MGM Resorts subsidiary to help develop Dubai resort project

An MGM Resorts International subsidiary has been selected to operate and help build a 2 million-square-foot nongaming resort on 26 acres on Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach.

The company announced Monday that its MGM Hospitality subsidiary would partner with Dubai-based wasl Hospitality and Leisure, a subsidiary of wasl Asset Management Group, to build a beachfront development centerpieced with a 360-foot-high sphere and near the 56-story Burj Al Arab luxury hotel.

The planned MGM-wasl project will feature an MGM Hotel, MGM Residences and a Bellagio Hotel.

It’s MGM’s first project in the Middle East. Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates and is on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf.

The project will be financed by Dubai’s government and no cost estimate has been released.

In an interview with the Review-Journal, Bill Hornbuckle, president of MGM Resorts International, said the project has been several months in the making.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Hornbuckle said in a telephone interview. “This has been going for the better part of two years with the wasl group, which has been a great group to work with.”

Hornbuckle said developers are ready to go on the project. He said it would take nine months to mobilize and about three years to build, resulting in a probable 2021 opening.

Under terms of the agreement with wasl, MGM would serve as a consultant to the project and then operate it once it opens. The Las Vegas-based company would receive a percentage of management, branding and technical services fees as well as daily management fees. The company also could receive a performance fee if certain goals are met.

The project was presented to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, by officials from both MGM Resorts and wasl Asset Management Group.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

What MGM Dubai will have

MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle said the new property his company is partnering on with wasl Asset Management Group would have restaurants, retail, pools and water features.

"It will have something called The Cavern, which is like a diving club that will be about 7,000-8,000 meters (23,000 to 26,250 feet) with about 15 or 16 different things down there," Hornbuckle said. "It's impressive. We're actually making the pool a dive pool so you can snorkle."

A water show similar to the featured attraction at Las Vegas' Bellagio is planned and in addition to 1,000 hotel rooms and 10 villas with MGM- and Bellagio-branded properties, Hornbuckle said a new brand may be introduced and MGM's Skylofts product could be brought there.

Under plans described in a statement announcing the project, the 2 million-square-foot development would include more than 500,000 square feet for a theater and a mix of restaurants from gourmet to casual, specialty retail shops, traditional and interactive museums, a beach club and "adventure zones" for adults and children.

The new project would occupy the longest stretch of waterfront ever developed in Dubai and would be near the Burj Al Arab, a 1,053-foot five-star hotel opened in 1999 and shaped like a boat sail. Hornbuckle said the "Dubai Sphere," which will have a theater inside it, wouldn't be as tall as the Burj Al Arab, but "very compelling."

— Richard N. Velotta