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What to expect when Rock in Rio debuts on the Strip

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A rendering of the City of Rock at Rock in Rio Las Vegas 2015.
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On May 8, 2015, Las Vegas will gain a new municipality of sorts—the City of Rock, the infrastructural hub of both the first American Rock in Rio music festival and the $25 million, 48-acre facility being built by Yucaipa Companies for MGM Resorts just north of Circus Circus. (Cirque du Soleil is also a partner in the project.) It’s slated to dwarf Rock in Rio’s three other City of Rock venues—including the one I visited in May while attending Rock in Rio Lisbon. Here’s what else you can anticipate during the run up to the four-day festival:

The Rolling Stones at the 2014 Lisbon installment of Rock in Rio.

The Rolling Stones at the 2014 Lisbon installment of Rock in Rio.

Big acts The biggest names at the Lisbon edition included the Rolling Stones, Linkin Park, Arcade Fire, Lorde and Justin Timberlake—expect more of the same for the Vegas version, its two weekends divided into general rock and pop rosters. Festival brass have said DJs will likely close out each evening. Programming, however, could get tricky given how close in both time and proximity Rock in Rio USA will be to both SoCal’s Coachella and our own Electric Daisy Carnival.

A Pleasure Island-like city A roulette-themed Ferris wheel, a zipline traversing the length of the main-stage area and a roller coaster are just a few of the amusements slated to complement the City of Rock experience, which will accommodate 80,000 people. Its permanent facilities (read: no porta potties!) will boast American, British and Brazilian performers, food and retail offerings—as well as attractions and activities organized by festival sponsors. In Lisbon, this included trampoline diving and singing contests.

Company town The City of Rock will be awash with branding and logos, a sponsorship tradition that has kept ticket prices down at other Rock in Rios. At the Lisbon event, you couldn’t avoid chief sponsor Heineken, which nonetheless sold beer for $3. Furthermore, a $30 million ad and publicity campaign will help introduce Rock in Rio to the American public and will include a major event slated for New York City in September. Festival founder Roberto Medina is, after all, a giant in the Brazilian advertising industry.

Limited parking MGM says it will use its various garages—as well as shuttles—to help prevent parking snares and traffic issues.

More festivals Like the Parque da Bela Vista in Lisbon, the City of Rock is designed to also host sporting events and other festivals. Given EDM-friendly SFX Entertainment’s 50-percent stake in the Rock in Rio franchise, it’s not hard to imagine another major electronic music event in Las Vegas. And perhaps most importantly, just five years ago, it would have been hard to imagine any of this.

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