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Troubled Las Vegas Strip Project Faces Big Questions

TheStreet 1/25/2023 Daniel Kline

A gigantic Strip project seems to be on track for completion, but exactly when and under what circumstances remains a question.

Instead of a place for has-beens and nostalgia acts, the Las Vegas Strip now legitimately hosts major headliners -- albeit mostly ones past their creative peak. Yes, Wayne Newton and Donny Osmond still have homes on the Strip (at Caesars Entertainment's (CZR) - Get Free Report Harrah's and Flamingo respectively), but those "only in Vegas" acts have been joined by major names.

Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Adele all have major long-term residencies on the Strip. They're joined by other big names that are both current acts like Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, and Usher. In addition, nostalgic but still huge artists including Garth Brooks and Gwen Stefani have Las Vegas Strip homes as do many other big names.

Caesars, MGM Resorts International (MGM) - Get Free Report, Wynn Resorts (WYNN) - Get Free Report, Resorts World Las Vegas, and other Strip casino operators have also made Las Vegas the de facto capital of the electronic dance music (EDM) world. Pretty much every big-name DJ plays the Strip regularly both at nightclubs and on the city's day club scene.

But, while those are some major names -- and near the top-level performers in the world -- the biggest acts generally don't set up shop with a Vegas residency. BTS played multiple shows at Allegiant Stadium and Taylor Swift will on her coming tour, but neither will actually take up residency on the Strip.

The same might be said for Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, the Eagles, the Rolling Stones, and the handful of other acts that are sort of too big to play a Las Vegas Strip residency. A new venue -- the Madison Square Garden (MSGE) - Get Free Report Sphere -- might be able to change that, but the unique concert hall's first big-name act may now be in doubt. 

MSG Sphere Las Vegas © Provided by TheStreet MSG Sphere Las Vegas

MSG Sphere Has a Plan, But Also Problems

The Las Vegas Strip has never seen anything like the MSG Sphere. As it's being built near the Venetian, it looks like an alien space ship being reconstructed on land. Once it's complete, it will be an entirely new entertainment venue designed to attract major names for Las Vegas residencies.

Once complete, the unique project will be "a 366-foot-high steel sphere that will "be covered with about 580,000 square feet of fully programmable LED panels, forming the largest LED screen on Earth," according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "The 17,500-seat venue will have a high-resolution display plane, which is larger than three football fields, the world’s largest beam-forming audio system with more than 160,000 speakers and it will deliver superior sound to every seat in the house."

And while it's expected to open in the second half of 2023, financial problems and construction over-runs have made the opening date murky. That may cost the venue its rumored first headliner, U2.   

More Details on MSG Sphere Emerge

While Billboard reported earlier this year that U2 would be the first act to play a residency at the Sphere, the lack of an opening date for the venue has cast that into major doubt. Lucas Watson, who serves as the Sphere's President, addressed plans for the venue Jan. 23 at Preview Las Vegas at Las Vegas Convention Center.

"After his presentation in the new Convention Center expansion, Watson sidestepped questions about U2 opening The Sphere this September. We are now informed the band’s opening dates are being reviewed, pending progress on the $2.18 billion project construction," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Watson did say that more news would be coming soon on the first act to take up residency at the Sphere. He also shared that he expects between four and six residency headliners to call the venue home each year.

“Each artist will play roughly 10 to 12 shows, depending on their availability and scheduling,” Watson said. “But that’s the rough order of magnitude.”

MSG has been contemplating multiple options to pay for cost over-runs on the Sphere, including spinning off the company's other live venue assets as well as the Radio City Rockettes into a separate company.

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