Billed as a venue that will incorporate all the senses, MSG Sphere has begun to rise from its 18-acre footprint on the corner of Koval Lane and Sands Avenue in Las Vegas. Located across the street from partner The Venetian Resort, approximately 110,000 cubic yards of dirt and caliche are being moved to make way for what will be one of the most state-of-the-art live entertainment and sports complexes in the world.
"This is one-of-a-kind. Nobody has ever done this before," says Nick Tomasino, vice president of for The Madison Square Garden Company, during a first look at the site where grading and excavation is complete, and construction of basement walls, columns, decks and stair and elevator cores is currently underway.
MSG executives are promising first-in-class technology, ushering in the next generation of immersive experiences. The idea came from MSG chairman and CEO Jim Dolan who challenged his team to disrupt the entertainment space for artists, content creators and audiences. Designed by architectural firm Populous, which specializes in stadiums and arenas and also designed Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena, the Sphere will host concerts, residencies, corporate events and select sporting events like boxing and MMA. A 1,000-foot-long pedestrian bridge will connect MSG Sphere to The Venetian Resort.
"We have a venue that incorporates all of the senses," Tomasino says. "Inside, we have the largest and highest resolution LED screen on Earth at 160,000 square feet. That's the equivalent of three football fields. The sound is a new technology, never implemented before, using beam-forming technology, which allows you to have the same experience whether sitting in the back or the front."
Featuring a scalable capacity of 17,500 seated, or 20,000 when there is a mix of seated and standing, a dynamically adaptive acoustics system will deliver crystal clear audio to every guest with the ability to be directed to specific locations in the bowl at a near constant volume. An infrasound haptic system will convey bass so the audience can "feel" the experience and content will be delivered at 25 megabits per second.
A large network return air duct will facilitate the air exchange within the bowl every 15 minutes. A perfect circle, the diameter of Sphere is 512 feet and the area inside the bowl has a volume of 630,000 cubic feet, "which is the equivalent of three Goodyear blimps," Tomasino says. The cast-in-place concrete structure will be nine levels when completed. "It has many complexities and can be attributed to different architectural marvels. At each level, there is a network of ring beams the entire circumference of the Sphere. [They] support what we feel is a throwback to [classical] architecture, a dome structural steel roof, which is self-supporting, no columns, similar to what you'd find at the Pantheon Rotunda in Rome. The domed roof itself is supported by a concentric inner ring."
After breaking ground in September 2018, the project is starting to take shape, at least from the ground up where Tomasino points that the club space emerging from the excavation will be one of its most exciting attributes. "Underneath the stage we'll have a public-use entertainment venue that also attaches to the dressing rooms and the other hospitality uses that support the venue," he says.
MSG Sphere at The Venetian measures approximately 875,000 square feet and is 366 feet tall, by comparison the adjacent Palazzo Resort tower is 465 feet tall.
With all these big numbers come big dollars. MSG Sphere is expected to produce an annual economic output of $730 million from operation and visitation. Plus it will not only create 3,500 local jobs each year that it is under construction but will also generate 4,400 jobs annually once the wonder is open.
"We're proud to partner with MSG on a project of this magnitude," says George Markantonis, president and chief operating officer of The Venetian Resort. "As construction on continues, it is easy to envision how significantly MSG Sphere at The Venetian will transform the entertainment experience and Las Vegas as a destination."
Proposed designs have been revealed for a second Sphere in east London, planned to be the UK's largest concert arena.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Sphere could host an NBA team in the future. The venue could not host basketball or hockey, but can host MMA, boxing and other select sporting events -- the story has been corrected to reflect that.