Las Vegas Giant Sphere

Submitted by Michael Frankfort @mfrank_76

Here’s the deal with the giant sphere causing a buzz in Las Vegas

Aliens have not invaded Las Vegas — that we know of — but something that looks otherworldly is now on the Strip.

In a city known for dazzling aesthetics and questionable business practices, there was an Independence Day premiere that involved no fireworks. The Sphere at the Venetian Resort is a $2 billion venue covered with 580,000 square feet of programmable LED panels that can make the sphere look like a black hole has opened up or a Christmas snow globe has landed in Vegas.

The sight has quite a lot of buzz locally and online. Some see a technological marvel, and some see a gigantic spherical billboard that’s a prime distraction for drivers.

The Sphere at The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, covered in 580,000 square feet of programmable LED panels, is slated to hold its first show in the fall. (Video: The Washington Post)

The Sphere is an 18,000-seat venue that is set to host its first concert Sept. 29, when U2, also known for baffling technological choices, starts its 2½-month residency. Though the exterior seems like it could be seen from space, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported sightline problems inside.

According to the company, the Sphere’s interior has 160,000 square feet — or roughly the area of three football fields — worth of programmable space. The Review-Journal reported in August 2018, just before construction began, that conventioneers who speak other languages would be able to see the same visuals but have their languages presented to them without headphones or wires.

The Sphere, a sometimes-bright addition to the Las Vegas skyline, was fully illuminated for the first time Tuesday. (James Shaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal/AP)

An organization that’s familiar with spectacle, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, partnered with Las Vegas Sands Corp. to build the Sphere.

Since its unveiling, people have had mixed reactions.

A few went straight to science fiction. “I won’t be shocked if the city of Las Vegas mysteriously disappears that’s all I’m saying,” one person tweeted. Another posted that he doesn’t “trust that thing at all. Looks like a Death Star, Eye of Sauron, HAL 9000 hybrid. I’m out.”

And some are worried about traffic, with one person tweeting: “nah the msg sphere is insane bc if i was driving by this i would crash.”

Others have also linked it to Sin City’s history of being a town built by workers for people wanting to buy a dream, with one person tweeting: “i love seeing ppl complain abt the giant sphere in las vegas being an eyesore as if vegas isnt a fake town in the desert built buy rich ppl so they can drink a margarita slushy at 11 am.”

The project hasn’t been without problems.

Its cost ballooned from an estimated $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion in 2019, to $2.3 billion by this May, according to reports in the Review-Journal. A cost consultant has sued the company for $3.1 million that he alleges he is owed, and a local judge is awaiting word from the Nevada Supreme Court to see whether MSG head and New York Knicks owner James Dolan will be forced to sit for a deposition.

But the sphere may widen.

The Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. wrote in its annual shareholder filing that it had purchased land in the Stratford area of London to build another sphere.

Ben Brasch is a General Assignment reporter for The Washington Post Twitter