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August 22, 2019

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MGM Resorts Festival Grounds is looking a lot less like a lot

MGM Resorts Festival Grounds

John Katsilometes

A look at MGM Resorts Festival Grounds during preparations Wednesday, April 1, 2015, for the first Rock in Rio USA festival, scheduled for May 8-9 and 15-16, on the new venue on the southwest corner of the Strip and Sahara Avenue.

Strip Aerial Views: 3/27/15

Aerial views of the Las Vegas Strip on Friday, March 27, 2015, including the Rock in Rio USA site, MGM Arena behind New York-New York and Monte Carlo and Pawn Mall. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

A look at MGM Resorts Festival Grounds during preparations Wednesday, April 1, 2015, for the first Rock in Rio USA festival, scheduled for May 8-9 and 15-16, on the new venue on the southwest corner of the Strip and Sahara Avenue.

The Kats Report Bureau today could be spotted meandering around MGM Resorts Festival Grounds in the latest media tour of the event space as it is being prepped for the Rock in Rio USA weekends May 8-9 and 15-16.

Most interesting to me is that ticket sales for both weekends are about even; I’d heard otherwise weeks ago, that the rock weekend highlighted by Metallica and No Doubt on May 8-9 was outpacing the pop weekend May 15-16 headlined by Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars (for a look at the lineup and ticket info, hit

But organizers today said the two weekends were selling about even, and they were counting on a strong late push to bring the festival to near its 85,000-per-day capacity. More reasonable would be about 50,000 for each day and night, which is still a respectable turnout for a festival in a new venue in its first year in Las Vegas.

More information was revealed today about parking. If you live in Las Vegas, your best bet is to park and ride from shuttle stations at World Market Center or Downtown Events Center at The D Las Vegas. Or park and ride from MGM Resorts Village across from Mandalay Bay Events Center. There is no parking onsite.

Ticket-holders also can park at any of the resorts on the Strip near a Monorail station and ride to SLS Las Vegas, which is about a 10-minute walk from the entrance to the grounds on the south end of the property. But really, that’s not the best course of action, as the Strip will be customarily slammed during the days of the festival.

The big-wow features of Rock in Rio USA are the Ferris wheel and zip line in the middle of the festival grounds’ footprint. The City of Rock blueprint has the same homey facades that have been used in Rock in Rio’s other cities, with Rock Street USA, Rock Street U.K. and Rock Street Brazil selling the food and wares of those particular cultures.

The Main Stage is a massive effort, 162 by 82 feet and backed by a giant LED screen. Backing to the north side of the venue is the Mercedes-Benz Evolution stage, which is an auxiliary stage by function but is big enough (132 by 72 feet) to serve as a main stage at most festivals. John Legend is among the acts set to play the Evolution stage.

The giant white claw you might see while driving southbound on the Strip is the EDM staging area, and the rounded facility near the middle of the grounds is the Rock in Rio zip line, which extends over the crowd at the Main Stage.

As Rock in Rio CEO Luis Justo said today, artists have in the past used the zip line as a staging prop. There are six venues, total, in play during the festival.

“We have it set up where there will be music happening at all times, somewhere, during Rock in Rio,” Justo said. “As we say, it will be like an amusement park with music.”

Rock in Rio will hold the U.S. version of its worldwide festival again in Las Vegas in 2017 and again in 2019, alternating years with its other international cities Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon and Madrid.

MGM Resorts officials are in for a daunting challenge as to how to fill all the dates at its two outdoor festival venues. They are still to announce events for the 50-acre venue Festival Grounds after Rock in Rio departs; the upcoming Rolling Stones tour of outdoor venues will skip Las Vegas. MGM Resorts is permitted by Clark County to stage 12 separate events in a given year. This year, they have scheduled one, so far.

Unaffected by anything booked at the Festival Grounds is the lineup at MGM Resorts Village, where the PBR Spring Break festival starring Gary Allan and The Band Perry is set for May 22-24, and Route 91 Harvest with Florida Georgia Line, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum returns for its second year from Oct. 2-4.

The comparison to MGM Resorts Festival Grounds as the company’s major league venue and the Village as its triple-A venue (as it can handle 25,000 fans) is accurate. Of course, MGM Resorts is building its 22,000-seat arena on the west side of the Strip between those two outdoor venues, so if you happen to manage a band, or some sort of competition or festival that can draw several thousand fans to a single parcel or building, make that call now.

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