LAS VEGAS — Officials were set to break ground Thursday on a new, 20,000-seat arena along the Las Vegas Strip that would improve the city's chances of attracting professional sports teams and sate high demand for large-scale events in Sin City.
Casino company MGM Resorts International and sports and entertainment giant AEG are collaborating on the $350 million project, which is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2016. It will be the centerpiece of an 8-acre, tree-lined entertainment and dining district dubbed "The Park," located near the New York-New York and Monte Carlo casinos, between Las Vegas Boulevard and Interstate 15.
The privately funded project is the furthest along of several arenas proposed for Las Vegas in recent years. Mayor Carolyn Goodman has championed a $390 million, 20,000-seat arena near a new performing arts center and outlet malls in Las Vegas' revitalized downtown. But critics take issue with the finance plan, which calls for $151 million from developer Cordish Company and $187 million in city-issued bonds that would be paid off with arena revenue.
Downtown business owners have spoken out against a plan to cover the remaining $52 million by taxing them.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the project is moving forward, telling the Las Vegas Sun that the city's planned arena would seek to be complementary to any other arena in town.
Another recent arena proposal died after attempts to fund it through a sales tax hike hit a wall. That project, which was to be a collaboration between AEG and casino company Caesars, called for a 1 percent sales tax on purchases within a 3-mile radius. A ballot measure failed to make it to a statewide vote in November 2012.
MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said his company's venues turn away hundreds of events each year, signaling more than enough demand for an arena even though Las Vegas already has large-scale event centers.
The Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas opened in 1983 and hosts events such as the NCAA Mountain West Conference men's basketball tournament and National Finals Rodeo. It has a capacity of about 19,500 spectators for boxing events, and under 19,000 for basketball.
Three casinos have other large arenas around town, including MGM Resorts' Mandalay Bay Events Center. It can seat 12,000.
The parent company's MGM Grand Garden Arena opened in 1993 with a capacity of just under 17,000 spectators.
The Orleans Arena opened in 2003 adjacent to Boyd Gaming Corp.'s Orleans casino-hotel. It can seat about 9,500 for boxing, and just under 8,000 for hockey and basketball. It formerly housed the professional minor-league Las Vegas Wranglers hockey team.