Why Here?

It's already a meetings Mecca, but Las Vegas isn't a town to rest on its laurels. New developments -- and new meeting spaces -- abound in a city that mixes hefty doses of business and fun. Among the projects on the drawing board is Caesars Forum (pictured), a $375 million conference center.



Local Update

ALL IN ACTION
Pepper, the humanoid technical ambassador at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, answers property-specific questions, gives directions, tells stories, dances and poses for selfies -- and can even detect guest mood.

Caesars Entertainment plans to break ground in the second quarter on Caesars Forum, a $375 million, 550,000-square-foot conference center next to Harrah's and just east of the center Strip. Caesars is acquiring 18.4 acres of land for the project as part of a sale and lease-back deal for Harrah's -- a deal that also will help to finance the construction of the conference center. Slated to open in 2020, Caesars Forum promises 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including two 108,000-square-foot ballrooms -- purported to be the world's largest without pillars. Two 40,000-square-foot ballrooms, high-tech boardrooms and a 100,000-square-foot outdoor plaza also are among the plans. Caesars Forum also would benefit from providing direct access to the Linq Promenade, Harrah's Las Vegas, the Flamingo Las Vegas and the Linq Hotel & Casino -- a total of about 8,500 guest rooms. The venue's construction is still subject to approvals from government agencies.

Last month, Wynn Resorts established a new policy with respect to guest-room "Do Not Disturb" signs. Hotel employees must now contact and/or enter the room if the sign is displayed for more than 12 straight hours. Both Hilton and a number of Walt Disney Resort properties have made similar changes to policy. It has been widely speculated that the move represents increased security protocol spurred by the mass-shooting attack that occurred on the Las Vegas Strip last October.

MADE TO ORDER
The multifunction venue Enclave, which opened last spring, offers 75,000 square feet of flexible event space, including a 9,000-square-foot unobstructed ballroom as well as both rooftop and garden outdoor areas.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) broke ground in early January on Phase Two of the expansion to the Las Vegas Convention Center. This $860 million project phase will result in an addition of approximately 1.4 million square feet to the venue. Of that, at least 600,000 square feet will be new, leasable exhibit space that should be completed in time for the January 2021 Consumer Electronics Show. The expansion will allow the LVCVA to simultaneously grow shows in the facility while having room to handle additional business.

Penn National Gaming, which currently owns and operates 25 gaming properties throughout the U.S., including the Tropicana Las Vegas and M Resort Spa and Casino, agreed to acquire former rival Pinnacle Entertainment. Pinnacle owns and operates 16 gaming properties nationally. The $2.8 billion deal is expected to close in the second half of this year. 

FOOTING THE BILL
WiFi is now free throughout the 240,000 square feet of event space at the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center and Priefert Pavilion, thanks to a three-year agreement with sponsor Lucchese Bootmaker.

In the first half of this year, the official rebranding of the 2,992-room Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort and Casino will take place, with two distinct hotels opening in that same building. Park MGM will be the first to debut, while the NoMad Las Vegas will open later this year. Already, new restaurants have been opening and new meeting space is being developed to mark the transformation of the space. The Park MGM's guest rooms will be modern and luxurious, with residential touches evoking the sense of a metropolitan apartment. Rooms will have large picture windows that open onto valley views, with living-room-like seating and scattered cushions. The hotel will offer one floor with Stay Well rooms, to include energizing lighting, dawn-simulator alarm clocks, long-wave night lighting, air-purification systems, memory-foam mattresses, shower infusers and additional wellness-focused amenities.

The 826-room Westin Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Spa has been transformed into a nongaming, nonsmoking property. The former casino floor is now home to a restaurant and lobby bar called Jake and Eli, as well as to upgraded meeting spaces. Four new meeting rooms off the lobby increase the hotel's meeting capacity by 20 percent, bringing the new maximum to 350 attendees. The spaces are flexible, with the option to add a private buffet or menus from Jake and Eli, as well as a dedicated prefunction space. Earlier this year, all of the guest rooms were updated, and the Hibiscus Spa and Salon and Westin Workout Fitness Studio were redesigned. A final phase of renovations, including to the outdoor pool area, will wrap up in this quarter.

The Flamingo Las Vegas is in the midst of a $90 million renovation of 1,270 of its 3,545 guest rooms. The new room designs, which feature hues of gold and bright pops of pink, pay homage to the 72-year history and character of the resort, which was formative in the Strip's early development. The new rooms began debuting last November, and the project is expected to wrap up by midyear.

FEED THE HUNGRY
MGM Resorts has partnered with the Three Square Food Bank to donate surplus hot banquet food to those in need in Southern Nevada. Prepared but unserved banquet meals from MGM properties are expected to provide 800,000 nutritious meals over the next two years to help combat hunger. The initiative began in 2016 as a pilot program at the Aria Resort and Casino.

Wynn Resorts acquired the North Strip parcel of land that once was home to the New Frontier and was subsequently owned by Australia-based Crown Resorts. A casino-resort property planned by Crown never materialized and was officially shelved last year. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn, whose company paid $336 million for the 38-acre site, wants to build a 2,500-room hotel on the property, which would be connected to the existing Wynn and Encore resorts by an air-conditioned hallway. The company already has begun constructing a Carnivale-themed complex, potentially to be named Paradise Park, on the former golf course between the Wynn and Encore resorts. That complex, to be built around an hourglass-shaped lagoon, is slated to have 224,000 square feet of meeting space, a 1,500-room hotel with a casino and restaurants, a 30,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion and a 103-foot-diameter carousel on a dock jutting out over the lagoon.

Caesars Palace Las Vegas wrapped up a $100 million renovation to its 1,181-room Palace Tower, the resort's largest. The final piece of the extensive makeover was the addition of 10 new luxury villas on the tower's 29th floor. Each of the villas is outfitted with more than $1 million in exclusive furnishings and curated décor. The villas range from 2,750 square feet to 4,085 square feet and blend different architectural styles to create a collection "worthy of a well-traveled aristocrat," according to the resort. Each villa boasts one of four aesthetic themes: Ancient Grecian, Biedermeier (German), English Regency or French Empire, and includes touches such as imported stone, architectural lighting and 24K gold-plated bathroom fixtures. Among the villa-associated amenities are private elevator entry to the 29th floor, 24-hour butler service, limousine transportation to and from McCarran International Airport, and VIP check-in and Total Rewards Diamond queuing privileges at all Caesars Las Vegas resorts. Villa rates start at a cool $3,109 per night.

The city's third REVIV IV Wellness Spa will debut this spring on Level 2 in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Hotel guests and locals alike will be able to take advantage of the IV wellness therapy to treat ailments that include dehydration, inflammation, vitamin deficiencies and, of course, hangovers. Private and group-treatment areas will offer televisions and iPads, in addition to beverages, aroma therapy and views of the Las Vegas Strip.

A WATCHED SPOT: Hotly anticipated restaurants soon to debut

The Las Vegas food scene is hotter than ever, as the city has become an essential location for celebrity-chef outposts. Here are just a few of the buzzed-about restaurants that either recently celebrated a grand opening or are due to debut soon.

Hell's Kitchen, Caesars Palace

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's fifth restaurant in the city will be the world's first Hell's Kitchen -- inspired, of course, by his hellaciously popular show of the same name, now in its 17th season. While Ramsay assures customers that the food and dining experience will be top-notch, the new eatery promises also to include a healthy dose of theater. The design will be a nod to the show's studio set, and the bustling kitchen will be conspicuously placed at center stage. This Caesars Palace restaurant will be able to accommodate nearly 300 diners while offering both indoor and Strip-adjacent patio tables. A daily themed brunch and dinner are part of the master plan. At press time, Hell's Kitchen was slated to open on Jan. 26.

Black Tap Craft Burgers and Beer, Venetian

Yes, it's a place for burgers, beer and shakes, but this modern take on the classic luncheonette comes with a pedigree: Michelin-starred Joe Isidori is both chef and co-owner, and Black Tap already has made a name for itself with four locations in New York. This one, the first outside of NYC, debuted in the Venetian in late 2017. Of note are the wagyu beef-based Greg Norman Burgers, as well as the over-the-top Crazy Shakes, replete with colorful candy.

Roy Choi restaurant, Park MGM

A soon-to-be-named new restaurant from acclaimed Los Angeles-based chef Roy Choi is set to open this fall in the Park MGM, a rebrand of the Monte Carlo (see Local Update). Choi promises that the eatery, a celebration of L.A.'s Koreatown, will offer comfortable, immersive spaces within an eclectic environment, with a cuisine and energy that hearken back to the street-food scene of his home neighborhood.

AIMING HIGH

The Linq Promenade, Caesars Entertainment's open-air hub of attractions on the Las Vegas Strip, will be the new home of the Fly Linq zipline experience, slated to debut in late 2018. It will become the first and only such ride on the Strip -- and join Fremont Street's SlotZilla as the second ziplining opportunity in town.

The $20 million Fly Linq will be developed by the team behind the Linq's High Roller and feature 10 side-by-side ziplines. Construction is expected to begin this spring.

Plans call for an elevator that will provide open views of the Strip while carrying riders to the top of a 122-foot-high launch tower to begin their rides. Passengers will be fitted for their gear and will choose to ride in either a seated or "Superman" position, depending on their level of adventurousness.

Participants will zip eastward, flying 1,080 feet above the Linq Promenade. Following the flight, they will disembark near the base of the High Roller.

The automated ride system will be completely custom-built, using technology developed by global zipline experts. The design calls for two automated gear-retrieval lines as well, to keep things moving quickly. Caesars is partnering with thrill-ride experts Xventure on the project; the latter will lead both the development and subsequent operation of the zipline.

ON THE TOWN: Group experiences to remember

Outside the meeting rooms and exhibit halls, Las Vegas is rife with remarkable gathering spots and memorable group activities. Here are but a few of the many opportunities available to planners.

The Mob Museum

Housed in the restored former U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, the Mob Museum offers a surprisingly fascinating journey through the mob-made history of Las Vegas and organized crime. It's also a unique, iconic backdrop for private events, scavenger hunts and team-building activities. Groups of up to 100 can even gather in the original courtroom, for meetings or receptions that also include access to all museum exhibits. In April, the museum will debut The Underground, a new permanent exhibition in the basement (naturally) that will tell the history of Prohibition and include a working speakeasy and distillery.

Maverick Helicopters

The flight operator's signature Vegas Nights experience showcases the glitz of the Strip, all lit up, from a luxury helicopter with wraparound glass and state-of-the-art technology. The choppers depart from a terminal right on the Strip; groups can book a private catered reception at the terminal, from which attendees can lift off for their tours at regular intervals. Or for the ultimate in luxury tours, fly attendees to the Grand Canyon -- where they land at the bottom for a champagne toast, group photo and breathtaking views.

Dig This Las Vegas

For groups that prefer to be grounded, digging in the dirt might be just the thing -- that is, digging with bulldozers and excavators. After a brief safety orientation and warm-up exercise, participants are set loose on the massive construction equipment. For a particularly cathartic experience, consider the Aggression Session: Here one gets to spray-paint angry thoughts on a perfectly good car and subsequently crush that vehicle with a 30,000-lb. Caterpillar excavator.

Convention Centers: 

Las Vegas Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 2 million square feet; number of meeting rooms, 144; (702) 892-0711

Mandalay Bay Convention Center; exhibit space, 1.1 million square feet; number of meeting rooms, 75; (877) 632-7900

Sands Expo & Convention Center; exhibit space, 477,600 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 23; (702) 733-5556

Cashman Center; exhibit space, approximately 98,100 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 14; (702) 386-7100

Airport Transit: Las Vegas International Airport, about one mile west of the Las Vegas Strip and five miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $13-$26 to Las Vegas Strip properties, about $24 to downtown; by shuttle, $8-$12 to Strip hotels, $9-$13 to downtown. Uber and Lyft operate in Las Vegas.

Taxes: On the Las Vegas Strip: room tax, 12.5%; sales tax, 8.15%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.5%. Downtown (Fremont Street Experience): room tax, 12.5%; sales tax, 8.15%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.5%. Sales tax is not applied to guest rooms nor resort fees, but it is applied to other hotel charges.

Group Venue: To stroll through the Neon Boneyard North Gallery, the primary outdoor exhibition space of the Neon Museum Las Vegas, is to experience Las Vegas history in an entirely unique way. The lot is piled high with the signs that defined the main streets of Las Vegas, from the 1930s to the present, all brimming with vintage local color. Guided tours are available, and the photogenic museum also is available for private events. Up to 200 people can be accommodated in the North Gallery, while as many as 400 can attend an event in the Neon Boneyard across the street. (702) 387-6366

Golf: Las Vegas and its environs are home to a wide variety of golf options. Choices include Aliante Golf Club (702-399-4888), Angel Park Golf Club (702-254-4653), Anthem Country Club (702-614-5050), Arroyo Golf Club at Red Rock (702-258-2300), Badlands Golf Club (702-242-4653), Bali Hai Golf Course (702-855-3429), Bear's Best Las Vegas (702-804-8500), Black Mountain Golf & Country Club (702-565-7933), Canyon Gate Country Club (702-363-0303), Desert Pines Golf Club (702-855-3429), Desert Willow Golf Club (702-263-4653), Dragonridge Country Club (702-614-4444), Durango Hills Golf Club (702-229-4653), Eagle Crest Golf Club (702-240-1320), Highland Falls Golf Club (702-254-7010), Las Vegas Country Club (702-734-1122), Las Vegas Golf Club (702-646-3003), Las Vegas National Golf Club (702-734-1796), Las Vegas Paute Golf Resort (702-658-1400), The Legacy Golf Club (702-897-2187), Los Prados Golf Course (702-645-5696), Painted Desert Golf Club (702-645-2570), Palm Valley Golf Club (702-363-4373), Red Rock Country Club (702-304-5600), Rhodes Ranch Golf Club (702-740-4114), Roal Links Golf Club (702-855-3429), Shadow Creek (702-791-7161), and TPC Las Vegas (702-256-2000).

Contact: 

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, (702) 892-0711 or (877) 847-4858; vegasmeansbusiness.com

Destination Henderson Nevada, (702) 267-2171

Laughlin Visitor Information Center, (702) 298-3321 or (800) 452-8445