LAS VEGAS -- A former National Basketball Association player wants to build a $1.3 billion arena and hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
Jackie Robinson, a former UNLV player-turned Las Vegas businessman, said this week he expects to begin construction in the spring on the privately funded project near the renovated SLS Las Vegas hotel-casino and the idle Fontainebleau tower. It would open at the end of 2016.
The 22,000-seat stadium would be the second new arena on the tourist corridor. MGM Resorts International is building a similarly-sized project on the opposite side of the Strip, in partnership with sports and entertainment promoter AEG.
But Las Vegas is a town that revels in not knowing when to stop. The city is already set to get two new urban zip lines, as well as two oversized Ferris-style observation wheels.
"I think it's the only place that's going to have the Chicago Bears at one end and Beyonce at the other end, and an arena in both places. It's a unique place--it's not like Kansas City. It can support more than one event," Robinson said.
Developers say the 863,000 square-foot arena will feature four levels, a retractable roof, and a nightclub, and will host basketball, hockey, boxing, rodeo events and concerts. Plans also call for 75 luxury boxes with a separate VIP entrance.
Robinson said an outdoor promenade with shops and restaurants will lead to a luxury hotel with 500 rooms and a wedding chapel.
"When you leave an arena, you go back to an empty parking lot and sit in traffic for two hours. I think it would be nice if you could go out from an arena and go directly from a nightclub or to a restaurant or do some shopping," he said.
The arena is expected to cost $690 million, and the promenade and hotel are expected to cost $650 million. The Minneapolis-based firm Cunningham Group Architecture, Inc., is designing the project.
Robinson said the project will draw more locals than the MGM arena, and will be able to keep them on the property with dining and shopping options. He also said the arena will be able to attract conventions and large corporate meetings.
The $350 million MGM arena is expected to open in spring of 2016 between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo hotel-casinos.
Robinson played basketball at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and coach Jerry Tarkanian from 1973 to 1978. He played in the NBA from 1978 to 1982, with the Seattle SuperSonics, Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.
He later worked as a general contractor, hotel manager and airport concession owner. Robinson said the project will be financed with loans. He started working on the idea five years ago, but had to wait until the economy improved.
"We put everything on mothballs until things turned around," he said. "I've played in several arenas -- I've been around and I understand that it has to be an experience, not just an event.”