Despite varying proposals, only T-Mobile Arena has been built

Las Vegas for years was long on promises for new arenas and short on projects. Until the plan for the new T-Mobile Arena bore fruit, Southern Nevadans needed a scorecard to keep up with the comings and goings of proposals.

The Caesars Entertainment-Anschutz Entertainment Group arena proposal east of Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas.

The Silver State Arena at the site formerly occupied by the old Wet ‘n’ Wild water park on the Strip.

The Las Vegas National Sports Center complex, which included a football stadium, a baseball park and an arena in downtown Las Vegas.

Former University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball star Jackie Robinson’s retractable-roof arena at the old Wet ‘n’ Wild site.

That list doesn’t even count the much larger stadium proposals that have come and gone and come again.

Only T-Mobile Arena has blossomed. The 20,000-seat, $375 million, privately funded venue opens April 6.

It was planned and built by MGM Resorts International and Los Angeles-based AEG, the company that developed the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

“This is a vision we started about seven years ago,” MGM President Bill Hornbuckle said. “The MGM Grand Garden has been wonderful, and when we started talking about big-scale events, the community needed and wanted something exciting and new. From the company’s perspective and the community’s perspective, we knew it was something we wanted to participate in.”

The joint-venture partners squeezed the state-of-the-art facility onto a 14.5-acre Strip site west of New York-New York and Monte Carlo. Three other arenas are less than 2 miles away.

Although the T-Mobile Arena has yet to open, the facility already is being hailed as a success; 77 big-time entertainment and sports events are booked. MGM officials figured they needed to add 100 new events to keep the MGM Grand Garden, the Mandalay Bay Arena and T-Mobile viable.

And the names are huge: Guns N’ Roses, Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, Janet Jackson, George Strait and Ultimate FIghting Championship 200. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels will have a long-awaited college basketball rematch with Duke University in December.

Along with big names come enormous production values. T-Mobile has the same number of seats as Staples Center but with 30 percent less square footage. That means patrons will be on top of the action with excellent sight lines. Hornbuckle says there isn’t a bad seat in the house. And that doesn’t even consider the video projected to a four-sided, two-story high-resolution video board suspended above the arena floor. The quality of the experience is expected to command top box-office dollars.

MGM Chairman, President and CEO Jim Murren recently tantalized members of the state Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission with descriptions of the arena when he addressed them on a corporate restructuring. Regulators were much more interested hearing about the new venue than the company’s formation of a real estate investment trust.

Hornbuckle said the partnership decided to position the arena as a community venue. That’s why the naming rights were acquired by T-Mobile and the MGM and AEG marks are absent from the building’s interior.

The community has reacted favorably. All 42 luxury boxes have been subscribed and other casino companies have agreed to sponsor future events in the venue — not that MGM and AEG couldn’t have done it themselves.

“It’s a great joint venture for the community in that you’ve got one of the world’s largest concert venue operators and concert promoters, and ourselves with a long and esteemed history in Las Vegas promoting events, coming together to activate this thing,” Hornbuckle said.

And all that doesn’t even count the potential to house a National Hockey League team, which could add at least 40 new dates to the calendar.

“To us,” Hornbuckle said, “getting hockey would be icing on the cake.”

The potential addition of more than 100 events is music to the ears of leaders of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

With a self-described mission of “putting heads in beds” every night, the authority sees the addition of new high-end dates as a draw that will likely raise occupancy rates. Greater demand means higher room rates.

There are 80,000 hotel rooms within a mile of T-Mobile Arena. Although most of them belong to MGM, company executives see the opening of the T-Mobile Arena as a catalyst for growth valleywide and for all Las Vegas resort companies.

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

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