Las Vegas Sands partnership to build 17,500-seat off-Strip concert hall

Some of the top players in the entertainment industry will partner with Las Vegas Sands Corp. to build a 17,500-seat off-Strip venue designed specifically for live music performances.

Sands and The Madison Square Garden Co. said Wednesday they would collaborate with Azoff MSG Entertainment, Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and Oak View Group to build what they call “a first-of-its-kind, large-scale venue that will re-define the live music and entertainment experience.”

The partners declined to provide a cost estimate or say how they would split the financing. They said financial details would come after the venue is designed.

The partners said the venue will be the world’s largest built primarily for music. Seating will be shaped like a horseshoe, allowing everyone a direct view of the massive stage. Boxing and mixed martial arts events might be held there, but not team sports such as basketball and hockey.

Proposed 17,500 seat performance venue in Las Vegas

The 400,000-square-foot facility will be built on an open-air storage lot at Sands Avenue between Koval Lane and Manhattan Street. Officials said construction would begin as soon they get the necessary permits, which is expected to take at least three or four months. Construction would take 18 to 24 months, they said.

Rob Goldstein, president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands, said he doesn’t expect the announcement of the privately funded venue to have any impact on the company’s efforts to build a $1.4 billion domed stadium or secure about $750 million in public financing for the project.

“They’re two completely different types of buildings,” Goldstein said.

“This one is exclusively for music and will hold 17,500 people while the other is for athletic events, possibly the (National Football League) and (Major League Soccer) and holds 65,000 people,” he said.

Sands has partnered with Majestic Realty on the stadium project. The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, which heard testimony on the stadium plan last month, meets Thursday to consider project details and financing options. Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis told the committee in April that he would move his NFL team to Las Vegas if the stadium is built. Any public financing would require legislative approval.

The concert hall will emphasize superior acoustics, and state-of-the-art technology will be used throughout the building. Clubs and lounges within the venue are expected to enhance the VIP experience.

Azoff and Madison Square Garden proposed a large music venue in Las Vegas after a successful renovation of the Forum in Inglewood, California. Irving Azoff, chairman and CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment, and the partners said a $50 million renovation of the Forum in 2012 and 2013 changed everything for an arena that was home to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Kings from 1967 to 1999.

“We renovated the Forum in Los Angeles and, lo and behold, it became a fan-friendly, artist-friendly, sound-friendly, aesthetics-friendly kind of building unlike any other building in the world,” Azoff said.

The Forum’s popularity as a music venue took off after the Eagles, who Azoff represented, reopened the building with six nights of performances in 2014.

“It immediately vaulted us to where Madison Square Garden is the busiest arena in North America and the Forum was second,” Azoff said. “So MSG, along with my company, began looking for where the obvious third place to go, and we agreed on Vegas.”

He said the Forum is “arguably the greatest sounding venue in the world and everything we learned there, we’re bringing to Vegas.”

The new Las Vegas venue will top the Forum, however, by offering “bunker suites,” premium seating that has exclusive entrances, private restrooms and access to menus prepared by signature chefs and top sommeliers.

Azoff said the goal will be to fill the Las Vegas venue every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night with an event. Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, and Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, will help fill the calendar.

“And Wednesdays and Thursdays are starting to do well in Vegas, so we’ll look to do something then, too,” he said.

The partners plan to bid to bring iHeartRadio performances, the Academy of Country Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, the Grammys and other televised events to the venue.

What types of performers will take the stage at the building? The group isn’t contracting with performers just yet, but the long-term relationships they’ve had with groups and individuals bodes well for attracting top names, said David “Doc” O’Connor, president and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company.

“At Madison Square Garden, we have tremendous relationships with all kinds of performers,” O’Connor said. “We’ve been breaking new ground with the Billy Joel residency here in New York at Madison Square Garden. We have a residency that started this year with Jerry Seinfeld at the Beacon (Theatre, in New York). We are actively in talks with other artists for other types of residencies at the Garden currently and the Forum, for that matter.

“We would look at Las Vegas as a unique opportunity to create those kinds of long-term and long-standing residencies,” he said. “Who specifically they might be, I’m not prepared to talk about right now.”

Goldstein said the company reached out to Madison Square Garden and Azoff because “we wanted to expand our entertainment offerings at The Venetian and Palazzo and we think we have the best opportunity with MSG and Irving Azoff.”

Goldstein said the planned venue site is perfectly situated, with thousands of hotel rooms at the nearby Wynn properties as well as at The Venetian and Palazzo. The Sands properties will be physically connected to the venue via the upstairs lobby of the massive Sands Expo & Convention Center through a bridge across Koval Lane.

That will give Venetian and Palazzo guests easy access to performances as well as the company’s other restaurant and club amenities. That connection also would enable the company to use the performance venue as a general conference center for trade shows and conventions scheduled at the Sands Expo.

“The walk from your room to the venue is maybe 10 or 12 minutes,” Goldstein said.

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

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

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