Pick a random Saturday — say, July 2 — and look at the Las Vegas entertainment lineup.
“Absinthe” will be telling dirty jokes in the tent outside Caesars Palace. Blue Man Group will be doing mute performance art comedy at the Luxor. Cirque du Soleil will be executing Olympic-caliber feats of strength and skill at theaters up and down the Strip.
But wait, there’s more! Britney Spears will gyrate at Planet Hollywood. Bryan Adams will croon at the Cosmopolitan. 311 will play poolside at Mandalay Bay Beach. The Outlawz will get Brooklyn Bowl bumping, and Garth Brooks will turn the T-Mobile Arena country for the night.
Las Vegas’ reputation as the entertainment capital of the world is no danger of diminishing. If anything, the city’s events calendar is more packed than ever, with resident headliners joining the ranks of musicals, comedy acts, circus spectacles and more.
However, major Strip players seem to believe there’s an appetite for significantly more entertainment along the tourist corridor. On the heels of MGM Resorts’ 20,000-seat T-Mobile arena opening, the Las Vegas Sands has announced plans for its own large-scale venue designed explicitly for music.
In partnership with the Madison Square Garden Co. — and working with Azoff MSG Entertainment, Live Nation and Oak View Group — the Sands intends to build a 400,000-square-foot venue connected to the Venetian and Palazzo with all 17,500 seats in front of the stage. Though constructed with music in mind, the venue may also host sporting events such as UFC fights.
“Through our experience with the Forum [in Los Angeles], we’ve realized that there’s a real need for venues that focus specifically on music and entertainment,” said James L. Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Co. “Now we’re taking what we’ve learned and expanding MSG’s portfolio of celebrated venues into key markets, where we can use our building expertise, operational excellence and industry relationships to ensure they become thriving destinations that continue to set the standard for entertainment.”
The Sands project isn’t the only new venue adding seats to the Strip. Along with the recently opened T-Mobile Arena, MGM Resorts has been constructing the $100-million, 5,300-seat Park Theatre (previously called the Monte Carlo Theatre), scheduled to open later this year. Even existing venues have been boosting their entertainment offerings. Planet Hollywood has expanded its artist residencies this year, adding Lionel Richie and Jennifer Lopez. John Fogerty signed on for multiple runs at the Venetian. George Strait is at the arena.
With all the new cushioned seats in all the new venues and all the new productions from new resident headliners, it’s hard not to wonder how the entertainment capital of the world will sustain all this fresh entertainment. In fact, show attendance among Vegas visitors actually dipped last year, down to 61% from a five-year high of 72% in 2013. Though attendance at production shows and headliner performances jumped significantly in 2015, the majority of those who did a see show (72%) took in a lounge act, not the kind of gig likely to land at any of the newer Strip venues.
Can Las Vegas support the onslaught of shows on the horizon? Doubtful. We’re more likely to witness a Darwinian battle play out onstage. Survival of the most entertaining, perhaps?