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New details emerge for Sphere Las Vegas project near Strip

Developers of the planned 18,000-seat MSG Sphere Las Vegas received a development waiver from Clark County Wednesday and plans are in the works to add a Las Vegas Monorail stop near the planned spherical performance venue.

Representatives of the company also said the project would require a review from the Federal Aviation Administration because, at 360 feet tall and just off the McCarran International Airport flight pattern, officials want to affirm that the building won’t disrupt air traffic.

The Clark County Commission unanimously approved waivers of development standards, including a reduction in the number of required parking spaces, for the venue, which will start construction in the second half of the year and be completed by 2020.

The facility, to be built on a 63-acre lot east of the Sands Expo Center, The Venetian and the Palazzo, will be connected to the convention center by a pedestrian bridge.

The 400,000-square-foot facility will be built on an open-air storage lot at Sands Avenue between Koval Lane and Manhattan Street.

Parking waiver

The waivers would allow construction of the building without the required 13,910 parking spaces. Las Vegas Sands representatives asked that the existing 12,101 spaces at The Venetian and Palazzo be allowed to count toward the parking requirement since many of the Sphere’s visitors will come by way of the resort. The venue also will have 304 onsite parking spaces along the building’s periphery.

The project also received a waiver of 10-foot right-of-way setbacks on Sands Avenue.

Attorney Chris Kaempfer, who represented Las Vegas Sands in the 40-minute hearing, also said the company is working with the Las Vegas Monorail Co. to arrange for a monorail stop near the site. A Las Vegas Monorail spokeswoman confirmed the company is in talks with Sands and Wynn Resorts Ltd. to determine how to place a station near the corner of Sands Avenue and Koval Lane.

A stop at that location not only could deliver people to the Sphere, but also serve as a stop for the Sands Expo Center. Assuming the monorail company moves ahead with current plans to extend its line south to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, the monorail would connect the city’s three largest convention centers.

Kaempfer and Jonathan Mallie, a senior principal and New York director for the Populous architecture firm, which is designing the Sphere, said they expect the FAA review of the proposal to take a few months, but they don’t anticipate any issues from the agency, which routinely reviews plans for potential tall obstructions. They said the agency could look at plans for how light is emitted from the building.

Programmable exterior

The exterior will be fully programmable, creating a digital showcase for brands, artists, events and partners.

Because the company is trying to start construction later this year, it presented the county with plans for a building 220 feet tall that wouldn’t require FAA review. The company would revise plans to 360 feet once the FAA has completed its work.

Commissioners praised Sands and Madison Square Garden for bringing the first-of-its-kind venue to Southern Nevada.

“Hats off to the Sands for having the vision of bringing something so iconic and historic (to Southern Nevada),” said Commissioner Lawrence Weekly. “I think the boroughs in New York are going to be a little jealous here.”

Madison Square Garden unveiled the Sphere concept earlier this month at Radio City Music Hall in New York and said it plans to build the first venue in Las Vegas and another in London.

The interior bowl of the Sphere will feature the largest and highest resolution media display on Earth and a dynamically adaptive acoustics system that will deliver crystal clear audio to every seat in the house through the use of “planar waves” and “beamforming.”

Commissioners were told the project would have an annual payroll of $110.7 million for local workers and an economic impact of $680 million during the construction phase.

Climate-controlled bridge

A climate-controlled bridge 25 feet wide and 32 feet above the street would connect the northeast end of the Sands Expo Center to a bridge connecting a parking garage across Sands Avenue to Wynn Las Vegas. The pedestrian bridge would pass beneath the monorail track.

Among the conditions of approval is for Sands to deliver a report to the county on parking utilization after the first performance at the venue. The company also is prohibited from scheduling major events concurrently at the Sphere and at the Sands Expo Center.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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