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The MSG Sphere Broke Ground in Las Vegas -- Here's What Investors Need to Know

By Nicholas Rossolillo – Updated Apr 24, 2019 at 9:28PM

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The Garden has a radical vision for future entertainment venues.

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSGN) and Las Vegas Sands (LVS 4.88%) recently broke ground on the MSG Sphere. As the name implies, the new event venue will resemble the sphere-shaped structure of a planetarium, albeit with some radical exceptions, and it promises to catapult live event technology into the 21st century. Technology and real estate stock investors, take note: The Garden's stock is worth keeping an eye on this year.

What is it?

The MSG Sphere will be a 360-foot tall by 500-foot diameter structure, good for over 18,000 seats on the floor. Sounds innocuous enough, except that over the floor will be a 170,000-square foot ultra-high-definition LED display, which MSG claims will be the largest in the world. Embedded in the display will be thousands of ultra-directional speakers that will ensure audio quality is the same in the back row as it is in the front.

MSG promises that attendees will have all five of their senses engaged at events -- ranging from special projects designed by MSG itself to musical acts to business presentations. As for the exterior, it's over-the-top, too. The Sphere will be wrapped in 190,000 linear feet of programmable display, which the company says will come with an easy-to-use toolkit to custom-design marketing campaigns.

Here's how to buy in

The first MSG Sphere is under construction on property owned by Las Vegas Sands next to the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. The site is part of a 50-year lease agreement between MSG and Sands, and although final cost structure hasn't been revealed yet, the Las Vegas Sun reports that Sands will also be contributing $75 million toward construction over the duration of the project. The new Vegas venue is set to debut by the end of the 2020 calendar year, and a second Sphere in London is slated for opening approximately one year later.

While Las Vegas Sands will surely benefit from lease payments, the Madison Square Garden Company will benefit the most from its construction projects. The entertainment conglomerate -- currently valued with a market cap of $6 billion with trailing-12-month revenue of $1.53 billion -- is about to get even more focused on venue development. MSG is looking to spin off its sports teams into a separate entity, giving it more flexibility to develop locations like the Sphere. MSG's sports interests include the New York Knicks basketball team and New York Rangers hockey team.

Nightclub with red light, tables, dance floor, and recessed seating.

MSG offers venue rentals like this one in Vegas, but the Sphere will be a whole new experience. Image source: MSG.

Is MSG a buy? Maybe, although valuations are stretched pretty thin on the stock at the moment. Trailing-12-month price to earnings is at 54.2, although that rich valuation is in part due to operating losses incurred during the company's fiscal 2019 first quarter. Nevertheless, separating the sports teams from the property management business will help simplify reporting and give investors more clarity on proper valuation.

In short, I'm not ready to call The Madison Square Garden Company a buy, but between the sports spin-off and the futuristic plans for the Sphere, this stock is worth keeping an eye on in 2019.

Check out the latest The Madison Square Garden earnings call transcript.

Nicholas Rossolillo and his clients have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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