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Massive MSG Sphere frame in place, work continues

Updated June 20, 2021 - 3:09 pm

The bones are in place for the massive MSG Sphere. Now comes the project’s next challenge: making the place shine with high-tech LED displays, inside and out.

Officials showed off the MSG Sphere’s most recent construction milestone during a media tour Thursday morning. Construction crews recently finished setting the steel frame at the globular, 17,500-seat venue and will mark the completion of the main venue’s domed frame with a “topping out” ceremony Friday.

Then it’s back to work.

Crews have started building the framework for the project’s exosphere — expected to feature 580,000 square feet of programmable LED and have a rare, second “topping out” for the geodesic sphere next year, according to Nick Tomasino, vice president of construction for MSG Entertainment. Concurrently, he said, crews will work on the interior structure to which they’ll attach the main venue’s 160,000-square-foot, high-definition LED screen.

“This venue has every engineering and construction challenge that one venue could have, which is just absolutely exciting to be able to come into work every day as we work through these,” he told members of the media Thursday from the project’s eighth floor. Above him, a handful of workers in hard hats and orange reflective vests plugged away, balancing atop the steel beams of the domed structure.

Construction continues during a tour of the Madison Square Garden Sphere at The Venetian in Las ...
Construction continues during a tour of the Madison Square Garden Sphere at The Venetian in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @csstevensphoto

Project completion set for 2023

Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp., which operates Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall in New York, is collaborating with Las Vegas Sands Corp. on the project.

The main venue’s skeleton was completed ahead of schedule, and the state-of-the-art entertainment venue remains on track for completion in 2023, Tomasino said Thursday. It sits just east of The Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo and Convention Center. The project is estimated to cost $1.8 billion and will eventually house screens that span the size of three football fields.

When completed, the MSG Sphere will be 366 feet tall, and the building will be 516 feet wide at its widest point. By comparison, the nearby Palazzo tower is 642 feet high, The Venetian is 475 feet tall and the High Roller observation wheel is 550 feet.

The Sphere’s exosphere will stand roughly 30 percent taller than the domed roof atop the main venue — 366 feet to 285 feet.

Crews have finished placing the 32 steel, pie-shaped trusses together to form the project’s domed roof structure. Each one is 200 feet long and weighs more than 100 tons.

Workers are dismantling the enormous metal shoring tower spanning from ground to dome. Now complete, the dome bones are self-supporting — no columns necessary. The trusses push against both a tension ring running along the top level’s perimeter and a central compression ring.

All together it creates a balanced dome that will support the sphere’s display and audio system and is capable of supporting about 42 million pounds of weight.

No bad seats

Installation of the main venue’s insulated metal facade is underway. Once enclosed, inside the venue, the largest and highest-resolution LED screen on Earth will wrap over, up and behind the stage and audience in an immersive environment at a resolution 100 times better than today’s best high-definition televisions.

Every seat in the venue will face the stage. An advanced acoustics system will deliver audio to every seat, from the front row to the back. Beamforming technology will enable simultaneous delivery of multiple forms of audio content. An infrasound haptic system will use deep vibrations to enable guests to feel the sound.

“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” Tomasino said Thursday.

Construction continues during a tour of the Madison Square Garden Sphere at The Venetian in Las ...
Construction continues during a tour of the Madison Square Garden Sphere at The Venetian in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @csstevensphoto

A new connectivity system will deliver 25 megabits of data per second for every guest with 1,100 Wi-Fi access points.

The precast concrete stadia that will eventually support the MSG Sphere’s seats are complete, save for the space currently interrupted by the shoring tower, Tomasino said. Removing the shoring will also allow workers to complete the wraparound catwalk system hanging from the roof.

The venue can hold 20,000 people including standing room attendance; general admittance will watch from the floor in front of the stage, Tomasino said. The venue features 23 suites and retractable seating from its second floor, he said.

“Every time I walk into this space I’m absolutely blown away,” Tomasino said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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