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Sphere will shake for UFC; Eagles can play ‘as long as they want’

Updated July 6, 2024 - 10:29 am

James Dolan loves the hype, to a point. And Dana White might have reached that point in his zealous promotion of UFC 306 at the Sphere.

During a chat Thursday at the July 4th celebration outside the bulbous wonder, I asked Dolan the biggest challenge of staging the UFC event.

“Dana’s making it harder, just being Dana,” said Dolan, Sphere Entertainment’s executive chairman and CEO. “He’s already said we’re going to be the greatest thing ever. I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’ ”

UFC 306 is scheduled for Sept. 14. White commented after UFC 303 at T-Mobile Arena, “It will be the biggest gate of all time. It won’t be the greatest UFC event of all time. It will be the greatest sporting event of all time.”

No false modesty there.

Dolan emphasizes the UFC event will be the first-of-its kind sporting event at the Sphere, with live action dictating the experience.

“We obviously did the NHL Draft, which was also live, right? But there was no live action,” Dolan said. “What the real challenge is going to be is taking the whole inside of the Sphere and using it immersive and experiential. You’re not going to be just watching guys in the octagon and on the screen. That is what Dana’s going after.”

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One way to achieve “immersive and experiential” is to make the Sphere shake.

“I know Dana is going to use the haptics,” Dolan said, referring to Powersoft’s multi-sensory entertainment system that makes the Sphere’s chairs vibrate. “When the big guy falls, you’re gonna feel it.”

Away from the UFC spectacular, Dolan said to expect the Eagles to extend their series at the Sphere. We have anticipated another two weekends/four dates tacked on to what is currently a 16-show show run of weekend performances opening Sept. 20.

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“The Eagles, first off, are selling like hotcakes,” Dolan said. “So the likelihood is they will extend. But that’s up to them. They have to decide that. Look, they can play as long as they want.”

Word around the entertainment scene has been the Sphere, along with MGM Resorts International, has expressed interest in a Beyoncé.

Dolan was asked if there was any merit to Queen Bey headlining a production at the venue. He countered that such a project depends largely on scheduling.

“She’s played The Garden, she’s a major artist, and we do love to have major artists,” Dolan said, referring to Madison Square Garden. “I don’t think the fit has quite worked yet.”

Dolan appreciates the prep time and resources to design a custom show for the Sphere.

“There’s a challenge for every artist who comes here. It’s the same with Dead & Company, it’s not just playing your show. They are the best musicians in the world, but they still have to take their art and translate it on to the screen,” the 69-year-old entertainment magnate said. “It requires an awful lot from the artists, and I think her schedule just isn’t allowing her to do that.”

The Sphere team has declined comment on rumors of a “Wizard of Oz”-themed production being developed for the venue.

Dolan slso shook off questions about Zac Brown Band playing the venue. Brown himself has opened channels, on comic and YouTube star Theo Von’s podcast, about playing the Sphere (Von’s image was visible across the Strip, on the side of Resorts World, during the Sphere event).

“Nah, I can’t talk about that. You’ll just have to wait,” Dolan said, grinning. “We’re definitely not ruling them out. We’re definitely not announcing, either.”

The Sphere will be activated for New Year’s Eve. Look for an EDM-styled production, ushering in 2025. The international “Afterlife” electronic music experience has been rumored to be that show. But again, nothing is announced or confirmed.

“It’s going to be different. There will be programming here,” Dolan said. “But yes, we are going to have an event here on New Year’s Eve. Don’t plan anything else.”

XO-llencne in art

Dolan announced the winners of the first XO Sphere Student Design Challenge, in which more than 100,000 Clark County students created art for Exosphere.

“When I was a child, in arts school go to art class and work on a project. You’d draw a picture, maybe you’d make something with clay, and you would bring it home,” Dolan said from the podium in front of the Sphere. “You’d show it to your parents, and of course they they told you it was the most beautiful thing in the world. And then they put it on a place of honor, on the refrigerator.

“Well, in some ways, this is the biggest refrigerator you’ve ever seen.”

Those who prevailed in their respective divisions were Rafael Ayala Toledo (Grade 5, Mackey Elementary School), Simone Enriquez (Grade 5, McCaw Elementary School), Kathryn Honeycutt (Grade 8, Anthony Saville Middle School) Robyn Alejandro (Grade 8, Kathleen and Tim Harney Middle School), Alexandra Ashdown (senior, Liberty High School), Alicia Valle (junior, Legacy High School), Linjie Ying (graduate student, UNLV) and Raul Montez (senior, UNLV).

The challenge was open to students in grades 4-12, and select students from UNLV. More than 100 finalists were selected. Eight winners were selected, four by the public and four by judges, including Refik Anadol and Michela Picchi, both of whom have designed for the Exosphere.

By kicking off “XO Sphere has bridged the divide between its trailblazing technology and emerging young artists in Las Vegas. The program is ongoing. The kids’ work is amazing. The refrigerator is cool.

Cool Hang Alert

Double dose o’ blues greats coming over the next week: Chris O’Leary headlines 10 p.m. Wednesday at OG Sand Dollar Lounge on Polaris and Spring Mountain. Carolyn Sonderland is at Sand Dollar Downtown at the Plaza at 7:30 p.m. July 13. O’Leary is no cover. Wonderland is a 20-spot. As always, try the pizza.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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