Music Venue Features Spectacular Sound and Sight

April 1, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, NEW YORK, MINNEAPOLIS - Set to open this month, The Pearl at the Palms Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, part of the resort's $600 million expansion, is designed specifically for rock music in the style of a traditional performing arts theater, complete with multi-level lobbies and VIP amenities.

Photo: Tim Griffith

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander worked closely with architects Pfeiffer Partners and KGA to develop plans for the stage and backstage facilities, as well as the audience chamber configuration, including all seating and VIP areas for the venue. In addition to rock concerts, The Pearl regularly hosts televised Ultimate Fighting Championship matches, stand-up comedy, fashion shows and other special events. The Pearl also hosted the MTV Music Video Awards in September 2007.

One of the greatest design challenges facing the project team was fitting the required theatre and support spaces into the limited space within the Palms' existing hotel towers and below the new ballroom and the meeting room complex. The result is an unusually intimate, yet comfortable venue with steep sightlines and reduced viewing distances, where no seat is obstructed and no patron is ever more than 120 feet away from the event on stage. In the adjacent hotel tower, an 8,000-square-foot recording studio opens up the possibility for performers to make an album on-site, a feature unique in the United States to The Pearl alone. The Pearl regularly utilizes its television broadcast capabilities, interfacing with networks like SPIKE television and MTV.

In a city full of performance venues, the owners - the Maloof Brothers - were eager to create a unique venue. The Pearl, in fact, is unlike anything else previously designed specific to Rock and Roll music headliners and has broken new ground. "The difference you will notice as a spectator is in the sound and the sightlines." Andrew Hewitt, the booking agent for The Pearl said.

George Maloof brought his personal vision and interest to the development of The Pearl: "Our first goal was to create a space where every seat had a perfect view. Customer comfort was a number one concern and right behind that was the comfort level of the artist. We needed the perfect space with the perfect sound."

Maloof's ongoing involvement with Palms staff assured that planning of the venue would make it unlike any other for popular music. The Pearl would be a purpose-built rock and roll concert hall. It would not be "a converted square box where banquets were held." To the Maloof Brothers, the Pearl marks another step in the ongoing development of their resort: "The Palms is a music city in its own right, with great venues and a place for musicians to play."

The Pearl accommodates more than just rock acts, however. With the flexibility afforded by a flat floor seating area in front of the stage for extended playing zones for musicians, or, for runways, fight rings, and pasaralles, the sightlines to much of that area from the elliptical surround of steeply-raked fixed parterre and loggia seating had to be excellent. Flanking boxes and open VIP suites also have unusually steep sightlines, covering the stage and all events staged out on the flat floor. Rapid changeover of events on the flat floor is accommodated by quick removal of stack seating into adjacent storage. Access for rigging over the flat floor takes a cue from the arena business, where high steel and chain hoists afford riggers great flexibility.

A forestage rigging system of catwalks and steel beams provides structural support for grids and trussing over the floor, when events are staged in front of the proscenium opening. Regularly televised Ultimate Fighting events provide the most rigorous criteria, using a sophisticated star truss assembly with moving lights and robotic cameras. The entire assembly is suspended over the lower seating area and UFC's 24-foot signature "octagon" ring. Lighting, audio, and video control are all managed from the floor, with a comprehensive cable gutter system running from both sides of the stage out to the rear/center of the floor area.

The Pearl at the Palms seats as many as 2,500 with a General Admission policy in place. With removable chairs at the lower level, capacity is reduced to 2,115. Upper seating may be closed off in several configurations with a "cut down" drapery panel system using motorized mecho shade banners. In its smallest configuration, the venue is reduced to 1,124. Even in its most aggressive cutdown mode, however, transparency through these scrim-like panels and through open elliptical viewports into the venue under the balcony and in VIP areas provide an unusual level of openness within the room. This is especially true where open portals into public areas allow patrons in the lobby to see and hear acts while a show is in progress.

As the newest multi-use popular music venue in Las Vegas, The Pearl is certainly not a "converted square box." Blending amenities normally associated with leading performing arts centers and sporting venues, The Pearl brings a unique hybrid approach to patron and performer comfort in a facility that is truly a Rock and Roll Concert Hall.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of I+S Design, create an account today!