Written by Don Logay
Last Fall, we reported on a number of major projects for Las Vegas that were scheduled to be completed over the next 18- to 24-months. Since announcing projects such as the major expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, two new Strip Hotel/Casinos (i.e., Resorts World and The Drew), the dramatic MSG Sphere entertainment venue and the new Raiders Stadium – to name but a few – there have been many new ventures and announcements as well.
Las Vegas and the surrounding area continues to be a dynamic fast moving work in progress. Here are a few of the most recent projects and announcements bringing new energy and excitement into the Las Vegas Valley.
Projects Recently Completed
The new Triple-A Las Vegas Ballpark® in Summerlin, that feels and looks more like a major league ballpark, opened on April 9 to a sold out crowd of 10,000. Home to the Las Vegas Aviators® – the city’s oldest professional sports team, a member of the Pacific Coast League and affiliate of the Oakland Athletics – Las Vegas Ballpark appears to be a home run. The Aviators are leading all Triple-A franchises in attendance through its initial 28 games and averaging more fans per game than the major-league Miami Marlins.
The expansive Park MGM dining and entertainment district is located on Las Vegas Boulevard between New York New York Hotel & Casino and T-Mobile Arena. It has many recent introductions that include Park MGM Las Vegas (formerly the Monte Carlo), Park Theater (5,200 concert seating) and the big new Italian-themed Eataly complex with six outdoor dining counters, three bars with Italian wines and cocktails, two Italian restaurants, a sidewalk café and marketplace offering over 5,000 imported foods and products. Together, the Vegas Golden Knights, T-Mobile Arena and The Park are bringing locals back to the Strip.
New Projects Announced
Developers and brothers Derek and Greg Stevens have unveiled plans for the Circa Resort & Casino to be constructed at 18 Fremont Street. The lavish 1.25 million-square-foot mega-hotel, casino and spa – with 777-rooms, upscale restaurants, a stadium-style sportsbook, two levels of gaming and entertainment and nine-stories of parking (dubbed “Garage Mahal”) – is the first ground-up new property being built downtown in 40 years, since 1980.
Another major construction project began downtown in January. A 495-room hotel tower for the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino is scheduled for completion in mid-2020, and will increase the hotel to 1,124 rooms. The Downtown Grand is the centerpiece of “Downtown 3rd,” a new neighborhood and entertainment district under development in downtown Las Vegas.
The new Raiders Football Headquarters and Training Facility located in the adjacent community of Henderson and 15-miles away from the Las Vegas Stadium (now under construction), broke ground in January. The 300,000 square-foot sports facility on 50-plus acres features three full-size outdoor practice fields, exercise rooms and team management offices. It will be ready for Raiders training camp scheduled for July 2020.
A second Vegas Golden Knights Ice Rink has broken ground on Water Street in downtown Henderson. Styled after the highly-successful City National Arena in Summerlin, that was built by the team owners as its headquarters, practice facility and public rink for youth and adult hockey programs, this second locale will focus primarily on public recreation, hockey instruction, local tournaments and youth camps. While the Vegas Golden Knights will continue daily practices and management operations at City National Arena, the team will make occasional appearances at the new rink in Henderson, helping to grow the sport of hockey on both sides of town.
In Progress Updates
Now, 17-months into construction and according to the most recent status reports, the $1.8 billion 65,000 seat domed Raiders Stadium continues to be on schedule and on budget, with an announced completion date of July 31st just in time for the 2020 NFL season. Another $40 million has also been added for 20 additional private suites and an End Zone Club Area. Planning for off-site and area co-op parking and various mass-transportation upgrades are also underway. Eager Las Vegas fans now watch the daily progress of their new team’s “home-to-be” with 24-hour streaming and a time-lapse Stadium Cam.
The Las Vegas Convention Center, which is undergoing a $1 billion multi-phase renovation and expansion, will cover over 200 acres and extend approximately 1.5 miles end-to-end when phase two is completed in late 2020 just ahead of the big CES show in January 2021 – creating need for a good on-property transportation solution. To that end and after a year-long study, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) just approved a $48.67 million contract with Elon Musk’s Boring Company to design and construct an underground “People Mover” tunnel beneath the Convention Center property.
The space-age People Mover concept will whisk 4,400 passengers per hour from hall-to-hall and, if successful as planned, two additional People Mover tunnels could be extended – one South to McCarran Airport and another North to Downtown. Also, the LVCVA is selling a 10-acre parcel on the Strip where the Riviera once stood for $30 million per acre for potential hi-rise development.
Two major projects on the North end of the Strip are well underway and a third has been rescheduled. Structures for both the massive Resorts World Las Vegas and the one-of-a-kind MSG Sphere music and entertainment venue can now be seen on the Las Vegas skyline.
The initial 56-story tower for Resorts World will have 3,400 rooms (and 6,500 total when a second is completed) and it is the first ground-up mega-resort built on the Las Vegas Strip in more than a decade. The 360-foot high MSG Sphere (being built by Madison Square Garden Company) only a few blocks away, will have a seating capacity of 18,000 and a 170,000 square-foot LED surface both in and outside of the globe to display anything imaginable. The Sphere is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and a second is slated for London soon afterward. Both projects are scheduled for completion in 2020. The nearby Drew Las Vegas (former Fontainebleu), situated between the two has been rescheduled with its completion date pushed back one year.
The Strip officially ends at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue and it is where the City of Las Vegas, the Arts District and the Downtown area begins. It is also the site for a new gateway project that will welcome and dazzle visitors – much like the iconic Las Vegas sign at the South end of the Strip. It will feature two huge lighted arches from the four corners that come together high over the Las Vegas Blvd/Sahara intersection with a big “City of Las Vegas” script overhead. Proposals are now underway and construction is slated to begin this Fall with completion mid-2020.
Wynn Resorts has adjusted planning for its Paradise Park project between the Wynn and Encore resorts. Original plans called for closing the property’s golf course and creating a lagoon centerpiece with a 400,000 square-foot new convention center beside a tropical-themed beach and walkway. New planning has eliminated the lagoon and Wynn will keep a premier golf course in its place along with the new Convention Center.
One factor in this decision may be the recent purchase of 38-acres just across the street from the Wynn resorts. Once rumored to be the location of a third Wynn “West,” it could one day wind up being the site of another big Wynn Hotel/Casino development (with a lavish tropical lagoon-themed park out back). Time will tell.
There have also been a number of name changes due to sales and new ownerships. The SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, purchased by Reno-Based Alex Meruelo, becomes The Sahara with the W Las Vegas luxe hotel departing. The trendy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, purchased by Sir Richard Branson, becomes Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Branson is also planning a Virgin Trains USA project for high-speed rail service from Victorville, California to Las Vegas. The shuttered and short-lived Asian-themed Lucky Dragon was also purchased for $36 million by local Vegas businessman, Don Ahern, and will reopen as a non-gaming hotel and convention space.
As for the highly unpopular “paid” self-parking introduced by MGM Resorts in 2016, Wynn Resorts just reversed its paid policy and announced a return to free self-parking at the Wynn and Encore, joining Treasure Island, The Sahara, The Venetian and Palazzo that continue to offer free self-parking for visitors and locals alike.
The Rumor Mill
For many months, rumors circulated that Caesars Entertainment was up for sale. While it has been confirmed, with the announcement that Reno-based Eldorado Resorts is acquiring nine Caesars properties in 2020 for a reported $17.3 billion, rumors and speculation now question whether Eldorado will sell some properties.
If so, which are in play? Experts point to Planet Hollywood, Cromwell and Rio as possible candidates… and if one or more are sold, who then might be the buyers? Rumors continue to abound. Word on the street is that the Cosmopolitan may also go up for sale for $4 billion. Shifting sands in the desert.
Talk heard on the street also indicates that the Stratosphere (recently rebranded as “The Strat) – the tallest observation tower in the country – may be preparing to announce another multi-million dollar attraction, along the lines of the mind-boggling Grand Canyon glass-bottomed Skywalk, added to its four existing elevated thrill rides 110 stories above the Las Vegas Strip. If so, it would be another big draw for the steadily-emerging North end of the Strip.
Another interesting item of note is that Airbnb rentals have Las Vegas resort hotels taking notice. Welcoming over 700,000 guests and taking in $100 million in rentals last year, Las Vegas homeowners experienced a steady increase and interest in less expensive off-strip (but still nearby) stays that average $140 a night versus $290 Strip room rates during peak periods. However, as of this year, new Las Vegas regulations no longer permit short-term rentals for investors and will only allow owners who reside on the property to do so. The new Vegas Airbnb laws will restrict 98% of new short term rentals in the City as only 2% are primary residences.
Wrap-Up Notes And Addendums
Las Vegas’ sporting and entertainment venue seating is catching up with its sprawling convention and meeting capacity. The city will have total seat capacity of more than 339,000 people with the new Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin and when the Raiders Stadium and MSG Sphere projects finish next year. Together they will collectively add 100,000 new seats for sports and entertainment to existing venues.
Various entities are also hard at work to bring Major League Baseball, Basketball and Soccer Teams to Las Vegas to make the city a world-class all around sports venue and the new sports capital of the world.
Finally, “Build it and they will come.” Las Vegas airport passenger traffic remains ahead of schedule and was up 2.5% through the first four months of 2019. McCarran International Airport saw 4.3 million travelers go though its gates in April alone.
For the previous 12 months, and into the foreseeable future, the winning streak for the entire Las Vegas Valley continues to unfold. Today is only 2020 Vegas 2.0 – and more is sure to come. In local gambling parlance terms, “You can bet on it.”
Photos are courtesy of: Summerlin® – A development of The Howard Hughes Corporation®, Park MGM Las Vegas, The Park, Circa Resort & Casino, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, tvs design/Design Las Vegas, The Boring Company, Raiders Media Relations, Madison Square Garden Company, and the City of Las Vegas.