of Bob Cashell," Nevada football coach Jay Norvell said in a tweet. "Bob, an East Texas guy from Longview, we had much in common and he’d always make me laugh. Thank You Bob for all you did for Nevada football, and everyone you touched in this community. Thought and prayers to family."

Cashell helped keep the Nevada-UNLV football rivalry afloat. In the mid-1980s, the Rebels pushed to drop the series before the Nevada Board of Regents, led by Cashell, the chairman at the time, reinstated the rivalry on a full-time basis in 1989. The teams have played every year since then.

During his time at mayor, Cashell helped pave the way for the funding of Reno's downtown baseball park where the Reno Aces play, turning an area ripe with drug dealers and hookers into a state-of-the-art minor-league facility. The ballpark, funded largely with taxpayer revenue, opened in 2009. Cashell threw out the first pitch in the park's first home game and a bobblehead in his likeness was handed out later that season.

"We are extremely saddened to learn about the passing of Bob Cashell," the Reno Aces tweeted. "Without the former mayor's influence, nothing (at Greater Nevada Field) would have been possible and we will be forever grateful for his efforts. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Cashell was at the forefront of Reno/Tahoe's push in the late 1990s to host the Olympic Games, although Northern Nevada fell short as Salt Lake City won the 2002 bid that was marred by a cheating scandal.

The Reno Events Center was funded and opened during Cashell's mayoral tenure, paving the way for the city to lure an NBA G League team, the Reno Bighorns, who played in Northern Nevada from 2008-18 before moving to Stockton, Calif. He also championed the creation of a whitewater park in the Truckee River with the annual Reno River Festival kayaking competition forming as a result.

In his 12 years as mayor, Cashell led Reno through the Great Recession and into a period of prosperity with a track record of tremendous growth, including the creation of a homeless shelter, the completion of the train trench project through downtown Reno and cleaning up the downtown area to make it more vibrant and livable.

Cashell arrived in Reno in the 1960s and bought the truck stop Bill & Effies, renaming it Boomtown Reno and turning the property into a resort and casino before selling it in 1988. He became a wealthy businessman and managed several properties throughout the state before turning to politics, first as a Democrat and later as a Republican.

Cashell never let partisan politics hinder his likability as he was able to cross the aisle and was a quick friend thanks to his Texas charm and wit.

In 2001, Cashell was honored as the Wolf Pack's prestigious Jake Lawlor Award recipient given annually to individuals who have consistently demonstrated unwavering support of Wolf Pack Athletics. Cashell and his wife, Nancy, were honored at halftime of a Nevada basketball game four years ago for their support of the Wolf Pack.

In 2008, Cashell led the push to save the university's marching band with the creation of a community-wide Pride of the Sierra Boosters Club after budget cuts threatened the band's future.

"While we are all aware that, economically, times are difficult, I am convinced that we can accomplish our goal and ensure that the Pride of the Sierra is not only stronger and better, but that it will be a part of the University of Nevada experience well into the future," Cashell said in 2008. "The band is loved in this community. We want the young people (in the band) to keep their chins up, so we're hopeful that people will send us whatever they can."

Cashell, who was instrumental in reviving the band in the 1980s, stood by with pride when the Wolf Pack band was saved. It remains a part of Nevada's game-day festivities.

"Our community is a better place because of Bob and Nancy Cashell," then-UNR president Milton Glick said at the time while crediting Cashell for the push to save the band. "I very much appreciate their willingness to lend their support and leadership to help the Pride of the Sierra marching band continue as a part of the university experience."

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