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Work begins on 18,000-seat MSG Sphere at The Venetian

Two major entertainment brands began work Thursday on changing the face of live performance — and the Las Vegas skyline — with a ceremonial groundbreaking for the 18,000-seat MSG Sphere at The Venetian.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, just over three months away from ending his eight years as governor, Rob Goldstein, president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Jim Dolan, chairman and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company, were among the speakers at the event attended by about 300 people.

The Sphere is a collaboration by Madison Square Garden and Las Vegas Sands, operator of The Venetian and Palazzo and the Sands Expo &Convention Center, just west of the construction site.

The companies have not disclosed the cost of the project, a spherical first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech video screens inside and out and sound capabilities unlike anything ever developed in the world.

The companies said Thursday the facility would open in the 2021 fiscal year.

“I was thinking to myself, this truly is the next chapter in the history of the evolution of the entertainment capital of the world,” Sandoval said in his remarks. “When you’re in the middle of making history, you don’t realize that you’re making it. When you look at the Sphere, it is unlike anything on planet Earth. This will be the first of its kind, right here in Las Vegas, Nevada.”

Sandoval, an advocate for economic development, also noted the 3,500 construction jobs the project will create and the 4,400 permanent jobs that will be in place once the building opens.

Dolan picked up on the prospect of making history with the Sphere. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

“Do you suppose when they broke ground for the Eiffel Tower that people knew what it was going to be?” he asked. “I’m pretty sure they didn’t. I think this is going to be like that.”

Madison Square Garden has embarked on a program to build Sphere venues in other cities. The company has committed to building one in London, but the venue in Las Vegas will be the first completed.

In an interview after the event, Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, who participated in the ceremonial turning of the first shovel of dirt on the property, said he was enthused that the Sphere would become the next big undertaking in Southern Nevada.

“We have the (Vegas) Golden Knights at T-Mobile (Arena) and pretty soon, we’ll have the Raiders in the new stadium,” he said. “And then, we’ll have the Sphere where people will be able to enjoy performances in a way they’ve never experienced them before.”

Madison Square Garden unveiled the technology of the Sphere at Radio City Music Hall in New York in February and has taken the show on the road to London and Southern California since then. In May, it was Las Vegas’ turn to see the potential of a 580,000-square-foot fully programmable exterior building surface and a 170,000-square-foot spherical digital indoor display plane and hear the remarkable clarity of directed “beamformed” sound transmission and feel the vibrations from an infrasound haptic floor system.

The sound transmission system, produced by thousands of tiny speakers embedded in the venue’s walls, will enable the same sound clarity in the front row as it will in the back. The beamforming technology also will be able to direct sound with laserlike precision so that on-stage performers will be able to hear their backup riffs without wires, or speakers in a business presentation could offer a demonstration in different languages to different parts of the building wirelessly.

“The portrayal you see behind me is accurate,” said Goldstein, standing before a rendering on a screen behind him. “It’s that good. It’s that big. It’s that seductive, and I think it’s going to be a major success.”

At 360 feet tall, it will be slightly shorter than the nearby Venetian tower and at 500 feet have nearly the same diameter as The Linq’s High Roller observation wheel.

“We know its size and you can see pictures of it, but I think three years from now you’re standing here and you think about this night, you’ll say, ‘I had no idea this was what it was going to be,’” Dolan said. “It’s that crazy and that incredible of a project. I have to say to all of Las Vegas and Nevada, you’re the right place for this. You showed us you were the right place.”

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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