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MSG Sphere makes outreach a ‘priority’ in wake of U2 seat fiasco

An entertainment industry expert and a consumer advocate agree there’s little more the operators of the MSG Sphere at The Venetian can do for U2 fans who purchased tickets with obstructed sight lines to the big screens that wrap around the 17,500-seat performance venue that opens later this year.

Representatives of the Sphere Entertainment Co. have reached out to hundreds of ticket holders who bought premium seats in the lower-level Section 100 areas to offer refunds or a different seat at a different presentation of the “U2 UV: Achtung Baby” shows that begin Sept. 29 and run through December.

Sphere officials issued a statement once the sight obstructions were discovered. They declined to comment beyond their statement.

“Our fans and their experience are always our top priority,” the statement said. “As soon as we realized there was an issue, we worked closely with event organizers to reach the affected ticketholders with several make-good options. We look forward to Sphere’s opening with U2 and their incredible run of shows they have planned for fans this fall.”

Longtime Las Vegas entertainment venue expert Daren Libonati of the Libonati Entertainment Group said he feels badly for operators of the Sphere because similar problems crop up whenever a new venue opens.

Libonati led the team that opened the MGM Grand Garden in 1993 and he discovered seating problems there nine days before Barbra Streisand was to open the venue with a concert.

“It’s never fun to find out after the fact that you’ve got issues,” Libonati said. “I feel bad for them.”

Libonati said venue designers review computer-aided design visuals regularly before a venue opens, but “you never really know until you know … how good everything looks until you walk it and all the seats are in place.”

Libonati said his team had to scramble to resolve problems for 150 ticket holders at MGM Grand Garden before the venue’s debut with Streisand.

“I can’t imagine anyone with the property, the Sphere, the band and the promoter who are not going to embrace these 800 people and figure out the best strategy personally for each one of them,” he said. “This isn’t easy for anyone.”

A representative of the Nevada Consumer Affairs office, which works to resolve consumer complaints, said there’s little that the office can do because ticket buyers sign a terms-and-conditions agreement when they buy tickets that includes several phrases holding producers harmless from paying ancillary expenses resulting from any rescheduling.

That means ticket holders would have no chance of being compensated for the expense of having to change airline tickets or hotel reservations if they attend a concert on a different day.

Ticket holders in the affected sections will have no problem seeing the band on stage; what’s obstructed are some portions of the screens, which have been touted as one of the breakthrough attractions unique to the venue.

Sphere officials discovered in a walk-through of the $2.3 billion venue that people sitting in around 800 seats would not be able to see all of the nearly 4-acre high-resolution LED screens that wrap around the audience because of an overhang of the Section 200 seats above them.

The 100 and 200 sections are considered choice positions to see the show. Wednesday afternoon, tickets in the 100 section were running $2,600-$4,200 on secondary ticket site LasVegasTickets.com. Tickets in the 200 section were going for between $1,700 and $3,100.

Contractors are completing the installation of the interior screens inside the Sphere this month.

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

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