AEG Goes Vegas

Harrahs’ Entertainment and AEG announced a joint project August 22nd to build a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment arena in Las Vegas – though not the downtown venue city officials originally envisioned.

The site of the new arena will be just east of the Bally’s and Paris casino/resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, on a 10-acre property owned by Harrah’s.

AEG, as managing partner, will handle development, operations and programming a full range of events for the arena, and will be working toward securing professional basketball and hockey teams to call Vegas home.

"There has never been a better time to create a world-class arena for Las Vegas," AEG President/CEO Timothy J. Leiweke said in a statement. "A city known for showcasing the most important popular artists, events and extravaganzas needs a state-of- the-art arena to ensure that every important touring act considers Las Vegas a ‘must play’ city while solidifying the city’s reputation globally."

When completed, the AEG/Harrah’s facility is expected to include luxury suites, club seats and an array of amenities, gourmet food offerings and entertainment offerings including awards shows and other special events. The arena is expected to break ground next summer.

"This arena is part of our ongoing strategy and very much a part of our master plan for Las Vegas," Harrah’s President/CEO Gary Loveman said. "We are committed to offering a variety of entertainment options to our customers, and this arena will allow us to bring to Las Vegas high-quality sporting events along with top-name entertainment that our partners, AEG, have an unparalleled track record of delivering."

The plan may create an embarrassment of arena riches for Las Vegas, which already has two established buildings in the Thomas & Mack Center and MGM Grand Garden Arena.

"This arena is being developed with the capability of hosting an NHL or NBA franchise from day one," Leiweke said. "We continue to have productive conversations with potential owners and are optimistic that either basketball or hockey, or both, will be played in Las Vegas when the venue opens."

As far as finding a sports tenant, AEG may have a leg up to secure a National Hockey League franchise. Film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly have talked about the "Die Hard" creator purchasing a franchise for Las Vegas.

Bruckheimer, whom Leiweke described as "like a brother" to Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, is believed to be the leading candidate to purchase the next NHL franchise up for grabs.

Of course, another AEG property, the Sprint Center in Kansas City, is still waiting for a pro-team tenant and AEG pursued the Pittsburgh Penguins unsuccessfully.

Also keeping things interesting, the city recently approved a bid by developer Real Estate Interests Group of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to build a 22,000-seat arena downtown as part of a 9.5 billion project that is to include a hotel/casino, housing, offices, bars, restaurants and shops.

AEG was believed to be one of the parties bidding on the downtown, but instead announced it would seek a private partnership and build elsewhere. Both arenas are projected to open in 2010.

But apparently Las Vegas officials are okay with that.

"We would not be here today without the tremendous cooperation and vision of [Clark County Commission Chairman Rory] Reid and the members of the Clark County Board of Commissioners. This privately funded project will pay enormous dividends to the entire region," Leiweke said.

"We also would like to extend our thanks to Mayor [Oscar] Goodman for his interest and devotion to realize the need to have an arena in the Las Vegas community. To our friends, our partners and the citizens of Clark County, we are dedicated to creating an arena Las Vegas can be proud of … I pledge today, we won’t let you down."