Vegas basketball arena developer says $10B project is growing, won’t require public money
Sports and entertainment venue developer Tim Leiweke doesn’t ask for public money when he sets out on designing a project.
The CEO of Los Angeles-based Oak View Group, who aspires to bring the NBA to Las Vegas, said Thursday he is more comfortable approaching state or local elected officials without such a request.
“I think it helps when you walk into a room and say to them, ‘I do not need your money,’” Leiweke said during a discussion of the 2023 Perspective, which is hosted by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA).
It wasn’t lost on the 800 attendees that Leiweke’s remarks came less than 24 hours after state lawmakers sent legislation to Gov. Joe Lombardo that will provide up to $380 million in public money to fund a $1.5 billion stadium on the Strip for the Oakland A’s to relocate to Las Vegas.
During a discussion with LVGEA CEO Tina Quigley, Leiweke also dropped another piece of news on the audience at M Resort.
His plans for a 20,000-seat arena as part of a $3 billion hotel, gaming and entertainment district near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road have grown substantially.
The arena is now part of a 66-acre planned development, more than two-and-a-half times the size of the original parcel, and the project’s budget has a $10 billion price tag — all privately financed. The arena is the first part of the development that will be completed, which would allow Oak View to potentially attract an NBA expansion franchise.
“We're doing something extraordinary and if we get to the finish line, we will build the largest development in the history of Las Vegas,” Leiweke said.
MGM Resort International’s City Center opened in 2009 on the Strip at a cost of $7.9 billion.
“You have a dichotomy here. You have a point of destination here,” Leiweke said. “You have a county leadership, in our view, that thrives on that partnership and that vision. And, they thrive on that entrepreneurial spirit.”
Leiweke declined an interview with The Nevada Independent after the half-hour discussion with Quigley, saying he was limited by his company’s board to not say any more beyond his remarks on stage. Marc Badain, the president of Oak View’s arena project, said Oak View, which acquired 25 acres of the 66-acre site, reached an agreement with Blue Diamond Acquisition to develop the remaining 41 acres under a lease agreement.
According to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, Blue Diamond Acquisition’s managing partner is Scott Goldstein, son of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein. The site is roughly 3 miles south of Mandalay Bay, which is considered the Strip’s southern border.
Home to a Las Vegas NBA team?
A timeline for the project has not been established. Still, the arena, which he called the project's centerpiece, could potentially be ready by 2026, a year that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had hinted toward a league expansion opportunity. Last year, basketball star LeBron James and boxing great Floyd Mayweather separately indicated their interest in owning an NBA expansion team in Las Vegas.
Leiweke said he and his partners want to finish the arena because it would be easier to chase an expansion team.
“I guess we have work to do in order to prove to you that this is real, but there are three very important steps that have to get done in order to make this a reality.
“We’re going through the entitlement process with our company and we think we'll be done by the end of this year,” he said. “We have to make sure that at the end of the day that the master plan is done in a way where everything is planned out.’
Leiweke said the arena could attract 15 million people annually through sporting events and concerts. Oak View’s co-founder is Irving Azoff, an award-winning entertainment and music industry executive who has represented several Grammy-winning performers.
He said he believes Las Vegas has room for another 20,000-seat music venue.
“If you step back and look at the world, Las Vegas is the number one live entertainment market,” Leiweke said, adding that concert events in Las Vegas have four times more attendance in a year than Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York, combined.
In addition to Badain, the former president of the Las Vegas Raiders who helped spearhead the development of the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium, Oak View has hired longtime Strip resort executive Randy Morton as president of the hotel-casino portion of the project and former Venetian executive Chandra Allison to oversee the convention and meetings facility.
Leiweke was the head of AEG when the company signed an agreement with MGM Resorts International to build the $375 million T-Mobile Arena. He led the development in 1999 of downtown Los Angeles’ LA Live, an entertainment district that includes JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, numerous restaurants, the Microsoft Theater and Crypto.com Arena, formerly known as the Staples Center. The sports venue houses the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.
In 2021, Oak View opened the $1.2 billion, 18,100-seat Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, which is home to the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. The project was an extensive renovation of an older sports facility that is touted as the world’s first net-zero, carbon-certified arena.
Oak View also opened the $1.1 billion UBS Arena on the grounds of the Belmont Park Racetrack on Long Island in New York. The 17,255-seat, multipurpose arena houses NHL’s New York Islanders.