MGM Resorts opened The Park this week on the Las Vegas Strip to answer growing demand for more outdoor social spaces from both leisure visitors and convention organizers.

The $100 million venue is located between MGM’s Monte Carlo and New York-New York properties, right in front of the new 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas that opens today.

Skirting the edge of The Park, a string of varied casual restaurants open out into the peaceful desert landscaping. Dining options range from German sausage dogs at the industrial-style Beerhaus beer garden to waygu beef maki rolls at the loungey Sake Rok.

The two most striking elements are the 40-foot, steel mesh “Bliss Dance” sculpture depicting a fluid female form in mid-pirouette, and a series of modernist steel tree sculptures designed to provide shade over the winding promenade.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, MGM Resorts’ CEO Jim Murren, and Clark County Commissioner Mary Beth Scow were among those who spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony. All of them highlighted the venue’s overarching mission to introduce visitors to Las Vegas’ under-appreciated natural desert environment, but in a way that integrates seamlessly with the city’s hospitality and entertainment scene.

“We needed to share with the world the beauty of Las Vegas itself, this indigenous beauty of the high desert that we call home,” said Murren, during his opening address. “And to show the people of the world how beautiful our desert can be. Not a cold stark place, but a place of growth and joy and color.”

The opening speeches focused at length on sustainability, which was a bit surprising at first. The Park’s potential to significantly reposition the guest and group experiences near MGM’s most high-profile assets — including Aria, Bellagio, and MGM Grand — took a back seat to MGM Resorts’ environment-friendly mandate.

However, all of the talk about sustainability revealed to outsiders the level of importance that local residents and corporate interests here place on responsible development in Nevada’s fragile micro-climate due to the scarcity of water.

“Our community is so interested in water and water conservation, and education, as well as economic development, and I think this park is bringing those three threads together in a very unique way,” said Scow. “The Park tells a very rich and compelling story about Clark County, and in particular the Strip, with two very different realities that are intersected to demonstrate what can be accomplished when creativity and innovation combine with conscience and commitment.”

Marrying Global Design and Local Education

Following the ribbon cutting, Skift spoke with Cindy Ortega, ‎SVP and chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts. We asked her why there was such a preponderance of discussion around sustainability, rather than promoting the job creation, economic development, new travel user experience, etc., typical at opening events like this.

“The care that’s gone into choosing all of the local plants and designing the closed-loop water systems here was done with as much care as what’s usually reserved for designing a new hotel,” Ortega said. “The core purpose of The Park is to bring the desert environment right down to the Strip so people who visit can see something beyond the glitter of Las Vegas. Most of our visitors never really get to appreciate the beauty of the desert and everything that blooms in it.”

Presently, Ortega is working with Cisco to develop a virtual smart park via a network of sensors and a wayfinding app, so visitors can customize their educational journey through the space. Ortega said it’s still too soon to discuss details, but the end goal is clear.

“The Park is going to be positioned as a demonstration garden,” she explained. “Our vision is to bring together an organized educational program with the technical colleges here, because we want to teach people how to build natural landscapes that are sustainable.”

We also met with Hans de Klerk, a specialist of architectural fabrication at IHC Studio Metalix in Rotterdam, which builds ships and aircraft. Metalix was contracted to construct the multiple Shade Structures that tower 50 to 75 feet above The Park.

The structures are more like public art sculptures, inspired in part by Singapore’s famous Supertree Grove. They exude a kind of heavy industrial elegance, because they’re made out of thick steel plates used to build freighters, with each plate twisted and perforated to resemble tall trees bending slightly in they wind.

When asked what he was most proud of, de Klerk said, “The great craftsmanship accomplished by 3,000 people working in a shipbuilding factory in a Dutch village of 700 people.” Metalix invested 32,000 man hours to build the Shade Structures.

Anchoring the end of The Park, the Bliss Dance sculpture was originally designed by artist Marco Cochrane for the annual Burning Man event in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The artwork symbolizes a female’s ideal sense of autonomy and security. Cochrane explained how he worked with model Dejas Solis through various dance moves to capture a moment in motion that best depicts a woman saying, “This is me feeling great!”

Murren said, “I’ve long thought in my 18 years here that Las Vegas could use such a place.” He explained that the decision to include provocative art in The Park was inspired by central plazas located in major cities worldwide.

With all of these different pieces now in place, The Park should become a popular event space for conferences. According to MGM’s spokespeople, the company hasn’t decided yet how the venue will be packaged for group business. However, If MGM doesn’t offer the opportunity for full buy-outs, then there should easily be areas that could be sectioned off for semi-private events.

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Photo Credit: The 40-foot "Bliss Dance" sculpture at The Park. Skift