A New Sin

Barry Wilner looks at how MGM Resorts International’s proposed multi-purpose arena in Las Vegas will herald a new area for Sin City’s sports scene.

Some might say the last thing Las Vegas needs is another playground.

The folks at MGM Resorts International beg to differ, and they have a valid point.

MGM has partnered with global entertainment giant AEG to build a 20,000-seat all-purpose arena directly across Las Vegas Boulevard, better known as The Strip. Not only will the venue be much larger than those MGM has next to the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay hotels, but it will be uniquely Vegas.

“Las Vegas is known for its palpable energy, and this arena, set so closely to the Las Vegas Strip will add to and feed off that,” Jenn Michaels, senior vice-president at MGM Resorts International, told SportBusiness International.

The venue – designed by Kansas City-based architects Populous – will be built between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts on the site of two temporary office buildings, which were a part of the CityCenter urban complex project built by MGM and investment firm Dubai World.

With construction to begin in the coming months, the new arena will include premium seating and club experiences that the two existing MGM Las Vegas venues cannot offer. 

A dramatic LED wall will run along the outside of the building, and an exterior plaza leading up to the arena will also be constructed. Those features will allow MGM to create programming outside the venue that begins the experience before fans even step through the doors.

The arena design includes an 85-foot-high atrium and exterior balconies, and will be part of a 12-acre outdoor pedestrian mall featuring restaurants and retail stores. But there’s no question what will be the centrepiece.
“Nowhere else in the world could you be in an arena and have access to a space that overlooks a street as dynamic as Las Vegas Boulevard,” adds Michaels.

In many ways, the city already is the entertainment capital of America, particularly for travellers with a penchant for gambling. But the ‘Sin City’ label placed on Las Vegas in the past ignores the variety of amusements and attractions available; a great many of them family-oriented.

What MGM management has found is a need for a bigger place to house the megashows and sporting events Las Vegas attracts. The new arena, scheduled to open in the spring of 2016 at a cost of about $350 million, will stage the usual concerts, boxing matches, mixed martial arts programmes and award shows.

But more importantly, there’s also the possibility of persuading a professional sports league to base a franchise in the arena, most likely the NBA (National Basketball Association), which has a history with Las Vegas that includes staging its All-Star Game there.

“The intent in building a new arena is to provide additional capacity. We believe we can offer even more incredible events to give people reasons to visit Las Vegas,” Michaels says.

“MGM already hosts a variety of events in Vegas, everything from exhibition NBA games with the Los Angeles’ Lakers and Clippers, to Pac-12 [college] basketball tournaments, major boxing events, exhibition NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

“We have not yet announced any specific programming for the new arena, but it is being designed with a variety of features that would make it immediately available to host all of these types of sports events as well as major concerts, awards ceremonies and family shows.”

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