Marnell Gaming LLC, which owns two prominent riverfront casino-hotels in Laughlin in Nevada’s southern tip, is building a $4 million modular amphitheater near its resorts that is scheduled to open in February for crowds varying from 9,300 to 21,000 guests.
The Laughlin Event Center has scheduled its first major act for March — country music star Reba McEntire.
“It’s long overdue. The town has been trying to find an identity for a long time and it will help the overall market. It’s a benefit to the whole town,” said Anthony Marnell III, owner of Marnell Gaming. “It will promote the town and bring more visitation to the town.”
Marnell Gaming owns the Colorado Belle and Edgewater casino resorts, two of the major hotels on the Colorado River, which divides Laughlin from Bullhead City, Ariz. The event center will be on the west side of the Laughlin Outlet Mall, and within walking distance of Marnell’s gaming properties.
Marnell expects the new venue on 15 to 20 acres to host concerts, bull riding events, rodeos, boxing matches, mixed martial arts shows, festivals and comedy acts. The amphitheater is being built in modular sections that can be added or removed depending on crowd size.
Next to the amphitheater site is another 20 acres that could be used for a closed, off-road motocross venue, said Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, which will help Marnell steer sports and entertainment content to the Laughlin Event Center.
Other event center acts for 2014 include Los Tigres Del Norte/Paquita on May 3 and Larry the Cable Guy as the headliner for the Laughlin Comedy Festival on Oct. 4. Christenson said a goal for 2014 is for the new venue to host up to a dozen main events.
The venue’s modular design will allow event producers to vary the seating size capacities based on ticket demand. The “concert under the stars” venue has no covering or enclosements, Marnell said.
The facility’s capacity of 21,000 is nearly triple the city’s population of 7,323. Neighboring Bullhead City has about 40,000 residents. Laughlin is about 90 miles south of Las Vegas.
Marnell Gaming will work with the Laughlin Tourism Commission and Las Vegas Events to recruit and promote entertainment and sports programming at the amphitheater.
In past years, the Laughlin Tourism group set up temporary stages and seating for outdoor entertainment, Marnell said. But a permanent entertainment home will help draw more acts, he said.
“These events have been successes for the town and we thought we should be doing a lot more of these,” Marnell said. “We have a good site for this and the investment was worth making. We’re not just building for Marnell Gaming. We’re building for Laughlin in general.”
Christenson noted it costs more than $100,000 to build a temporary venue to host concerts. “We’ve always had to start from scratch for each event we did. Now, the cost is dramatically reduced for whoever does the event . . . We can spread our money out for more events.”
Marnell envisions next year as a time to fine-tune the type of acts that appeal to people and tourists.
“2014 will be year of seeing what people want and 2015 you’ll see a fantastic lineup,” he said.
Country stars such as Toby Keith, Alabama and McEntire have played Laughlin. The amphiteather should be able to draw musical performers outside of the country genre, Marnell said.
Marnell also sees Las Vegas Events, which is funded by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, as playing a big role to recruit and promote entertainment and sports for the facility.
“Las Vegas Events will be heavily involved. They have a lot of the connections to the talent. They’ll promote concerts and work together with us,” Marnell said. “That was a big piece for us — making sure they were committed to the venue’s success. If that happens, the town will benefit.”
Construction began about a few weeks ago, he said. The construction manager is Marnell Corrao Associates.
Alan Snel can be contacted at email@example.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter