Entertainment junkies always have known Las Vegas is one of the best destinations in the country, second only to New York, and maybe Los Angeles. Now, however, with a new arena on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip, Sin City is pushing all-in as the entertainment capital of the nation.
The $375-million T-Mobile Arena, which opened April 6 with a concert by Las Vegas icons The Killers and Wayne Newton, was designed from the bottom-up with the guest experience in mind. The 20,000 seats are positioned in such a way as to keep the venue intimate. Concourses are open to allow for visibility of the floor at all times. Lounges and VIP areas abound, giving high-end guests the royal treatment. Another bonus: The arena meets the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards for LEED Gold Certification.
But the arena is only part of the story. Between the arena and the Las Vegas Strip sits the Park, a three-acre, open-air stretch that features public art and is flanked on the south side by restaurants and bars (the other side is still under construction). With fountains and trees, this outdoor space is both inviting and relaxing. Together, the Park and the T-Mobile Arena combine for a brand new kind of Vegas experience. IMHO, it’s an experience worth a special trip.
To call the T-Mobile Arena a revelation would be an understatement. The facility marks a new era for event venues, a space that is at the same time flexible and yet firmly committed to giving guests of all levels intimate experiences they never will forget. The venue is the brainchild of the Las Vegas Arena Company, a joint operating partnership between MGM Resorts International and AEG.
According to officials at MGM Resorts, the parent company, the arena was built as one of the most flexible venues in the world. It has hosted concerts and fights. It was scheduled to launch the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. Other upcoming events include basketball, hockey, UFC, bull-riding, and convention general sessions. Las Vegans hope to get a professional hockey team someday, and when they do, that team will call this arena home, too.
The arena’s design lends itself to this versatility. On the outside, to capture the excitement of The Strip, the design includes an expansive glass façade with an LED overlay; sweeping, dramatic balconies; an exterior performance stage; and a sleek exterior that is as bold as it is sophisticated, creating a visually captivating and iconic focal point in Las Vegas’ bustling entertainment market. On the inside, open concourses mean guests can see and hear the action even when they have to leave their seats to visit a food or beverage concession. Also, there’s no bad seat in the house.
Food and beverages are part of the experience at T-Mobile Arena, with Levy Restaurants handling the catering and renowned mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim overseeing in-house cocktail programs. Abou-Ganim’s program includes ice sculptures, punch service, a whiskey lounge and Scotch bar, and more. The food program includes hand-tossed pizza and sharable portions.
The arena has a number of branded lounges, too—the Bud Light Lounge, for instance, serves Budweiser products and food that pairs well with them.
For luxury guests, the experience is even more over the top. From the plaza level to the very top of the building, the arena has 42 suites in all. There are even a number of floor-level “bunker” lounges that can be operated independently or together to create the ultimate guest experience.
Near the rafters, overlooking the entire north end of the arena, an outpost of Hyde Lounge provides high-end hospitality and top-shelf cocktail service. MGM operates the lounge as part of a partnership with SBE Las Vegas, just like the companies work together to operate the Hyde Lounge inside Bellagio. Hyde quite literally offers guests a different perspective on events; from comfortable banquettes and tables, guests will be able to kick back and enjoy the events. The signature design element of the entire facility is a triangle platform cantilevered out over the seating bowl below; the platform extends all the way out to the corner of the arena floor, and Hyde Lounge patrons can look straight down on the action as they sip their cocktails. This is my favorite spot in the house.
Viewfinder Tip: Avoid the Park when events inside T-Mobile Arena are letting out; at these times the otherwise relaxing area becomes mobbed with people trying to get back to the Strip.
Incredible outdoor space
The T-Mobile Arena isn’t the only new attraction on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip; the facility actually anchors an open-air entertainment district that MGM Resorts developed between Monte Carlo and New York-New York to connect the arena to the Strip itself. This stretch, dubbed the Park, offers restaurants, bars, and entertainment lining a pedestrian-only swath that features public seating areas, fountains, public art, and more. In a few short weeks, it has become the most common thoroughfare for guests to access the arena, and therefore has established itself as an extension of the experiences guests have inside.
In other words, the Park has become one of the hottest public spaces in all of Las Vegas.
Perhaps the most notable attraction inside the Park is Beerhaus, a craft brewery-style pub with more than 20 beers on tap or in bottles and cans. The draught list includes hard-to-find beers, while bar food at Beerhaus includes savory roasted sausages and rotisserie sandwiches with premium meats such as porchetta, beef brisket, and free-range chicken. Guests are invited to eat and drink at picnic tables in front of the restaurant and play games while they eat—there’s a Connect Four board at every table.
Craftsmanship is evident all over the Park; hand-laid tiles and stones incorporate recycled materials from elsewhere on the job site and took months to install. Designers even incorporated local rocks. Art is a big part of the Park, too. Some of the art is functional; 16 one-of-a-kind shade structures designed by a shipbuilder from the Netherlands sprout from various parts of landscape. The structures are known as “Trumpets” and have lights that change colors over the course of each night. Other art pieces celebrate form—one piece, a 40-foot metal sculpture of a female dancer titled, “Bliss Dance,” is a not-so-subtle reference to Vegas showgirls.
Elsewhere in the Park, real live trees provide shade, while large planters with built-in seating add to the natural beauty of the space with native and desert-adaptive plants. Unique water features, including water walls stretching more than 100 feet along the mouth of the Park, add to the atmosphere.
All told, the Park and T-Mobile Arena create a seamless experience that transports guests from the busy Las Vegas Strip through an oasis of pedestrian-only indulgences to a veritable mecca of diversion. The duo quite literally redefines what an urban entertainment center is all about. Look out, New York and L.A., Las Vegas is now the place to be for having fun.
What is your favorite city for entertainment and why?
Special thanks to MGM Resorts for the photographs that accompany this post.