Big Things Are Happening in Las Vegas

Exciting new meeting and event spaces are coming to the Strip.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority may be adding 1.4 million square feet to its Las Vegas Convention Center, which will bring it to a total of 4.6 million square feet when work is completed in 2023, but that's hardly all that's been happening recently in the Strip's meetings market.

In all, there is about 2.7 million square feet of meeting, event and convention space under construction right now in Las Vegas, says Chris Meyer, CEM, CMP, vice president of global business sales for the LVCVA. And that doesn't include recent projects like the Mandalay Bay Convention Center's 350,000-square-foot expansion to 2.1 million square feet, or MGM Resorts International's 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena, home of the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team, among others.

"There's no other destination on planet Earth that has more meeting or exhibition space combined than we do and we're going to increase that by 21 percent between now and 2021," says Meyer. "This is the single largest capital expenditure on add-on features for properties in our history. There wouldn't be that much capital being expended if there wasn't a very bullish outlook on our opportunities in the overall convention market."

HOT SPOTS
The M Resort just added a Topgolf Swing Suite, offering simulations ranging from the signature Top Contender game to playing courses ranging from St. Andrews to Pebble Beach. Pitching against a team of zombies is another option.

Downtown's famously over-the-top Fremont Street Experience is undergoing a $32 million renovation of its iconic Viva Vision video screen canopy, the largest single screen in the world. The five-city-block-long screen will be seven times brighter and have four times the resolution of the existing canopy. The project is scheduled for a New Year's Eve 2019 unveiling.

Fly LINQ, the first zipline experience on the Las Vegas Strip proper, opens on Nov. 9 with 10 side-by-side ziplines capable of launching all riders at once. Guests will start from atop a 114-foot tower and travel 1,121 feet through the LINQ Promenade, to a landing tower near the base of the High Roller observation wheel.

Wynn Plaza, the resort's new luxury retail destination is open. Exclusive brands represented include Cipriani, Urth Caffé, SoulCycle, Céline, Balmain, Loewe, James Perse, Cotton Citizen, Marie France Van Damme and Vitra Eyewear, as well as Stella McCartney, Kiton, Omega, RIMOWA, Breitling, and Le Labo. The 70,000-square-foot plaza is located right on the Strip.

Among the biggest projects in the pipeline are the newly unveiled MSG Sphere at The Venetian, an 18,000-person spherical theater that is sure to become an icon of the Strip; Caesars Forum, a 550,000-square-foot conference center that will have a pair of 108,000-square-foot pillarless ballrooms, the largest in North America; the 250,000-square-foot expansion of the MGM Grand Conference Center to 850,000 square feet total; and the 280,000-square-foot meeting and event complex under construction on what used to be the golf course at Wynn Las Vegas. And, of course, the 65,000-seat stadium being built for the future Las Vegas Raiders on Las Vegas Boulevard.

That said, mega-conventions like the massive CES consumer electronics show may be what Las Vegas is best known for, but "our bread and butter is that 200-person-or-less group," says Meyer. "We have embraced and had such a renaissance in welcoming small-group business -- less than 100 people -- into the destination. We do a lot of that type of business. I've got a whole team that's focused on that and trying to support them, so that our clients, even if they're bringing only 25 rooms, feel as special as a group that's bringing 10,000 rooms."

COMING SOON

• The Las Vegas Convention Center's $860 million expansion and renovation project brings it onto the Strip for the first time, using land obtained after the LVCVA bought and demolished the old Riviera and another property. The exterior will feature a flowing roofline being called the Ribbon, while a replica of the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign adorns the lobby. The new facilities are expected to be ready in time for CES 2021 at the beginning of the year. Renovation work will go on through 2023. In all, the LVCC campus will take up more than 200 acres.

While the new facilities are being built, "there will be zero interruption to my current halls," says Meyer. "Our design plan has always been to build the new space first, connect to the existing facility and then start working through the existing facility while using the new space to offset square-footage losses in the old facility as we move along."

• In what could become the most iconic addition to the Las Vegas skyline since Caesars Entertainment's High Roller observation wheel, Las Vegas Sands is teaming up with The Madison Square Garden Company to build the MSG Sphere at The Venetian. Linked to the Venetian and Palazzo complex by an 1,100-foot pedestrian bridge, the MSG Sphere will be more than 360-feet high and 500 feet in diameter, covered inside and out in programmable LED screens, including a 160,000-square-foot interior wrap display that the company says will be the largest and highest-resolution LED screen on earth. The luxurious interior seating will be scalable to more than 18,000 seats, all facing the stage. A high-tech acoustic system will utilize a variety of technologies to "deliver crystal-clear audio to every guest, no matter the size and type of event," according to a release. This includes "beam-forming," which allows the delivery of sound to specific locations within the auditorium at a constant volume. A WiFi system capable of delivering 25 Mbps to each attendee is promised. The facility is scheduled to open during the 2021 fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2020.

• Caesars is putting its own footprint on the center of the Strip with the addition of the new Caesars Forum, which broke ground this year. The $375 million, 550,000-square-foot conference center will be located across from Caesars Palace at the center of the Strip, and is expected to open in 2020. With more than 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, the facility will boast a pair of 110,000-square-foot pillarless ballrooms, the largest in the country, as well as two 40,000-square-foot ballrooms and six boardrooms. Each of the large ballrooms will be divisible, one into 38 sections and the other into 39 sections. The conference center will be able to host 10,000 attendees, and will feature the latest, state-of-the-art technology. Another part of the project is the Forum Plaza, a 100,000-square-foot outdoor event plaza, which will connect to the LINQ Promenade -- Caesars' outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment zone, which is home to the High Roller -- and to the 5,000 rooms at the LINQ Hotel & Casino and Harrah's Las Vegas Hotel & Casino via a skybridge. And the Flamingo Las Vegas's 3,500 rooms will be accessible via the LINQ Promenade.

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MSG Sphere at the Venetian


• The Wynn Las Vegas will more than double its current meetings and event space with a new, 280,000-square-foot complex scheduled to open in early 2020. The two-story facility is "conceived as an oasis in the middle of the desert on repurposed land that was previously the Wynn golf course," the company says, and will offer sweeping views and plenty of natural sunlight via floor-to-ceiling windows. The grand entry rotunda will lead to 18 rooms of various sizes, including a pillarless, 83,000-square-foot ballroom. Outdoor space will feature prominently, including several terraces with pool or garden views on each level, and a 20,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion. The meeting rooms and ballrooms will feature the latest technology, and the ballrooms will have the tech infrastructure to act as performance theaters. Another feature is a 2,500-square-foot hospitality lounge with a 72-foot-by-nine-foot LED video wall. The new facility can probably make a case for being the greenest on the Strip, as 100 percent of its power will come from the new, 160-acre Wynn Solar Energy Facility. In combination with the existing 275,000 square feet at the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas, the property will now offer more than 550,000 square feet of meeting and event space. There will be a total of 57 meeting rooms and four pillarless ballrooms ranging in size from 20,000 square feet to 83,000 square feet.

• Work is going forward on The Drew Las Vegas, which will encompass both a JW Marriott and an EDITION hotel when it opens in late 2020. On the site of the never-completed Fontainebleau, the resort will feature nearly 4,000 rooms and add more than 500,000 square feet of meeting and convention space to the Strip. The new-build resort will have a casino, as well as entertainment, retail, nightlife and dining options available.

• The biggest addition MGM Resorts International has wrapping up is the $130 million, 250,000-square-foot expansion of the MGM Grand Conference Center, which will grow to a total of 850,000 square feet. This will include the addition of a 49,000-square-foot and 32,000-square-foot ballroom, three junior ballrooms and 11 more meeting rooms. Set to finish in December, it will expand the Stay Well meetings section of the facility by 22,000 square feet, taking over the entire second floor. That work is scheduled to wrap in December. Combined with the recent addition of 200,000 square feet at ARIA and the 350,000-square-foot expansion of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, MGM Resorts will have more than 4 million square feet of meeting and event space on the Strip. The Mirage added seven Stay Well meeting rooms, varying in size from 900 to 4,680 square feet, to its existing 121 Stay Well rooms.

• The biggest new facility coming to Las Vegas is the $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat football stadium being built for the Las Vegas Raiders, which will move from Oakland in 2020. From an events perspective, the new stadium is the "one piece that Las Vegas was missing," says Michael Dominguez, chief sales officer of MGM Resorts International, noting that this will let the city handle the one type of group events and concerts that it did not have the capacity for: stadium shows. He adds that the stadium, across the Strip from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, will bring new attention to the South Strip.

• The Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas Hotel has reflagged the Mandarin Oriental at MGM Resorts' City Center. While the property is open now, a renovation is set to begin next year. The 389-room property's rooms and public spaces will be restyled. It has 12,000 square feet of naturally lit meeting and event space and a 27,000-square-foot spa.

• Work has begun on Genting's much-delayed $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas with a scheduled completion date of 2020 or 2021. The Chinese-themed, new-build resort will have more than 3,000 rooms.

• The 1,149-foot Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower has announced a renovation project for its 2,427 rooms, with the first block of 252 already wrapped. The new sky-inspired décor will include pale sky-blue upholstery and storm-cloud gray carpet, among other touches. New furniture and amenities, as well as USB charging stations, are also part of the plan.

• Off the Strip, Virgin Hotels has purchased the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, removing its signature guitar sign and planning a redesign of all rooms, restaurants and public spaces that is scheduled to wrap in 2019. It has 40 meeting rooms totaling more than 110,000 square feet.

Recent Additions

• The biggest addition to the Strip right now is the $550 million transition of MGM Resorts' old Monte Carlo into the new, more upscale Park MGM, with 2,700 rooms, including 122 Stay Well rooms. The property has a number of innovative meeting and event facilities, including the state-of-the-art, configurable, 5,200-seat Park Theater. Among its 77,000 square feet of meeting space is the 10,000-square-foot Madison Meeting Center, featuring 10 flexible rooms aimed at groups of 10 to 50 people. It also has the 4,345-square-foot Central Park Terrace, a ballroom and 59 meeting rooms. The space also hosts an innovative Ideation Lab featuring technology designed to ease, improve and spark innovation (see page 28). The last major part of the transition wrapped with the Oct. 12 opening of the luxury NoMad Las Vegas, a 292-room hotel-within-a-hotel on the top four floors of the property. An outpost of the famed NoMad restaurant will open in November.

• MGM resorts also opened the innovative and ultra-high-tech, 30,000-square-foot Esports Arena Las Vegas at The Luxor, a dedicated facility for the live, head-to-head gaming matches that have been growing in popularity so fast in recent years. The Luxor also received a 20,000-square-foot expansion. With the completion of the 8,000-square-foot Ironwood Terrace, work has finished on the 200,000-square-foot expansion of ARIA's meeting and convention center expansion to a half-million square feet. It connects the East and West Convention Centers.

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Caesars Forum


• Caesars' project to renovate every one of its hotel rooms on the Strip continues, with Harrah's Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino the first to finish. With the completion of the 1,181 rooms in Caesars Palace's Palace Tower, the property has renovated more than 90 percent of its flagship property's rooms. Bally's Las Vegas completed renovations on the 2,052 rooms in its Resort Tower.

• The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has finished a project to renovate 2,895 of its 3,027 rooms, comprising both the Boulevard and The Chelsea Towers. It comes on the heels of a redo of the luxury property's food-and-beverage outlets and the casino. "The vision for this premium room collection at The Cosmopolitan was one of bold design and bright accents to complement the overall contemporary aesthetic," says Therese Virserius, founder of Virserius Studio, which helped design the rooms. "Coupled with curated art pieces and statement-making detailing, this project honored the modern spirit of The Cosmopolitan alongside the history and vibrant essence of the Las Vegas Strip." In addition, the Cosmopolitan's 1,050-square-foot Reception Suite has been redone, and features plenty of comfortable and reconfigurable seating.

The Palazzo, the all-suite half of The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, recently wrapped a renovation of its 2,782 suites, bringing them a "lighter and brighter" interior design that includes new environmentally friendly wall coverings, flooring, lighting and finishes. Some dining and beverage additions were made as well.

• The SLS Las Vegas has integrated the Grand Tower, which used to house the W Las Vegas, into its operations, including 15,000 square feet of meeting space, bringing the resort's total to 80,000 square feet.

• Off the Strip, the 1,365-room Palms Casino Resort's new owners, Station Casinos, wrapped phase one of an ongoing, $620 million renovation campaign, overhauling the casino and entry experience, adding a number of food and beverage outlets by celebrity chefs including Bobby Flay, and unveiling redesigned rooms, suites and one- and two-story Sky Villas in the 342-room Fantasy Tower.