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October 2, 2014

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Operating at low risk, MGM Resorts ‘dabbling’ in outdoor shows with 48 Hours Festival

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Erik Kabik/Retna/ErikKabik.com

Godsmack performs at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel on Oct. 29, 2010.

When it was announced that The 48 Hours Festival, a high-octave orgy of 22 bands playing on two stages, would be held on something called the Luxor Festival Grounds, my first thought was: “Wha-a? Korn is playing the Luxor?”

It’s just something of a mismatch, a Strip version of the Monterey Pop Festival occupying two stages on a vacant lot across the boulevard from Luxor and Mandalay Bay (the concert runs through Sunday; go to the 48 Hours Festival Web site for information).

Aside from the Mandalay Bay Beach Concert Series, these properties prefer to play it inside, at room temperature, where the climate (and audience) is more readily controlled.

But Mandalay Bay Vice President of Entertainment Chris Baldizan is pretty convincing when he says the deal to bring the first outdoor metal festival to the Strip makes perfect sense. That’s because MGM Resorts has very little risk in this venture.

It’s like when the owner of a sandlot allows kids to play a little stick ball, except that the owner asks for the kids’ lunch money for the honor of hacking it up.

“When I say we’re dabbling in this, that’s what it is,” Baldizan, who brokered the deal to bring the festival to the shadow of his hotel, said in a phone conversation last week. “This is something that’s very unique, and we have a prime location. When you consider live music on Strip with that backdrop, it’s very appealing. But we’re in the put-your-toe-in-the-water stage.”

MGM Resorts leased the plot of land on the Strip east of the two hotels to 48 Hours Festival organizers (LiveNation and Rockstar Energy Drink are partnering to present the event) and said, in essence, “Have fun, kids.” MGM Resorts offered rooms at Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay as part of concert ticket packages.

“We have had great pickup on our room block at all three of those hotels,” Baldizan said, emphasizing that the company does stand to benefit when it fills those blocks. “I’m not going to say it’s the typical demographic for a show. We feel this demographic is a little on the wild side, and that was one of our worries about the [Electric] Daisy Carnival (held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in August).

“It might not have had a direct impact on gaming and restaurants, but the room rates went through the roof.”

Baldizan said event organizers expect 12,000 to 14,000 fans for each day of the all-general admission shows. If that estimate bears out, it would at least match consecutive sold-out events at Mandalay Bay Events Center and appeal to a different sort of resort customer. Inked and pierced customers, mostly.

“We pride ourselves in embracing all types of music, R&B, pop, rock, country, any genre,” Baldizan said. And there is little for the hotel to lose.

“There is no risk financially,” he said. “We didn’t invest a nickel in it.”

Very good. Rock on, men in suits.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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