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In the summer of 2020, with Las Vegas’ economy reeling from the pandemic, a North Dakota tribal nation acquired a vacant lot off the south Strip.

The value has since soared, its chairman says — and now it owns the spread next door for a hefty price.

MGM Resorts International announced last week that it sold most of the 15-acre former Route 91 Harvest festival site to the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

MGM did not announce the sales price, but Clark County records show the casino giant sold the property, on Las Vegas Boulevard across from the Luxor, for about $92.8 million. The sale amounts to more than $7 million per acre.

The tribal nation, operators of the 4 Bears casino in North Dakota, acquired 13 acres of a site that was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The other two acres have been set aside for a permanent memorial to the Oct. 1, 2017, tragedy.

MGM spokesman Brian Ahern confirmed the sales price to the Review-Journal this week and said there were no “specific plans” for how the company will use the proceeds.

A new chapter

The sale marks a new chapter for a property that once had unspeakable violence.

MGM sought county approvals in 2013 to turn what had been a parking lot into a fairgrounds for concerts, festivals and other outdoor events. The following year, the inaugural Route 91 Harvest country music festival was held there.

Perched from the 32nd floor of nearby Mandalay Bay, a heavily armed gunman broke through two windows and killed 58 people, as well as two others who later died from their injuries, at the Route 91 outdoor music festival across the street. Hundreds more were injured. The gunman killed himself before police breached his room.

In September 2019, almost two years after the shooting, MGM announced the site would offer parking during games and concerts at Allegiant Stadium.

It said this was a near-term use, as it planned to build a community and athletic center and support future efforts for a memorial to the massacre.

MGM, which operates Mandalay Bay, announced in October 2019 that it reached a settlement agreement over litigation stemming from the shooting. The settlement was expected to total between $735 million and $800 million.

In 2021, MGM said it was donating two acres of the site for the memorial. The community and athletic center never materialized.

‘Whole-heartedly supports’

The sale gives the buyers more than 20 acres total along the south edge of the Strip, a sleepier stretch of Las Vegas’ famed casino corridor that has seen increased activity the past few years.

The Three Affiliated Tribes — also known as Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, or MHA Nation — said in a news release that the purchase “represents a substantial opportunity for investment and return,” and revenue generated would help fund tribal projects and programs.

It also said it “whole-heartedly supports” the memorial site for the Las Vegas massacre.

“Given our culture and who we are as a people, we understand and are sympathetic to the suffering that occurred five years ago, and it is our hope that whatever is determined to be developed on the site will be positive for the Las Vegas community and the millions of visitors who go to the area annually,” MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox said in the release.

In July 2020, the tribal nation purchased an 8.7-acre lot immediately east of the former Route 91 site for $12 million, property records show. It acquired the land through a bankruptcy case. At the time, Fox said he had been eyeing activity in Las Vegas for years. His group had no concrete plans for the site, though he described the purchase as “an investment for us, plain and simple.”

This week, Fox told the Review-Journal the tribal nation bought the new property for the same reason and that its original plot is now valued at more than $30 million.

He said MHA Nation asked MGM to sell the site, adding it’s easier to build a project on 20-plus acres. He expects to commit to a plan for the site within a year.

More deals

The south edge of the Strip has a decidedly mixed landscape, with megaresorts on one side of Las Vegas Boulevard and small motels, retail space, boarded-up buildings and a never-finished Ferris wheel project on the other.

But real estate activity has gained momentum in this area. In 2021, Clark County commissioners approved buying 34.5 acres in the area for $115.3 million combined for the Department of Aviation.

Last year, developers broke ground on Dream Las Vegas, a 531-room casino resort, and a 2.2-acre plot on the south Strip sold for about $12.8 million.

The Oakland Athletics have also reportedly eyed Tropicana Las Vegas, immediately north of the former Route 91 site, as a potential location for a new baseball stadium.

And MHA Nation might not be finished buying property, either.

The long-shuttered former White Sands Motel juts into the former Route 91 site, with the narrow, 1.1-acre parcel surrounded on three sides by the recently-purchased property.

“We’re absolutely looking to acquire that too,” Fox said.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

Article written by Eli Segall #ReviewJournal

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