The property will be the biggest Strip development since Resorts World, and it’s the latest step in Las Vegas’ journey toward an NBA team.
Just a few years ago, Las Vegas was off-limits for professional sports. Sin City offered sports gambling and all the major sports leagues saw that as a deal-breaker since athletes betting on games would undermine their integrity.
Then, in 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision that pushed the question of whether sports gambling should be legal to the states. That led to a number of states adopting sports betting making the key objective to having pro sports in Las Vegas no longer relevant.
Since you can now place sports bets legally in a lot of cities, any pro athlete looking to place bets (which is strictly forbidden) would easily be able to do it. That opened the door for Las Vegas, and the National Hockey League’s Golden Knights began playing in a Strip arena during the 2017-18 season (slightly before the ruling) and the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders moved to an off-Strip stadium in 2020.
Now, the NBA has its eye on the Las Vegas Strip as the threat of moving to Las Vegas gives every team leverage when negotiating with its home city. That’s a dream that does not require a new arena (T-Mobile Arena where the Knights play would work), but most teams want their own dedicated building and a project that will include one right on the Strip that will break ground next year.
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Sin City Becomes Sports City
Las Vegas has multiple arena projects in the works, but the one from Oak View Group (OVG) seems to be in the lead. The $3 billion project has attracted a heavy hitting lineup of executives and it’s on track to break ground in 2022.
Oak View has secured a 25-acre site near the intersection of two major freeways, I-15 and I-215. The project, now named the OVG Las Vegas Hotel & Casino will include 850,000 square foot arena, a casino, a hotel, and an additional entertainment venue amphitheater.
“South of the Las Vegas strip represents one of the few areas of potential future growth of the gaming and entertainment corridor,” said OVG CEO Tim Leiweke in a press release. “This unprecedented project is an industry game-changer, and we will usher in the evolution of Las Vegas as the new entertainment and, sports capital of the world.”
In addition to Leiweke, the project has legendary music/entertainment executive Irving Azoff on board as well as former Raiders President Marc Badain as a consultant. Randy Morton, who served as president and chief operating officer of Bellagio, is also part of the team.
“It doesn’t get much bigger or better than Las Vegas,” said Azoff, co-founder of OVG. “From the world-class Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle to UBS Arena in New York, and Moody Center in Austin, Las Vegas will be the next jewel in the OVG crown.”
New NBA-Ready Arena Moves Forward
Las Vegas has been a notoriously difficult place to complete projects. The Fontainebleau Las Vegas Casino/Hotel project, for example, took about 20 years and multiple owners before it finally appears likely to cross the finish line in 2023. The OVG project seems to be on track, according to an interview Morton and Badain did with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“We’re looking to build the greatest arena on Earth, and Las Vegas needs it and Las Vegas deserves it,” Badain told the paper. “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 project will have 2,000 hotel rooms and the arena will have 20,000 seats, although that could be adjusted slightly during the planning phase.
Badain made it clear that OVG was building an arena for an NBA team, but that the NBA has not committed to expanding in Las Vegas.
“We’ll build an NBA-ready venue, but it’s not our decision. Decisions are made at the league level,” he said. “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.”