Here’s a novel idea: If you want a brand new $350 million arena, why not pay for it yourself instead of stealing taxpayer dollars? That’s exactly what sports and entertainment company AEG and MGM Resorts International are doing in Las Vegas, where they plan to break ground on a 20,000 seat arena this April.
What’s even more peculiar is that Las Vegas doesn’t have a professional sports team to occupy the arena, which is tentatively slated to open in 2016. Sure, there are the Las Vegas 51s, the New York Mets AAA affiliate. But no teams from the NHL, NFL, MLB or NBA. The hope is that they might be able to lure an NBA or NHL team to the desert.
Unless AEG is hiding something, this is a fully privately funded project, which is practically unheard of in this age of stadium welfare. And the partnership with MGM is an intriguing one. It’s a clear sign that Vegas can’t rely entirely on gaming as an economic engine. They’re attempting to diversify their economy — something Atlantic City desperately needs to do — and find different forms of entertainment and revenue streams. They’re hoping that comes in the form of a professional sports team.
And we’re hoping that Vegas’ dreams come true, if only for the tabloid fodder when visiting players drop a hundred grand at the Bellagio and stumble out onto the strip in the early hours on gameday.
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Bill Bradley is a writer and reporter living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Deadspin, GQ, and Vanity Fair, among others.