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December 20, 2014

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Even as a shell, new Chelsea has a Cosmopolitan feel

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Steve Marcus

Singer Bruno Mars, center, performs during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

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Zac Brown Band at The Chelsea in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Saturday, April 27, 2013.

There is that moment when you walk into a new entertainment venue that you think: “What does this remind me of?”

The under-construction Chelsea actually brings to mind two overarching comparisons. One is to the hotel in which it is being built. The Chelsea is clearly designed to fit in with the urban-industrial decor of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The other clear feeling is that the new Chelsea is similar in its size, scope and even sight lines to comparable music venues in Las Vegas — chiefly the Pearl at the Palms, the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and House of Blues at Mandalay Bay. There is even a Reynolds Hall at Smith Center sense to what has been designed and is being assembled at the Cosmo.

This is a generalized assessment, of course, in viewing the Chelsea in its embryonic stages. The concert that is scheduled to host Bruno Mars on New Year’s on Dec. 29 and New Year’s Eve is, at the moment, a dusty, concrete shell teeming with construction workers and strewn with machinery, ladders and power tools. But having visited many venues at this stage of development, I feel it is obvious that a great deal of attention has been spent on how the room sets up — in terms of audio, sound and sight — for a live concert.

The Chelsea is a living rough draft, but you do get the sense that this room is going to blossom into one of the most advanced entertainment venues in the city by the time it opens for a “friends and family” show by a yet-announced act on Dec. 12.

“This is an entertainment venue that can handle any genre of music, boxing, entertainment of any kind,” says Cosmopolitan Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Marchese. “What it won’t be is a production-show venue.” That makes a clear distinction between the Chelsea and the interactive club planned for the floor just below the music hall, Rose.Rabbit.Lie. When asked if the new Chelsea is mindful of any existing venue across the country, Marchese notes Moody Theater in Austin, Texas. The 2,500-seat Moody is home to the “Austin City Limits” PBS live music performances and hosts 100 concerts a year.

Unlike the current Chelsea entertainment venue, which is essentially a gussied-up ballroom, the new room is being built expressly for live performances and is being designed by the design firm AvroKO, which envisioned the designs at Lavo at Palazzo and Social House at Crystals. The renderings — not yet public — of Chelsea remind somewhat of Lavo, with its ornate chandeliers and worn-tile and water-stained walls.

Something of a mystery has been the new Chelsea entrance, which is on the third level of the hotel’s West Tower and takes up previously unused space in the hotel. Seating capacity is about 3,000, and the hall takes up 50,000 square feet over two levels. The first floor is the main floor, designed for a standing, general-admission audience. A bar at the back of the room faces the stage. The walls are designed with glazed subway tiles, repainted wood columns, modern but also unlike the types of effects you would see in a theater. There are no curtains and there is no velvet, no gold, and the fixtures throughout are metal-like and industrially inspired.

Though the venue’s surfaces appear hard and not conducive to lush sound pouring from the stage, the concrete floor is slightly suspended by a series of small springs beneath the surface. The floor is a bit raised and will vibrate ever so slightly with the sound system, though the audience won’t detect that movement. Around the back of the room, mesh coverings are being installed along the walls to absorb the sound.

The stage stands five feet from the floor, and facing the seating from that vantage point is a similar experience to the Joint or Reynolds Hall — the crowd feels right on top of you. House of Blues notes that no seat is farther than 75 feet from the stage.

There has not been an exact measurement made public from the middle of the stage at the Chelsea to the back of the room, but it seems close to that distance.

Upstairs, the entire gallery is fixed seating in a U-shaped pattern. The plaza level bar, called the Quarter, is backed by wide antique mirrors and illuminated shelving. Similar to the public seating areas in the Cosmopolitan, the furniture used in the Chelsea is eclectic — chairs and tables don’t necessarily match in design, with a reclining desk chair set up next to a row of distressed theater seats. But the entirety of the design does fit with the general manufactured-chic theme.

Marchese stresses there is flexibility in the seating concept on the lower level. Seats can be lined up on the floor for select performances, in the same manner that chairs are placed on the main floor of the Joint. The programming at Chelsea — both its frequency and in the caliber of artist — will remain unchanged. The Cosmopolitan is looking for top artists, as proven by the recurring residence of Mars, holding up Coldplay, Stevie Wonder and The Killers as those who have played the property in its first three years.

And the venue is built to withstand any type of production advancements and stage effects.

“From a lighting and sound perspective, we’ll have the same sophistication in a show like Bruno Mars as you’ve seen in an arena-scope production,” Marchese says. “We’ll have video elements around the stage, and the size of the venue is almost irrelevant to the production. We’ll try to replicate what that caliber of artists wants to bring to the stage.

“It’ll be the same, but just a few hundred yards closer.”

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

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