Robinson plans a groundbreaking Wednesday to mark the construction start of a $1.4 billion arena, hotel and shopping project that has quietly moved ahead as a soccer stadium debate rages in Las Vegas, UNLV delayed its campus football stadium by two years and MGM Resorts International builds its $375 million, 20,000-seat arena behind New York-New York on the Strip.
Robinson’s privately funded arena will cost $690 million, and he has lined up an arena management heavyweight — Philadelphia-based Comcast-Spectacor — to schedule programming and manage the 22,000-seat retractable-roof arena.
Robinson apparently has pieced together $1.4 billion from realty financiers the Carlton Group and from the federal EB-5 program, which lets foreign nationals get expedited green cards in exchange for investing in U.S. construction projects, and which consequently has resulted in a lot of foreign money pouring into questionable U.S. projects. (“Apparently,” I say, because for now we only have Robinson’s word that this money actually exists.) In exchange, they will get a 22,000-seat arena that will compete with the existing Thomas & Mack Center and MGM-AEG’s new arena for concerts and maybe an NBA or NHL team — which probably isn’t coming anytime soon, and which in any case is certainly not going to pay any rent if it does, not with three arenas in the same town competing to be its home.
I know Vegas attract lots of concerts, but this still seems to be getting ridiculous — if anyone wants to nominate Robinson’s project as Most Likely to Be Sold in Bankruptcy Court Within Five Years, I’m right there with you. Or Most Likely to Be Permanent Vaportecture, for that matter. Though I would love to see what possible use they could come up with for a retractable arena roof in the middle of the desert…