While all the world’s stages have been dark now for more than four months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Las Vegas is plotting a course for the future.
Come summer 2021, the city will welcome The Theatre at Resorts World Las Vegas, the first new-from-the-ground-up casino-resort in more than a decade. The Theatre is a joint development between Resorts World Las Vegas and AEG Presents -- exclusively programmed and operated by Concerts West, a division of AEG Presents.
Scott Sibella, president of Resorts World Las Vegas, and John Meglen, president and co-CEO of Concerts West, tell Billboard in an exclusive interview that The Theatre and its programming will redefine the Las Vegas residency, reimagine the theatrical experience on the Strip and recast how artists create their shows.
"We wanted to find the right partner who globally has the operations and programming experience," Sibella says. "We hit it off right from the beginning. It was the perfect marriage, because with [Resorts World] being new to Las Vegas, and AEG really knowing this city well when it comes to entertainment both in booking touring acts and residencies. AEG will lead the way with content that happens in that room and we’ve designed a state-of-the-art theater like Vegas has never seen—not only for the artist, but for the guest as well."
The 5,000-capacity theater will be used for concerts, residencies, conventions and sporting events, and is completely configurable to its performer and function.
"The residency has gotten stale," Meglen says. "Artists bring in their touring shows and bands play X number of nights in a smaller theater—where you can get bottle service as opposed to really getting creative. We want to get back to great shows. We want to create a playground with all the latest bells and whistles, and let artists come in and execute their own unique show and vision."
Designed by Scéno Plus, Meglen says The Theatre will offer innovative staging, advanced technology and VIP amenities tailored to A-list performers. The first thing concert-goers will see is a 65-foot custom chandelier in The Theatre’s four-story black and champagne-hued lobby. Divided into a configuration that provides for an orchestra floor and two balcony levels, the furthest seat is only 150 feet from the stage. The stage will be one of the largest and tallest on the Strip — 64-feet deep by 196-feet wide and 13,550 square feet. The proscenium opening is also one of the largest in Vegas at 123-feet wide by 50-feet tall and it can be modified by a motorized system. The audio system comprises 265 speakers, enabling a multi-dimensional surround sound experience. There are also 5,000 square feet of LED screens for artists to program with original content. VIP guests will have their own entrance, two private salons with lounge seating and full-service bars.
"I want this to be the place that every artist in town says, 'Why am I not playing there?'" Meglen says. "Artists need the proper tools, and the same with their crews. It's not about just sticking the artist in the greatest room. It's about making sure their entire organization [also] thinks it's the greatest place they've ever been."
In 2003 Meglen and AEG svp John Nelson inked an exclusive partnership between the promoter and Caesars Palace to create The Colosseum, and place a roster of A-listers on its stage, including Celine Dion, whose two residencies grossed more than $650 million. Dion’s "A New Day," launched a new model for entertainment in Las Vegas—the biggest artists in the world’s most state-of-the-art theater and a nightly sell out of more than 4,000 tickets. Elton John, Rod Stewart, Cher, Bette Midler, Shania Twain and Mariah Carey all took the stage during AEG’s tenure at The Colosseum.
Sibella says that the entertainment lineup will be varied to reflect the customer — from legacy acts to current chart-toppers. "We are designing this property to be a convention property," he explains. "We're designing it to be a leisure property with premium and mass-market customers. And of course we're a gaming company, all the way to the highest end that you can possibly get. It's important the artists we select fit that entire range."
Located across from Wynn Las Vegas on the site of the former Stardust, the land upon which Resorts World’s $4.3 billion 3,500-room crimson tower sits was originally developed as Boyd Gaming’s Echelon. Meglen says AEG was also the entertainment partner on that project, which was mothballed during the recession and later sold to Malaysian gaming company The Genting Group in 2013. Resorts World operates integrated resorts in Singapore, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom, Bahamas, United States, including New York City’s only casino, and Malaysia. Now it is one of the largest hotel construction sites in the U.S., with 2,200 workers on the 88-acre site each day.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that live entertainment in Las Vegas cannot return until phase four of Nevada’s coronavirus recovery plan. Right now, the state is in phase two, with some businesses like bars recently rolled back to phase one and re-closed. As of July 15, Nevada’s cases tally at more than 30,000 and hospitalizations are at a record high since the start of the pandemic.
"There's not a point that we're not going to open, but you have to remember these buildings aren't built for 50% occupancy," Sibella says "You don't build a theater and then all of a sudden say, ‘we only want 2,000 people in there—every other seat.’ That's not how the program is designed. It could ruin the energy. It could ruin the economic model. Everybody's doing a great job of playing by the rules, but none of the properties on the Strip can continue to do this forever. Something has to give. Things have to get better or everybody has to look at their model again and figure out how to operate these massive buildings. We're not there yet but we're watching closely."
Sibella hopes to gain a competitive edge with the ability to integrate health and safety features into the construction of Resorts World Las Vegas. "We're looking at sourcing materials that will make a big difference when it comes to safety and health," he says, adding that air quality and overall cleanliness are big priorities.
The gaming industry veteran is cautiously optimistic that things will return to normalcy by mid-2021 and tourism’s recovery will be swift because music fans will be clamoring for the singular experiences the city offers.
"When the rebound starts to occur throughout this country, Vegas will take off," Sibella says. "We hope that things are much better by next summer. We know it won't be where Vegas was, but we do feel that the non-gaming revenue aspect will continue to grow."