No stadium, but Rio redevelopment could include pedestrian skybridge over I-15
A landscaped pedestrian skybridge over Interstate 15 — far more elaborate than a typical cement walkway — was one of several enticements offered by Dreamscape Cos. CEO Eric Birnbaum to the Oakland A’s if the team had accepted a proposal to build a baseball stadium at the Rio Hotel & Casino.
It doesn’t matter that the team chose another site a mile-and-a-half south for its planned $1.5 billion stadium.
Birnbaum still plans to bring the skybridge concept to the Rio.
The proposed structure is loosely based on New York City’s High Line, a one-and-a-half-mile elevated walking trail built on top of a portion of the New York Central Railroad on Manhattan’s west side. Birnbaum said the idea is to link the Rio, located on 90 acres west of I-15, with the heart of the Strip.
“We would take our site, create an elevated park and have that go over I-15 and loop into the back of Caesars Palace,” Birnbaum said, saying the concept would create “a beautiful urban landscape.”
“I think Las Vegas would really welcome this pedestrian connectivity,” he added. “Simultaneously, we think it would create an urban-like haven that would be a destination unto itself.”
Birnbaum, whose New York City-based company acquired the Rio in 2019 from Caesars Entertainment for $516.3 million, said there is still much groundwork to be done with the concept, but it’s part of the Rio’s overall redevelopment plan.
Caesars has been operating the Rio on a lease agreement with Dreamscape following the sale, but the deal — in which Dreamscape receives $45 million in annual rent — is expected to end this year. Birnbaum said the company hopes to take over operations in the last quarter of the year, pending licensing approval from Nevada gaming regulators.
He also sees an opportunity to include other neighbors on the west side of Flamingo Road in connecting with the Strip. Birnbaum said there have been “preliminary conversations” with Southern California’s San Manuel Indian Tribe, which owns the Palms Casino Resort, about the idea.
For now, the idea is still in the conceptual phase.
“We’re just sort of scratching the tip of this,” Birnbaum said. “It’s something that would be environmentally friendly. We’re hoping Clark County would welcome an idea like this.”
Redeveloping the Rio
In February, Dreamscape announced it had secured $850 million in funding, a portion of which will be dedicated to redeveloping the 2,522-room resort. Dreamscape also plans to form two companies with the financing: a real estate investment trust and an operating company — both focusing on gaming, hospitality and entertainment businesses.
Some renovations are already starting through an agreement with Caesars. The former buffet area, for example, has been walled off for future development. The closed areas are not interfering with customer experience, Birnbaum said.
“They've been really easy to work with,” Birnbaum said of Caesars. He said Dreamscape will make announcements about Rio’s redevelopment plans in the coming months.
Dreamscape owns hotel properties in New York, Miami, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, Charleston and Philadelphia, including The Pod Hotel in New York’s Times Square and The Goodtime Hotel in Miami’s South Beach. The Rio is the company’s first gaming property.
As for the baseball stadium proposal, Birnbaum said the A’s were offered 22 acres of the Rio site for just $1, and added the team was told the stadium could be “an island unto itself” or be connected with the Rio. The offer could have greatly reduced some of the costs associated with the land acquisition.
Birnbaum said he found out the A’s had signed an agreement to acquire a 49-acre site at Tropicana Avenue and Dean Martin Drive from a phone call with the A's.