MGM plans arena on the Strip

If MGM Resorts International has its way, the Asian-themed mega-casino announced Monday by a Malaysian group for the old Stardust property may not be the only new attraction opening on the Strip in 2016.

MGM announced Friday it will partner with established arena builder AEG, breaking ground late this year for a new 20,000-seat arena to the west of the Strip.

And best of all, MGM Resorts Chairman Jim Murren said the project will be built with private money.

The sports and entertainment venue would be built behind the Monte Carlo and New York-New York. Construction should take 24 to 30 months after a ground-breaking late this year. The development is to include retail shops, dining and entertainment offerings.

AEG operates more than 100 sports arenas worldwide, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

MGM, which owns 10 Strip hotel-casinos, thus moves to the head of the pack of contenders aiming to build an arena in the Las Vegas market.

The agreement between the city of Las Vegas and The Cornish Group to build an arena in Symphony Park, downtown, appears to be stalled. An arena planned by Caesars Entertainment Corp. on the east side of the Strip — in which AEG could also have been involved — died when a judge ruled against a public vote on a local sales tax to help fund it.

And Don Snyder, the former bank and casino executive charged with coordinating UNLV’s effort to build a new 60,000-seat domed stadium on campus, is trying to reduce that project’s price after the local resort-casino community expressed concerns over the cost of the UNLV plan, and particularly about a late-in-the game proposal to add a hotel room tax to help finance that project.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak welcomed MGM’s proposed arena. “It’s a fabulous idea. It will create a lot of jobs,” Sisolak said. “It’s being built with private money, which is the best way to build an arena. They’re not asking for a taxpayer subsidy nor should they.”

Mr. Sisolak is right. The best test of a project’s viability is whether private investors believe it can show a profit. Tax subsidies for projects that can’t meet that test are usually a mistake — nor is the public well served by efforts to pick and choose winners and losers based on political “juice.”

Both the MGM arena and the UNLV domed stadium project would add enormously to the city’s flexibility in presenting a wide range of entertainment options, and it’s to be hoped both advance and succeed. Planners have long been aware of a “supermarket effect.” That is, concerns that two supermarkets opening at the same intersection will divide the existing business in half often turn out to be wrong — each store can actually see an increase as trade as the location becomes known as a shopping “destination.”

That’s been true of Las Vegas as a whole. Hopefully it can prove true for both the MGM and UNLV arena projects, as well.

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