Significant capital investments in Las Vegas hospitality have been few since the recession. The opening of T-Mobile Arena and adjacent developments, as well as record visitation to the city during the last two years, suggest the Strip is turning a corner.
The new $375 million T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas opened its doors for the first time last night, capping off the city’s return from the financial brink during the depths of the great recession.
A partnership between AEG Worldwide and MGM Resorts International, the 20,000-seat venue was built solely with private funds.
Directly in front of the arena, The Park outdoor plaza opened on Monday, representing another $100 million investment by MGM. And connected to MGM’s Monte Carlo Resort next door, the new $90 million, 5,300-seat Monte Carlo Theater is scheduled to open by the end of the year.
The three facilities will help maintain the city’s positioning as “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” says Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission in Las Vegas.
The city’s future was very much in peril during the housing crash and recession that knocked Las Vegas to its knees.
“During the recession, unemployment was higher here than almost anywhere else in the country and businesses were closing at an incredibly rapid rate,” said Sisolak, during yesterday’s press conference. “Foreclosures were on a meteoric rise, and many families were displaced. There were real concerns about whether of not we would survive the recession.”
Adding to the dismal economic climate back then, the massive $9.2 billion CityCenter Las Vegas project opened in December 2009, anchored by the 4,000-room Aria and 1,500-room Vdara hotels. The timing couldn’t have been worse for what was then the largest ever privately financed development in the United States.
The $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan hotel and condo development opened exactly one year later, marking the end of the Las Vegas boom.
Sisolak said the construction industry was decimated by then, and there haven’t been any newbuild hotels open in the interim. There have been a few notable renovations and rebrands, however, such as Nobu Hotel at Caesars and SLS Las Vegas.
So the openings of T-Mobile Arena and The Park mark a new beginning, he suggested, further supported by the city’s all-time record visitation of 41 million arrivals in 2014 and 42 million last year.
He said, to robust applause, “Las Vegas has turned a corner, and we are back better than ever.”
Demand for Pro Sports and Resident Entertainers
The T-Mobile Arena was designed to the required specifications put forth by both the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League to help attract professional sports teams to The Strip.
Attracting the NBA and the NHL is a major goal for the city and many residents. Until that happens, the arena fills a previous void in the city for a large, state-of-the-art venue for A-list concerts.
Nicky Minaj and Ariana Grande take the stage tonight, followed by sold out shows for Guns & Roses April 8-9. Over the next two months, Billy Joel, George Strait, Garth Brooks, and other stars hit the stage.
Monte Carlo Theater, meanwhile, is designed for Las Vegas’ popular style of resident celebrity shows, such as Celine Dion and Mariah Carey at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, and Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez at The AXIS at Planet Hollywood.
Previously, MGM Resorts had considered reworking the 16,500-person MGM Grand Garden Arena to support resident shows, which is located just across the Strip. But the acoustics presented too much of a challenge to match its competitors’ large auditoriums.
“We don’t have an arena in our inventory that speaks to resident shows,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts. “Caesars has done great with the Colosseum, and Planet Hollywood has done well with Axis, and this is something we’ve been wrestling with for years.”
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Photo credit: Wayne Newton and The Killers performed for the opening night crowd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Skift