Thursday, May 1, 2014 | 6:01 p.m.
MGM Resorts arena groundbreaking/Richard Corey
It’s two years out, but for the opening weekend of the new MGM Resorts arena, it will be a three-day spectacular the likes of which Las Vegas has never seen. That’s the promise execs made at today’s groundbreaking, and the cast of VIPs who picked up shovels to turn the first earth proved that they want first crack.
Unbeaten boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., UFC President Dana White, NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton and two-time Stanley Cup winner Luc Robitaille, now president of business operations for the L.A. Kings, were all center stage.
They joked good-naturedly that their respective sport should have a key role in the 2016 opening weekend. However, one key AEG entertainment executive partnered with MGM Resorts in the 20,000-seat, privately financed $375 million arena said that the venue should have the greatest concert ever presented.
TV commentator Jim Gray, who MC’d the groundbreaking ceremonies behind Monte Carlo and New York-New York, said: “Las Vegas is already known as the Entertainment Capital of the World. Now it will be known as the Sports Capital of the World.”
More than 100 Las Vegas VIPs, including MGM Resorts presidents, top AEG brass, politicians, Clark County commissioners and George Maloof and his brother Gavin, attended the regal ceremony.
I picked up reliably sourced Wicked Whispers & Racy Rumors that boxing’s richest fighter might retire after Saturday’s bout — and then come back out of retirement and fight again for the opening weekend. “I can sell all the tickets to fill the new arena and have a lot of fun,” he laughed.
I posed the possibility to MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren of a three-day opening weekend with a Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunion concert, followed by an awesome UFC battle and a final night with a Floyd Mayweather Jr. comeback.
He told me: “I will tell you, Robin, we don’t do anything halfway here in Las Vegas. We will have the world’s best arena, so given the time we have to plan the programming and the talent we can reach out to, we will exceed the expectations that are already set very high.”
Dana promised more UFC fights — as many as six additional championship battles each year; Bill promised more college basketball events; and Floyd’s Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer promised more boxing. Luc wasn’t going to be left out, adding in good humor that NHL events would fit in perfectly to the opening-weekend format.
Under brilliant sunshine, the groundbreaking with golden shovels for the first new Las Vegas arena in 30 years ran perfectly and smoothly, including Floyd’s arrival in his super-stretched Rolls-Royce limousine. He then jumped onboard a giant front-end loader to be delivered onto the stage.
Jim talked with me in advance, with the first interview Monday, about the new Park site with the new arena. Today, it was officially christened with cannon loads of confetti as VIPs dug into the ground against a background of a giant shovel held high by a bulldozer.
Jim told me that the venue will start out with at least 100 — and maybe as many as 150 — scheduled events when it opens. He wants it to be used not just by tourists but also to benefit the Las Vegas community.
“This is a big day — big — for our company, big for Las Vegas, big for Nevada and big for sports and entertainment,” he said.
He reeled off statistics to show that 3,000 construction workers will be employed for two years on the project, with 900 full-time employees when the doors open.
AEG chief executive Dan Beckerman said today’s milestone had taken a 10-year vision to go from first dream discussions to this morning’s groundbreaking. He said the biggest entertainment acts in the world will want to play the world’s newest and most luxurious arena.
“There’s not a place anywhere in the world that will match this one,” he said, echoing many of the dignitaries at the ceremony.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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