Updated June 27, 2022 - 3:54 pm
Details have emerged on Southern Nevada’s next big casino-resort project which will include a major sports and entertainment arena.
Last week, Tim Leiweke and partner Irving Azoff of the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group named the executives that will drive development of the 2,000-room OVG Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and its adjacent 20,000-seat NBA-ready arena.
They’re Randy Morton, former co-CEO of the Foley Entertainment Group and a four-decade hospitality executive with experience as president and chief operating officer of Bellagio, and Marc Badain, the longtime former president of the Raiders, who helped relocate the team to Las Vegas from Oakland and guided construction of the $2 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium.
The $3 billion project — $1 billion of which is dedicated to the arena — will be built on about 25 acres at Las Vegas Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road, right next to Interstate 15 and 1½ miles south of Interstate 215.
Morton and Badain talked with the Review-Journal about the project, which will break ground next year and is expected to be ready to open in 2026 (the interview has been edited for brevity and clarity):
Review-Journal: What was the biggest factor in your decision to sign on with this new project?
Randy Morton: My decision, when I was approached by Tim Leiweke who shared the vision of the project, was based on my being very excited to have the opportunity to get back into the casino-hotel world after 19½ years at Bellagio. Re-entering the market on the casino and hotel side was very exciting and very challenging and I really look forward to working with the Oak View Group, Tim and the team and working side by side with Marc Badain.
Marc Badain: I’d add very similar thoughts. Obviously, I’ve known Tim a very long time. He’s pretty much a legend in the sports world when you look at what he’s done the last five or six years building Oak View Group into the powerhouse that it is. When he approached me, probably around the new year, and explained his vision of what he wanted to do here for a live music venue and an arena and integrating the resort into it, it was pretty hard to say no. He’s a hard guy to say no to anyway, but then when he presented this concept and what he was looking to accomplish here, especially on the heels of the three or four successful projects that he and the team at Oak View Group have completed in the last 24 months, it was pretty easy to say yes.
What are some of the details you can share about this resort and arena project?
Badain: I’ll start on the arena side. We’re looking to build the greatest arena on Earth, and Las Vegas needs it and Las Vegas deserves it. If you look at the trajectory of music venues and sports venues in Las Vegas of this size, it’s about every 10 years for a new one. You could go back over time and see that evolution of facilities. By the time we open our venue, it will be about 10 years since they opened T-Mobile (Arena) and it’s time to have a new venue in Las Vegas that’s worthy of Las Vegas. The market has shown its ability to absorb new venues and has enough capacity and enough programming to do it. It’s time to put the investment behind it and the folks at Oak View Group are the best in the world at doing it and have just completed a number of venues and bring all of that expertise and all the best practices from those venues and apply them to Las Vegas.
Morton: We’re at the early stages and, and obviously this is day 2 for me, so it’s very exciting with the early stages with master-planning and design and development of a luxury boutique casino-resort. The integration of the arena and the connectivity to the site is very exciting. And I love the location. It’s easy in, easy out with multiple ways in off I-15 and, of course, I-215, which is very exciting and very appealing to all customers. I’m starting the process with Gensler (one of the design architects) and with Marc and we’re very excited to be working on the master-planning and get going on the layout of the flow of the project. It’s easy in and out off Las Vegas Boulevard South into this amazing casino-resort and arena.
How many rooms will you have?
Morton: We’re working on 2,000 rooms, including all rooms and suites. That’s really what we’re calling a luxury boutique casino-resort.
How about the arena size?
Badain: 20,000 (seats) is the target to start with and we’ll take a look at some design options and what’s the best capacity for the demand incorporating that into what Randy is talking about with the resort. We want to make sure the size of the arena makes sense for the property and for the live music world going forward and what they really want out of that experience. Is it better to have a little smaller venue than 20,000 or should we go larger? We’ll take a look at all the options and put together an optimal plan.
Randy, you’ve worked for MGM Resorts International. Do you have any reservations about going up against the big players in Las Vegas, including Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts Ltd. and your former employer?
Morton: I’m excited about the opportunity to get back into the luxury hotel-casino business. Before Bellagio, I was with Four Seasons Hotels for 19 years all over the continental U.S. at many luxury properties. For me, I’m very excited about the opportunity to come back to the casino-hotel business after a great year working as co-CEO for the Foley Entertainment Group, working for Bill Foley. This is an incredible opportunity for me to get back into the luxury business. It’s very competitive and I’m very competitive, Marc’s very competitive and Tim Leiweke’s very competitive, so we’re excited to start working on this project and really build something special.
Marc, will you be able to leverage some of your professional sports experience toward attracting a major sports tenant to the arena?
Badain: What we’ve said publicly is what I’ll say to you: We’ll build an NBA-ready venue, but it’s not our decision. Decisions are made at the league level. There are 30 owners and they’ll decide where they want to expand if they want to expand. I know there’s been a lot of chatter in the media, but we’re going to stay out of that chatter and we’re going to be very respectful of the process and when the ownership group in the NBA and the commissioner of the NBA decide they want to expand, we’ll have a venue that’s ready for them and if they want to be in the Las Vegas market, we’ll be an option for them.
So are there any updates on the prospect of attracting an NBA team?
Badain: I don’t have anything to share at this time that we haven’t already said. That’s their process. They’ve said some things probably in terms of timing and it’s our job just to build an NBA-ready venue and be ready for that discussion when they’re ready to have it.
Are there any updates on whether a Major League Soccer stadium could be built on land adjacent to your project?
Badain: That’s not our land, but we’ve had some discussions with representatives of Wes Edens’ group. They’re working on the Brightline rail station for that piece of property as well. There’s three main property owners. There’s the piece of property that we bought, the property that Wes owns and there’s a property to the north and all three property owners have stayed in communication over the last couple of months just to make sure we coordinate things from infrastructure standpoints, (Clark) County approval standpoints and to make sure all our projects are going to complement each other. There is communication, but in terms of where they are on the soccer stadium, but I don’t want to speculate or speak for them. You’d have to ask them where they are. But we’ve heard the same things you have, which is they have the rights to the expansion franchise and that’s the location they’ve looked at for a potential stadium.
People don’t realize just how much land is there and what can be done with it.
Badain: You really have about a 270-acre parcel when you take a look at that piece of land. I think you remember that was one of the locations that was mentioned for the (Allegiant) Stadium site five or six years ago. The rail station gives you a chance to really add to the density of the entire parcel. So if you have our project on 25 acres, and then there’s 41 additional acres that’s part of our parcel that will be developed, and then there’s about a 110-acre parcel for the high-speed rail station and a soccer stadium and then another 60-plus-acre parcel north of that. So, you’re really talking about a massive amount of development that’s going to occur there over the next five to 10 years. When you talk about the high-speed-rail station, I know they have some very exciting plans for what they may build around it in terms of potential mixed use, whether it’s commercial space, residential space, hotel space, stadium space. You have a lot of options there and it’s one of the last major pieces of undeveloped land on Las Vegas Boulevard.
What are some of the advantages to locating next door to the planned high-speed-rail train station connecting to Southern California?
Morton: The transportation is very important obviously with the incredible Harry Reid International Airport nearby, the drive-in traffic, the changes and growing demand for Lyft and Uber and, of course, the Brightline train potentially coming into the site certainly would be very exciting and very welcomed certainly for all of our customers that would come from Southern California. What a great option for transportation to come for a two-, three- or four-day visit to Las Vegas, arriving on the Brightline train. It sounds like a really brilliant business plan.
With what’s planned, it seems like you’ll capture different audiences for sports, concerts, shows and conventions.
Badain: I think that’s spot on. You’re going to have a live music entertainment venue for concerts and other events like you spoke of. Because it’s integrated into a resort property, you can incorporate any of the large-scale events going on at the hotel and you can utilize the arena as a venue and support for what’s going on inside the resort.
It sounds like plenty of cross-marketing opportunities.
Badain: Absolutely. When you talk about what the consumers are looking for, they can check into their room and never leave the property and utilize all the services that the resort that Randy’s going to put together can offer. You can walk directly into an arena and see a concert without ever having to leave the comfort of the destination.
This property is farther south than most of what’s on Las Vegas Boulevard. Do you see the resort corridor shifting south?
Morton: I love the location in south Las Vegas, from the access standpoint and from the connection to I-15 and I-215. The ease of getting in and out of this property will certainly benefit the casino business seven days a week. The trending luxury business is really going to drive weekends and we’re going to be very focused on the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and expositions) business on weekdays, which will be very successful. The location fits perfectly for the connectivity to the arena, the access to the hotel-casino to the arena.
Will there be convention facilities or will the arena fit that need?
Morton: The arena will be available for convention business and corporate business, but also there will be convention space in the hotel-casino property.
So ballrooms, meeting rooms, things like that?
Oversaturation of arenas?
There has been some not-so-subtle commentary about Las Vegas being oversaturated with arenas. Your thoughts?
Badain: I don’t think Randy and I would sign on and I don’t think Tim and Oak View Group would make the investment if we thought Las Vegas was oversaturated. Again, I’ll point back to the history and the evolutions of arenas and the use of the arenas in Las Vegas going back to the Thomas & Mack Center, to the Orleans Arena, to the Michelob Ultra Arena, the (MGM) Grand Garden Arena, the T-Mobile to the (Madison Square Garden) Sphere and to our project. Vegas has shown an ability to absorb those venues. The live entertainment business is not going anywhere. It’s really the most lucrative part of the entertainment business, live performances. The need for those spaces is not going away. I don’t have any doubts in my mind about the ability for Las Vegas to support another venue.
And Oak View, with all its arenas nationwide, is very connected to the entertainment scene, right?