Inside LV's New Park Theater Where There's Not a Bad Seat in the House

Published On 12/07/2016 Published On 12/07/2016
The Park Theater
The Park Theater

"It's built like a mini-luxury arena."

As the Director of Event Production for MGM Resorts International, Steven Pelletier has seen a lot of big venues come and go on the Las Vegas Strip, and he is thoroughly impressed with the Park Theater. It's the first of many big changes taking shape at the Monte Carlo resort over the next year or so, but it’s currently making a statement all by itself.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

So how big is the thing?

The idea is to bring arena-level entertainment to a smaller audience -- you know, so the singer doesn't look like a tiny speck from the cheap seats. The Park Theater's stage is 135x40ft, which is "bigger than Radio City Music Hall" according to Pelletier. In its regular configuration, the venue will hold about 5,200 people. That includes three levels of seating plus chairs on the floor. Open the floor for general admission and roll back the telescopic seating and that number can expand to 5,800 and even 6,300 people at max capacity.

"A year ago, there was another theater in this spot," says Pelletier of the old Lance Burton Theatre -- which was most recently home to the Blue Man Group. "They've torn it down and completely built this new magnificent structure in a year. It's a momentous task."

To give you an idea of the scope of the project, you could fit four Lance Burton Theatres inside what is now The Park Theater -- which is roughly 150,000sqft total. And while the stage is massive, the back row is just 145ft from the stage, so even the worst seat in the house is a pretty good one. The Park Theater is doing its best to keep everyone happy.

The Park Theater

How did the whole thing come about?

MGM Resorts International already has three large venues -- the new T-Mobile Arena, the MGM Grand Garden Arena and the Mandalay Bay Events Center -- as well as a handful of small theaters for Cirque shows and other local productions. But the gaming and resort giant was missing a viable mid-size venue in Las Vegas. The Park Theater solves that problem and will be able to compete with the Colosseum at Caesars Palace down the Strip, which is currently home to long term residencies by the likes of Céline Dion and Elton John.

The Park Theater has already signed Bruno Mars, Cher, and Ricky Martin to what it calls "extended engagements" staying clear of the word "residency." These are big scores. Until recently, Bruno Mars had a regular gig at the Chelsea Theater at the Cosmopolitan. Cher's own extended run at the Colosseum back in 2009 drew strong numbers even at the peak of the recession proving her ability to sell tickets in any era. The doors of the Park Theater will officially open on December 17th with a double-bill of Stevie Nicks and the Pretenders who are currently on an arena tour of the United States.

"The gridiron over the stage alone can hold over 175,000 pounds, which is comparable to an arena," notes Pelletier who also says house audio and lighting can be removed to accommodate big acts already on tour and using their own equipment.

The Park Theater is also a natural competitor for The Joint at the Hard Rock, a high-tech concert venue that has seen short-term residencies from arena veterans like KISS and Def Leppard in recent years.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Talking tech

With a massive stage comes massive technology including some impressive visual effects. The stage is framed by a projection surface scaling 260ft across the top of the stage and 50ft tall on each side. Seven high-def projectors and two 4K projectors cover the entire surface with images including in-house designs, picture-in-picture video, and 3D imagery. No, not with glasses or anything like that, but with effects that generate the illusion of the image popping out. The screens will also have live IMAG video feed, which is just a fancy industry term for showing the performer on screen. There's also an 80x40ft 4K LED screen against the backwall of the stage.

So what will Bruno Mars actually sound like? Am I going to hear every word of Uptown Funk perfectly clear? It's hard to find a music venue anywhere else in the country with a better sound system than the Park Theater. L'Acoustics engineered the audio system specifically for the room. "Look around the theater," says Pelletier while eyeing the back of the venue. "The material on every flat surface is designed to absorb and create a perfectly tuned room for this system. An extended stage that comes out 10ft towards the crowd has subwoofers underneath it in case you need a little extra bass."

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

More than music

The Park Theater will tap into Las Vegas' massive convention and trade show industry, opening up its floor for banquet tables, exhibition space, and anything else needed for corporate events. Sports are also a possibility, especially MMA and boxing. "We even laid out a design for how to put a basketball court in here," says Pelletier.

An in-house broadcast control room and feed system makes it incredibly efficient to set up cameras and other equipment for a live concert performance, awards show, or anything else that would look good on your TV screen.  

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Perks, perks, perks

Of course, there's VIP service. Everything in Vegas comes with VIP service. A section dedicated to the wealthy and privileged comes with perfectly level sight lines of the stage, couches and tables, as well as food and beverage minimums. Of course, the whole thing can be bought out -- similar to a skybox -- if the price is right. The VIP area even has its own kitchen, bar, and bottle service attendants. Stevie Nicks and unlimited vodka cranberries is a pretty good combo.

Need a smoke break? There are five outdoor terraces among the three floors. That means you can head out in the open air, preferably with a cocktail from one of seven bars, and soak in the view from the Strip or the T-Mobile Arena across the street. And don't even think about hopping a wall and sneaking into a show through a terrace. "We've got big guys" says Pelletier of the security team, so don't try anything stupid.

As for food, you'll have plenty of snacks to choose from, but for full-blown dinners, guests will be encouraged to try the restaurants next door at The Park outdoor promenade. That includes brats at Beerhaus and sushi at Sake Rok.   

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

The master plan

The Park Theater is impressive enough on its own, but is just the first step in a plan to completely renovate and rebrand the Monte Carlo as two hotels in one: The Park MGM and NoMad, which is based on a luxury resort in New York. The entire project will cost $450 million.

"We don't like to use the word pressure but yeah, the pressure's on," laughs Pelletier. "Pressure turns coal into diamonds."

Factor in the T-Mobile Arena, the Shops at Crystals and properties like the Aria and Vdara, and MGM Resorts has completed revamped the entire west side of Las Vegas Blvd between the Cosmopolitan and New York-New York. It's a busy stretch of the Strip that could set the stage for the future to come in Las Vegas. For now, just try to score some tickets for Cher.

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Rob Kachelriess is a former television news producer who has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than three years. He was Managing Editor for Vegas2LA Magazine and his work has recently appeared in Vegas Seven and Vegas Magazine. He is more than happy to sit in the back row. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.



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