A new entertainment arena in Las Vegas is designed to reflect both the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip and the natural beauty of the nearby Mojave Desert. MGM Resorts International/AEG
A new arena near the Las Vegas Strip will feature a combination of cladding materials that are intended to connect the building with its surroundings.
February 18, 2014—Many of the hotels and casinos in Las Vegas recall such global destinations as France, Italy, and Egypt. But instead of re-creating the imagery of faraway lands, the architects of what will be the city’s newest entertainment arena drew inspiration from the immediate landscape to conceive a design that blends the energy of the Strip with the natural beauty of the Mojave Desert for a venue that is distinctly Las Vegas.
The $350-million arena, which does not yet have an official name, will be the centerpiece of a project to redevelop the area between the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino and New York-New York Hotel & Casino, extending from Las Vegas Boulevard to Frank Sinatra Drive. The redevelopment project will also include restaurants, retail, and other entertainment facilities. A joint venture comprising AEG, an international sports and entertainment firm headquartered in Los Angeles, and MGM Resorts International, a Las Vegas-based gaming and hospitality firm, is developing the arena. The two firms held a qualifications-based design competition and awarded the project to Populous, an architecture firm based in Kansas City, Missouri, that is known for its arena and stadium design. Thornton Tomasetti, Inc., an international engineering firm headquartered in New York City, is the structural engineering firm for the project, working primarily from its Kansas City, Missouri, office.
The arena will be located on a 5.4-acre site that is adjacent to and visible from Interstate 15. It will host a variety of events, including boxing, mixed martial arts competitions, concerts, award shows, and National Basketball Association and National Hockey League games.
Elliptical in shape, the arena will have the capacity for up to 20,000 guests when seats are arranged on the event floor for center-stage events. The primary seating bowl will have six levels, with suites, loge boxes, VIP clubs, and other premium amenities located throughout. The arena will also have several exterior cantilevered balconies. “Our client challenged us with providing a building that meets the expectations for modern entertainment venues, and one that architecturally represents the city and experience of Las Vegas, because it’s such a unique place,” says Geoff Cheong, an architectural designer and senior associate of Populous.
The arena’s defining design element—an 85 ft tall glass atrium—will be located at the front of the building and will afford views across the redevelopment area and to the Las Vegas Strip. The atrium will curve outward as a result of the arena’s elliptical geometry. Custom steel Y-shaped columns will support the sloping glass and provide gravity support to the atrium’s elevated floors and roof, said Gary Storm, P.E., LEED-AP, M.ASCE, a senior principal of Thornton Tomasetti, in written responses to Civil Engineering online. A transparent light-emitting diode screen will cover the top portion of the atrium, enlivening the building with changing colors and announcements about arena events. “The atrium will be very activated and very colorful,” Cheong says. “It’s designed to play off of the high energy of the Strip.”
The front of the building will also feature an open-air stage from which entertainers will perform and energize the crowds that gather on the arena’s front plaza before and after main events. Located over the arena’s entry doors, the stage will be accessible from the building’s interior corridors, as will several exterior balconies from which guests will take in views of the city. “The idea is to really create an atmosphere that captivates the visitors from the moment they arrive on-site, while they’re inside attending the event, and even on the way out as they’re heading back to the Strip,” Cheong says. “It’s intended to give them a world-class experience throughout that entire time.”
The cladding on the sides and rear of the arena is also designed to respond to the site. Oriented toward the Mojave Desert and nearby mountains, those sides of the arena will be covered by opaque materials to block the sun as it tracks from east to west and sets over the mountains. Locally derived stone will be used near the arena’s lower level, while lightweight metal panels will cover the upper levels. The panels will be shaded to recall the sand of the desert and stratification lines of the mountains, Cheong says. “The lightweight metal skin that wraps around the building is designed to play off of the surrounding region and really set the building in Las Vegas and in the Mojave Desert,” he says.
The arena’s structural and architectural design is still under way, and geotechnical investigations of the site are ongoing. Borings and testing to date have revealed that the caliche on the site exists at depths of 15 to 20 ft, so the arena will likely be founded on spread footings, Storm said. The superstructure will comprise a combination of concrete and structural steel framing—materials selected for schedule advantages and ease of construction, and because the design calls for exposed concrete in some portions of the structure. The seating bowl, including the upper deck and back of the bowl, will be built from cast-in-place concrete; the outer bays, lobby, lower canopies, balconies, and long-span roof will be structural steel. A variety of rolled shapes, plate girders, and trusses will be used to achieve the cantilevered exterior balconies. “The biggest challenge with the cantilevered balconies is achieving acceptable performance levels for vibration control while fulfilling the dramatic design envisioned by the architect,” Storm said.
Construction of the arena is scheduled to commence this spring and completion is anticipated in 2016. Cheong hopes that when people see the arena, they will immediately think of Las Vegas. “Anything goes in Las Vegas, so to us the most powerful concept was designing a building that is all about the city and the region,” he says. “Our design concept is rooted in the Mojave Desert, which really gives this venue a bold, recognizable, and global identity. It is all about this entertainment city that is situated in the middle of the desert.”