Work underway on site for huge Strip music festival

Grading work is shown on the 33-acre lot at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard South and Sahara Avenue Thursday Sept. 25, 2014. The site will be home to the City of Rock, open-air concert venue with a capacity of 80,000 that will serve as the home of the Rock in Rio music festivals starting in May 2015.

Another project on the north Strip is moving ahead as planned, furthering the anticipated turnaround of an area that’s struggled for years.

Construction crews are doing site work at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, the future home of the Rock in Rio USA music festival.

The 33-acre, mostly dirt lot has been smoothed out, and work crews today were spraying water and moving earth.

Rock in Rio is scheduled for May 8-9 and May 15-16 next year. The open-air, five-stage venue will be called City of Rock, and organizers have said they expect more than 300,000 attendees.

Founded in 1985, Rock in Rio has held 13 festivals in three countries — Brazil, Portugal, and Spain — and drawn more than 7 million attendees as of May, according to management. The festival in Las Vegas will be the U.S. debut.

Founder Roberto Medina teamed with MGM Resorts International, Cirque du Soleil and billionaire supermarket mogul Ron Burkle, founder of investment firm Yucaipa Cos., to produce the show.

MGM bought the site in May 2007, at the height of the real estate bubble, for $444 million.

The north Strip has been blighted in recent years by abandoned resort projects and large swaths of empty land with uncertain futures. Foot traffic has been thin.

But the area is poised for a rebound. SLS Las Vegas, the old Sahara, opened Aug. 23 across the street from the Rock in Rio site. Also, Malaysia’s Genting Group, a casino powerhouse, plans to spend billions turning the mothballed Echelon project into an 87-acre Chinese-themed megaresort.