James Dolan has big plans for Las Vegas and London.
Dolan, chief executive of Madison Square Garden Company, has announced a plan to build futuristic event spaces in a bid to create some of the most advanced live entertainment venues in the world.
Dolan unveiled his plan for the first new project, slated for Las Vegas, on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Thursday night. The plan is to build a giant, globe-shaped event space that features walls upon which 360-degree images can be displayed.
"This is going to totally change the landscape of Las Vegas," Dolan said in an interview ahead of the event.
The timing of the project could not be better for the city. Casino magnate Steve Wynn, who is known for championing Las Vegas as a destination beyond gambling, stepped down as chief executive of Wynn Resorts earlier this week after accusations of sexual misconduct.
James Dolan, the son of Charles Dolan, a cable TV pioneer, said there are very few companies capable of launching this kind of project.
"You have to know the venue business, and you have to know how to sell it, and those factors bring it down to a couple of companies,” Dolan said. “And we are the one.”
MSG, which also owns The Forum in Los Angeles, plans to build a technology "palette" so that musicians and artists can program their own fully immersive environments in the "MSG Sphere," as Dolan called the building. The structure will seat some 18,000 people, and the ultra-high definition display inside the sphere is meant to make visitors feel like they're anywhere on the planet, Dolan said.
Construction is expected to begin in the second half of this year, with a plan to open in 2020, Dolan said.
Dolan said he spent the past two years working on the project, which includes plans for an event space in London. The company has acquired land in the city, MSG President Andrew Lustgarten said on a recent conference call for the company’s earnings.
The building is likely to be expensive. The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which opened in 2016, cost $375 million to build, according to its website.
Dolan, who also fronts the band "JD and The Straight Shot," has been unabashed about making live entertainment the focus of his attention. MSG separated its sports and entertainment assets from its media business in 2015.
MSG Sports owns numerous professional sports franchises including the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. The values of professional sports franchises, in particular NBA teams like the Knicks, have risen sharply in recent years. The Houston Rockets sold for $2.2 billion in Sept. 2017.
Dolan recently looked to sell the New York Liberty, the WNBA team owned by MSG.
When asked if he'd sell pieces of his company to finance the initiative, Dolan repeated his focus on the Las Vegas project.
"I love this. This is really what I'm about, right? This is what I want to do. Whatever it takes in order to finish the vision is what I'll do," Dolan said, though he declined to reveal a price tag for the project.
When asked again if he'd be willing to sell MSG’s sports franchises, he said that he’s willing to sell anything in his portfolio to finance the project.
"It could involve selling anything,” Dolan said. “Hopefully I don't have to sell a damn thing. I have enough money to do more than this in the bank without taking loans. We don't have to."
Dolan is not alone in the venture. Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian Hotel, is investing $100 million, Dolan said.
Brandon Ross, a media analyst at BTIG Research has raised questions about whether Dolan could be interested in selling the sports teams MSG controls.
"MSG has a history of taking corporate action to unlock value especially by spinning assets out,” Ross said. “We're not sure at this time if Jim is interested in selling any piece of the teams."