UFC, country music officials vie for ‘first’ at new arena

UFC President Dana White would love for the hometown Ultimate Fighting Championship to christen the new 20,000-seat arena under construction behind New York-New York on the Strip with a fight event in spring 2016.

But White and the UFC face competition.

The Academy of Country Music, based in Encino, Calif., is making a run at staging the first event in the $375 million arena being built by the partnership of MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Bob Romeo, Academy of Country Music CEO, said he is pitching MGM Resorts on having the televised ACM awards show as the arena’s first event in early April 2016.

Romeo said this week that if the arena is ready to open by the first week of April 2016, he wants the ACM awards show to inaugurate the building.

“If they get it finished in time, that’s what we’re hoping for,” Romeo said.

Romeo has talked with MGM Resorts executive Mark Prows, who handles entertainment, about booking the new arena.

“We’re thinking it would be a big thing to open it up with a TV show. Look at the television exposure it would create for the building. We get 14 to 15 million viewers,” Romeo said.

The ACM show is no stranger to MGM Resorts, which has used its arenas to host previous ACM events.

“We have hosted the live broadcast for ACM in our arenas since 2003. We value this prestigious event and the relationship we have crafted over all these years,” Prows said in a statement.

“We look forward to their return to their Las Vegas home in 2016. The ACM Award show is exactly the type of event we have designed and are building the new arena for. We are thrilled there is so much interest already in holding some of the world’s best events with us,” he said.

Romeo staged the awards show at the MGM Grand and an affiliated festival at The Linq in 2014 and plans to hold it at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, in 2015 for its 50th anniversary.

UFC, which stages its events at MGM properties such as the Mandalay Bay Events Center and the MGM Grand Garden arena, also would like to hold the arena’s first event. Boxing promoters would like to break in the new arena, too.

Romeo joked that even if the UFC does hold the arena’s first event, the ACM awards show can be the venue’s first TV theatrical show.

He said the important aspect is that the new arena would allow ACM to increase capacity for the TV show and its affiliated events.

AEG Chief Executive Dan Beckerman said he envisions the arena debuting with not just a single event but a series of performances reflecting the array of content that will be staged in the building.

Beckerman said he could see the country music awards show along with UFC and boxing events ushering in the arena over several days.

“We’re building this arena to host a wide variety of shows,” Beckerman said Thursday.

The arena has already booked its first basketball game. A contract is on the table for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to play the Duke Blue Devils on Dec. 15, 2016.

Separately, Romeo disputed Clark County’s claim that there was no special-use permit to stage the ACM Party for a Cause Festival at The Linq festival site/parking lot on April 3-5. ACM emailed a building department permit to the Review-Journal and said 34,500 people attended — not the 55,000 cited by a resident.

Residents near the festival site complained about the noise, traffic, bright lights and litter from the ACM festival at The Linq. Caesars Entertainment, which owns The Linq, wants the Strip’s Gaming Enterprise District to be expanded to include the 38-acre Linq parking lot/event site. The county Planning Commission will address that request on Jan. 6.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel

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