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A $20M open-air event venue rises in Las Vegas


Maintaining its status as the No. 1 tradeshow and entertainment destination seems to come easy for Las Vegas, especially as many of the city’s own private companies continue to develop event and exhibition spaces.

MGM Resorts International has become a leader in this regard. The multi-casino-resort owner and operator expanded its event portfolio with the addition of a 15-acre outdoor event space across from the Luxor in September 2013. It currently has in the works a $375-million 20,000-seat arena with entertainment and facilities management company AEG and will bring one of the largest musical festivals in the world to Las Vegas in May after completing its $20-million outdoor venue – the now expanded 47.9-acre MGM Festival Grounds.

“We are on time and on budget. We will soon turn over the venue to Rock in Rio to load their production in,” stated Chris Baldizan, senior vice president of entertainment, MGM Resorts International.

The MGM Festival Grounds in particular has captured widespread attention due to the impact Rock in Rio is expected to create on the city. Traveling by car to the outdoor venue at the North end of the Las Vegas Strip, near SLS Las Vegas and Circus Circus, will likely become near impossible once up to 80,000 people descend on Las Vegas to see 120 musical acts from May 8-9 and 15-16.

Rock in Rio press event at the MGM Festival Grounds. © Al Powers, PowersImagery.com

Rock in Rio press event at the MGM Festival Grounds. © Al Powers, PowersImagery.com

For this reason, as part of its overall logistics plan, MGM Resorts has not only addressed the traffic congestion concerns of neighboring casino-resorts and condos in strategic planning meetings, but it has also started collaborating with local transportation providers to ensure the large-scale event runs smoothly.

“We are talking with [Clark] County officials, CAT and the monorail to roll out an extensive traffic plan,” he added. “For us to be successful, we also need to be good neighbors. Everyone needs to be on board.”

Currently still under construction, the MGM Festival Grounds needed a more than 3,000-strong workforce to take on the endeavor. By the time Rock in Rio opens, the venue will also welcome 8,000 temporarily employed workers. MGM Resorts is still in discussion about how many people will hold permanent positions at the venue.

For Rock in Rio alone, MGM Festival Grounds will rise as the City of Rock. When the large musical festival ends, MGM Resorts will continue leveraging relationships with existing partners and forming new partnerships to attract meeting planners and show organizers, according to Baldizan.

“While Rock in Rio is an amazing festival we’re proud to host, we wouldn’t spend $20 million for one event,” he stated.

Baldizan said he expects that after 2015, the open-air venue could attract between six to eight events a year. Many of these could include outdoor tradeshows, after parties or galas to complement indoor tradeshows.

“There are agriculture conventions that need to bring in large farm equipment and car events. It’s that unique twist at the end of the event where [attendees] could come outside to have a wrap party. We already have staging set-up, so they can save money by not having to bring in lights and sound,” he added.

The MGM Festival Grounds will complement existing MGM Resorts event and exhibition spaces, including the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and the MGM Grand Garden Arena as well as the new arena with AEG. Even though all of these spaces attract visitors with different mindsets, according to Baldizan, the MGM Resorts team can sit down with potential event organizers to discuss a game plan for how they could best utilize them all.

Posted in Features, News
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