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Construction crews top off MSG Sphere entertainment venue

Updated May 25, 2022 - 12:54 pm

More than 1,000 Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. employees and construction workers gathered Tuesday at the MSG Sphere at The Venetian to watch the last piece of the gigantic three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle fit into place at the 366-foot-tall entertainment venue.

Crews hoisted an evergreen and an American flag to the $1.9 billion building’s summit while the crowd cheered the milestone event.

The Sphere, scheduled to open in late 2023, is expected to be the most innovative entertainment venue ever built when completed with wrap-around digital screens inside and out. The exterior screen, fully programmable, will have the capability of projecting imagery from a preset program or a live broadcast from something going on inside the facility.

Media members were taken on a three-stop tour of the building Tuesday but weren’t invited to the topping-off ceremony, a traditional event that occurs when the last and highest portion of a construction project is completed.

Next up for construction crews: bolting the high-definition screens to the interior and exterior of the building. The screen on the exosphere will take 10 to 12 months to install, starting from the peak of the dome and working downward. Several 70-by-60-foot parallelogram-shaped panels with LED lighting will be installed atop the exosphere.

During the tour, Nick Tomasino, senior vice president of construction for MSG Entertainment, and Lucas Watson, president of the MSG Sphere, pointed out venue features from a temporary platform between the sixth and seventh levels of the building and from the massive stage at ground level, which has the flexibility to be widened.

Features 23 suites

Counting the basement, which will include a VIP club and back-of-the-house facilities, the venue will have nine levels, including 13 luxury suites at Level 3 and 10 more at Level 5. The suites are expected to be sold to corporate sponsors, but if any of them are empty for a performance, suite seating will be available for individual events.

While the venue will offer 17,500 permanent seats, it will have room for 2,500 more retractable seats that could bring full capacity to 20,000.

The interior steel grid is about 90 percent complete.

“The core of this arena is about music and entertainment,” Watson said during the tour.

A studio that opened this month in Burbank, California, is developing content for custom-made experiences from filmmakers. The sphere also is expected to host residencies and headliners from among the world’s best musical acts with which Madison Square Garden already has contractual relationships.

Music is focus

While music will be the focus of the Sphere, it also will be possible to host esports tournaments and present boxing and mixed martial arts matches, Watson said.

With its close proximity to The Venetian Expo, product introductions will be possible at The Sphere during conventions.

The Sphere site will offer minimal parking, and performance attendees are expected to park in the garages of nearby Palazzo and Venetian and use a walkway being built across Koval Lane from The Venetian Expo.

The spherical steel structure, the newest addition to the Las Vegas skyline, encompasses the venue and ultimately will be covered with about 580,000 square feet of fully programmable LED panels, forming the largest LED screen on Earth.

MSG Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer David Byrnes said in a call with investors this month that the screens would provide an impactful display for partners to showcase their brands, create unique activations and promote content.

“As we make our way toward the opening of the venue, we’ve been energized by the interest we’re seeing from potential partners,” Byrnes said. “This includes discussions with leading filmmakers about the creation of original immersive attractions with global artists for concert residencies at the venue, with promoters of marquee events and with potential corporate partners, who see substantial value in the platform’s capabilities inside and out.”

The venue will have a high-resolution display plane that is larger than three football fields, the world’s largest beam-forming audio system with more than 160,000 speakers and it will deliver superior sound to every seat in the house, officials have said.

Executives said to-date construction costs through March 31 had reached $1.3 billion.

F1 partnership

Earlier this month, MSG said it is developing a partnership with the operators of the November 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix Formula One car race. The race course will encircle the Sphere and the partners expect to cross-market the event, expected to be one of the city’s biggest international special events at around the time the venue is scheduled to open.

“MSG Sphere’s prime position along the circuit (race course) presents a high-profile opportunity for both our company and F1,” Byrnes told investors. “We will be able to showcase the venue to a global audience of entertainment and sports fans both in-person and watching broadcasts of the event around the world.”

Some 1,400 tradesmen are working various shifts through the day to complete the structure, which is expected to be the first of other Sphere venues worldwide. MSG Entertainment has discussed building a similar venue in London, but the Las Vegas facility will be unique for some time.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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