Monday, March 30, 2015 | 8 p.m.
Progress on construction of the new MGM Arena behind New York-New York and Monte Carlo and the Rock in Rio USA site at the other end of the Strip is changing the Las Vegas skyline.
It’s nowhere more apparent than in these stunning aerial shots by contributing photographer Tom Donoghue of Donoghue Photography onboard a Maverick Helicopter flight along and above the Strip.
He also aimed his lens on the early stages of the “boxes” being erected at Rick Harrison’s World Famous Gold and Silver Pawn for Pawn Plaza set to open this year.
The 5-acre arena, a partnership between MGM Resorts International and AEG Live, is set to open next spring on the 12-acre site. MGM execs have told me that it will be used for boxing and MMA events, award shows and some 100 concerts that they’ve had to turn away from its other facilities at MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay because of other booked events.
Rumors are rampant that it could be the home of an expanded NHL franchise team if the league gives its approval to the current marketing effort underway led by the Maloof family and wealthy mortgage banker investor Bill Foley.
They have topped 9,000 season-ticket deposits toward their goal of 10,000 tickets to impress the NHL’s Board of Governors with serious Las Vegas interest in supporting a team. The NHL will present its annual awards here in Las Vegas in June during the Board of Governors meetings, and that would provide perfect timing for a Las Vegas expansion team announcement.
With six weeks to go, construction is at full speed ahead at the Rock in Rio USA site on the Strip opposite SLS Hotel for its debut May 8-9 and May 15-16 weekend music shows.
The big-name stars include Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Metallica, Linkin Park, No Doubt, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Joss Stone. Additionally, there are EDM DJs on both weekends, with May 15 devoted to female L.A. DJs Whitney Fierce, Heidi Lawden, Jeniluv and Valid.
As you can see from Tom’s photos, the 40-plus-acre site will have multiple stages, three themed rock streets with shops, restaurants and stages, a 600-foot zip line and a Ferris wheel. The headliners will perform on the main stage and with alternate timing will let every ticket buyer see every artist on the program.
This debut of Rock in Rio USA marks the 30th anniversary of the Brazilian-born music festival. MGM and Cirque du Soleil are partnered with Rock in Rio in the venture. Its new home on the Strip can hold as many as 80,000 concertgoers, although it’s probable that 60,000 will be accommodated during its first-year two-weekend event.
Next up for construction changes on the Strip: the razing of the 26-acre Riviera purchased for $182 million to make way for the new Las Vegas Convention Center’s Global Business District and the new Resorts World hotel-casino owned by Genting Gaming from Malaysia.
Groundbreaking for the $4 billion Resorts World towers with 3,000 hotel rooms, a 4,000-seat theater, 30 restaurants and rooftop nightclub is set for May 5. Its main attraction will be an extraordinary garden on the Strip to the hotel’s front entranceway.
The site was once the home of the Stardust owned by Boyd Gaming, and the unfinished construction work on the planned Echelon will be incorporated into Resorts World.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.