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MSG Entertainment Takes Over Sphere Construction in Las Vegas

MSG Sphere at the Venetian
Courtesy of The Madison Square Garden Company

A rendered cross section of MSG Sphere at The Venetian. The state-of-the-art venue will have nine levels and 875,000 square feet of interior space.

Madison Square Garden Entertainment is taking back the reins on its much-ballyhooed MSG Sphere venue at The Venetian in Las Vegas, the company announced Thursday (Dec. 17).

According to a release, construction on the state-of-the-art venue -- first announced in February 2018 by MSG executive chairman and CEO James Dolan at a splashy interactive presentation held at Radio City Music Hall -- will now be spearheaded by MSG Entertainment, with general contractor AECOM transitioning to a supporting role under a new services agreement. AECOM was first enlisted for the project in June 2019.

“MSG Entertainment, through a wholly-owned subsidiary, will manage construction of MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, with direct responsibility for strategic planning and the construction timeline, as well as management of all subcontractors,” the release reads.

Construction of the venue will continue to be overseen by MSG Entertainment’s Jayne McGivern, who has been given the new title of president of development and construction (she was formerly executive vp development and construction). McGivern has put together “a world-class team of construction management professionals” who will be responsible for seeing the project through to completion and “retaining the knowledge gained for future MSG Sphere projects,” reads the release, suggesting AECOM will not be leading the construction of any future MSG Sphere venues.

The internal team assembled by McGivern -- including members who have collectively worked on projects including the O2 Arena, London Olympic Stadium, Aria Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas and Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia -- will direct all aspects of the project while overseeing 30 AECOM employees who will continue to support key areas of construction, including health and safety.

“We have taken significant steps to strengthen our internal construction team. This, along with valued support from AECOM, will give us greater transparency and control over the construction process, while enabling us to continue benefiting from AECOM’s expertise,” said McGivern in a statement. “MSG Sphere will be a venue unlike any other, and we believe we are well-positioned to not only advance our Las Vegas project, but also deliver on our long-term vision for MSG Sphere."

The release touts “significant progress” on construction of the venue, noting that the structure reached its widest point earlier this year with completion of its sixth-level concrete ring beam, which is 490 feet wide and sits 113 feet above ground. The construction team has additionally finished placing two 240-ton steel girders that sit 140 feet off the ground and span the length of what will be the venue’s stage, “paving the way for continued vertical construction.”

Over the coming year, the construction team will focus on several of the venue’s critical path elements. Currently, work is focused on completing all superstructure concrete pours, including finishing stair and elevator cores and the venue’s proscenium wall. After that, steel will be placed for the remaining exterior ring beams and inboard decks, leading to construction of the steel domed roof beginning early next year.

As MSG Entertainment previously disclosed in its August earnings report, the opening of MSG Sphere at The Venetian has been pushed from 2021 to sometime in 2023 -- a cost-saving measure necessitated by the pandemic’s negative impact on the company’s bottom line, with fiscal fourth quarter revenues having plummeted 96% year-over-year. In its fiscal second quarter earnings report in February (before the pandemic necessitated a shutdown of live events in the U.S.), the company estimated the final cost of the project at $1.66 billion.

Under McGivern’s watch, a second MSG Sphere is already being planned in London “pending necessary approvals,” with hopes for smaller Sphere venues down the line. McGivern joined MSG Entertainment in 2018 following stints as CEO of the European Division of Multiplex plc and managing director of Anschutz Entertainment Group in London.

Located on an 18-acre site on Sands Avenue between Manhattan Street and Koval Lane, MSG Sphere at The Venetian will boast a spherical shape and fully-programmable LED exterior. The estimated 17,500-seat venue will be 360 feet tall and 516 feet wide and connect to the Venetian Resort via an approximately 1,000-foot long pedestrian bridge. The venue's more than 160,000 square foot display surface will encompass the stage and audience to create a completely immersive, virtual reality-style experience.

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