If you build a $3 billion resort south of the Las Vegas Strip, will guests come?

Apr 18, 2022

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It might seem like a huge gamble, even by Sin City standards, to plop a multibillion-dollar resort so far away from the core cluster of resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.

That isn’t deterring one development team from moving ahead on what they say will bring a massive entertainment district to an area of the city primed for growth.

Oak View Group plans to develop a $3 billion entertainment district — complete with an 850,000-square-foot arena, amphitheater, casino and hotel — in Las Vegas. The head-scratcher for regular Vegas visitors might stem from the fact that development seems to be going in the opposite direction of most recent projects announced for the Las Vegas Strip.

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The Oak View project site, near the intersection of interstates 15 and 215, is six miles south of Bellagio Resort & Casino. It’s even farther from more-recent developments on the northern end of the Strip like Resorts World Las Vegas and the long-stalled Fontainebleau project, which has been revived under several concepts but is slated for an opening next year.

But the Oak View team sees merit in heading south.

The planned 25-acre project is at the intersection of two busy interstate highways, as well as adjacent to the site of a planned Brightline West high-speed rail station, the terminus of a proposed train service between Las Vegas and Southern California.

“You have this massive amount of potential on this plot of dirt,” said Marc Badain, former president of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders and a partner on the project, in an interview with TPG. “You have a tremendous amount of growth opportunity there.”

The scope of the project is reflective of how Las Vegas increasingly relies on entertainment dollars to complement gambling. Oak View proposed a roughly 20,000-seat arena to host concerts, sporting events, award shows and other large events.

The development team has indicated it would pitch the arena for an NBA team, should one ever come to Las Vegas. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver last fall noted Las Vegas was a city the organization would consider for an expansion team if the opportunity to expand arose. Hosting a professional sports franchise could be just the magnet needed to draw visitors south.

Centering a project around sports and entertainment is also smart when it comes to wooing guests.

Gambling floors are no longer the main reason to visit Las Vegas. Roughly half the respondents in a 2021 visitor profile survey conducted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said their primary reason for visiting the city was for vacation or pleasure, compared to only 8% who said the primary reason was to gamble. That means cool restaurants and Celine Dion concerts increasingly pull their weight in this town.

“Las Vegas is really becoming more and more of a sports and entertainment kind of town as well as conventions,” said Stowe Shoemaker, dean of the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “The sports arena would make logical sense at that intersection because it becomes a great place for people who live on the west side and people who live on the east side. It’s a convenient location for everybody.”

A sports arena with any kind of professional sports franchise means the Oak View team plans to cater to at least some degree of local traffic. It’s a move The Palms notably adopted in its recent reopening plans.

It also shows how Las Vegas is increasingly a go-to destination for major events, from awards shows to concert residencies of some of the world’s biggest musical acts.

“It’s a city that really shows it can handle large events and do it very well,” Shoemaker said.

Featured photo by Axel Schmies/Getty Images.

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