There is sawdust on the floor, plastic on the chairs, fixtures to be installed and testing to be done mere days before the Nokia Theatre is to open.


But there's little doubt that the $120 million theater that's $10 million more than the projected cost will be ready for its close-up when the Eagles and Dixie Chicks play the first of six shows on Thursday.


The theater is the first piece of Anschutz Entertainment Group's colossal $2.5 billion L.A. Live development, which is $250 million over budget.


"Clark Construction is working under a guaranteed maximum price, so there's a big incentive for them to get it done right on time," said AEG President and Chief Executive Tim Leiweke last week. Typically, guaranteed maximums penalize contractors for cost overruns or failure to complete the project on time.


The additional expenses are the result of rising construction costs and some expensive add-ons, including LED display boards inside and outside the theater, Leiweke said.


The 250,000-square-foot theater required more than 725,000 man-hours to complete. The 7,100-seat state-of-the-art venue features a $2 million lighting and rigging package and a $1.5 million JBL Vertec sound system.


AEG has never missed a target date on the 10 projects it has opened over the past eight years, and L.A. executives intend to keep that streak going.


"Anytime you open a venue with the schedule we have, you are working up until the last minute and the last day," said AEG spokesman Michael Roth. "But I think that not a single person will walk in and look at anything as unfinished."


Entertainment hub?

Plans for the four million-square-foot L.A. Live development call for 226 condominium units, an 878-room hotel operated by J.W. Marriott and a 123-room luxury hotel connected with Ritz-Carlton. A whopping $950 million is being spent on the hotel alone. Also in the works are the ESPN Zone, the Grammy Museum and production studios.


Leiweke is hoping that the theater in particular and the entire project will help turn the downtown area into a "content campus" for various entertainment industry entities.


"Most of the entertainment companies are located in places like Beverly Hills and Hollywood, and Disney isn't even in the city of L.A.," Leiweke said. "If you look at L.A. we don't have a Times Square, and a lot of the entertainment shows emanate from there. We will now have something comparable in Los Angeles."

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