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The Mega Projects Expanding Las Vegas in 2020
These are truly historic times for Las Vegas and Southern Nevada.
The area’s $57.6 billion tourism industry, nearly $11 billion of which is generated by meetings and conventions, keeps expanding. At the same time, technology, sports, healthcare and other sectors are vitally diversifying the economy. Drawn by opportunity, people are relocating to the Las Vegas Valley in droves.
With a growing count of nearly 150,000 hotel rooms running above 90% occupancy, it's only going to get busier.
The destination has become a sought-after global commercial hub, via its leading participation in the World Trade Centers Association. Welcoming an all-time-record of 50 million passengers in 2019, McCarran International Airport keeps expanding connectivity via new direct routes from Paris, Hawaii and other destinations.
Additionally, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and partner Applied Analysis project a new record of 44 million visitors for 2020, climbing to 56 million by 2040.
This dynamism is driving unprecedented expansion, as Las Vegas zooms into this new decade with more than $16 billion invested in revolutionary updates over the next four years.
Inspired by client demand and driven by innovation, here are the mega-projects and mega-deals creating the future Las Vegas—plus, extended destinations for meetings, and why Vegas is right on the money for groups.
The Las Vegas Convention Center District Expansion
Las Vegas is never boring—except for the giant drill now tunneling the underground People Mover system for the emerging Las Vegas Convention Center District, or LVCCD.
Targeting completion by January 2021, the pioneering $52.5 million system, from Elon Musk’s The Boring Company, is a necessary innovation for the forthcoming 200-acre convention campus. Otherwise, it’s a two-mile walk end to end.
Photo: The Boring Company drill head. Credit: Mark Damon for Las Vegas New Bureau
Three passenger stations will connect 3.2 million square feet of existing convention space with the LVCCD’s 1.4 million square-foot expansion. All-electric Tesla vehicles will whisk conventioneers across the roughly mile-long, twin-tunnel route in about a minute. Designed for at least 4,400 passengers per hour, the free service will be scalable based on show size.
Extending the system to the resort corridor, McCarran and other areas has been proposed as a potential solution to Vegas’ increasing traffic woes.
The LVCCD expansion, featuring the new 600,000-square-foot West Hall, is on course to be done by December 2020. Renovation of the existing 3.2 million-square-foot convention center is scheduled for summer 2021, with the entire $1.52 billion development expected to wrap in 2024.
Updates on the North Strip
The Frontier, Stardust, Riviera, Thunderbird, La Concha (now the Neon Museum’s visitor center) and other star venues once electrified the North Strip.
Amid these glittering ghosts, the Las Vegas Convention Center (1959), Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino (1969), and Circus Circus Hotel & Casino (1968) are the enduring survivors.
Anchored by the LVCCD, a multi-billion-dollar redevelopment wave is now reestablishing this expansive neighborhood. Transformative projects include:
- Targeting summer 2021, $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas will reportedly feature 3,500 guest rooms; 350,000 square feet of convention space; and a 5,000-seat theater.
- The $3.1 billion revival of the failed 67-story Fontainebleau Las Vegas as Drew Las Vegas is now aiming for 2022. Features reportedly include 3,780 rooms in a three-hotel stack comprising the Strip’s first JW Marriott, Marriott’s upscale Edition brand and the Reserve by Drew. Some 550,000 square feet of convention space will connect to the LVCCD expansion via pedestrian bridge.
- Reverting to its historic original name under new owner Alex Meruelo, SLS Las Vegas is now SAHARA Las Vegas. Currently undergoing a comprehensive $150 million overhaul, the iconic property comes with 1,615 guest rooms and suites in three towers and offers more than 80,000 square feet of flexible indoor-outdoor space.
- Last year, MGM sold Circus Circus and adjoining 37-acre open-air Las Vegas Festival Grounds to Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin for $825 million. Announced redevelopment plans to date include room renovations, beach-style pool complex and a new theater.
- Further north on Las Vegas Boulevard, Golden Entertainment’s rebrand and phased $100 million transformation of the former Stratosphere as The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod includes new “Elevate” rooms and a host of new entertainment and dining options.
March Opening of Caesars Forum
The ancient Romans would have heralded the 1966 grand opening of Caesars Palace. The three-day bacchanal saw some 1,800 celebrants quaff 50,000 glasses of champagne while devouring two tons of filet mignon and 300 pounds of crab meat.
This March, Caesars Entertainment serves up a fresh feast of group opportunities with the unveiling of Caesars Forum.
The 300,000-square-foot LEED Silver-designed conference center features the world’s two largest pillarless ballrooms, at 110,000 square feet each. Plus, two 40,000-square-foot ballrooms, six state-of-the-art boardrooms and 100,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.
Photo: Resorts World Las Vegas rising. Credit: Jeff Heilman
Accommodating more than 10,000 conferees, Caesars Forum directly accesses the LINQ Promenade and 8,500-plus hotel rooms at Harrah's Las Vegas, The LINQ Hotel + Experience and Flamingo Las Vegas. Some 20,000 company rooms, Caesars Palace included, are within walking distance.
Bookings to date at the $375 million venue are monumental. As of November 2019, Caesars Entertainment reported the contracting of more than one million room nights and over $390 million in group business at Caesars Forum through 2020 and beyond.
Nearly three-quarters of these advance sales represent new customers. Marquee wins include the opening event for IPW 2020, along with Cvent CONNECT 2020, MPI WEC 2021 and PCMA Convening Leaders 2022. Making headlines this past December, Oracle’s OpenWorld conference is relocating from San Francisco for a three year-run at Caesars Forum.
Wynn Las Vegas Convention Space Expansion and Sustainability Initiatives
Set to open this February, the convention space expansion at Wynn Las Vegas is also wowing professional organizers.
“We recently previewed the project for a senior vice president from Reed Exhibitions,” shared Chris Flatt, executive vice president of hotel sales and marketing at Wynn Las Vegas. “He had high praise for the space and layout. And with bookings exponentially ahead of projections, we are excited to debut the new facility.”
Photo: Wynn Las Vegas convention expansion rendering of the convention lounge. Credit: Wynn Resorts
The Reed executive, a major client, was especially taken by the new 20,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion and adjacent 20,000-square-foot lawn, calling them “truly unique” for Vegas. Epitomizing Wynn’s signature indoor-outdoor design approach, these venues, along with the glass hallway connecting the expansion to the current facility, panoramically overlook Wynn’s redesigned 129-acre championship golf course.
Wynn’s loyal clients inspired the roughly $400 million investment in the first place.
“Even as they outgrew our space, our many repeat customers held their program size to be at Wynn,” Flatt said. “That spoke volumes to us, and we took this opportunity to grow alongside them.”
Adding 300,000 new rentable square feet, the two-level expansion more than doubles total rentable space at Wynn and Encore to 560,000 square feet in 57 flexible rooms.
- Grand rotunda entrance leading to 18 new rooms, each scaled for versatile group use.
- Luxury 2,500-square-foot hospitality lounge housing a state-of-the-art 72-foot by 9-foot video wall.
- Four pillarless ballrooms—at 83,000 square feet, one is among the largest in Las Vegas.
Innovation, aligned with Wynn’s five-star service model, also sets the project apart.
In a pioneering initiative led by the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer Erik Hansen, Wynn Resorts’ new offsite utility scale solar energy field delivers power directly to the resort.
“Unique in Nevada, this achievement, combined with the solar panels that cover 103,000 square feet of Wynn’s rooftop, allows us to power our entire group space with 100% renewable energy,” Hansen said.
Maximizing this sustainability advantage is Wynn’s new six-point Zero Carbon, Zero Waste Event service, with the first-to-market zero carbon component as its cornerstone.
After precisely calculating the total electrical impact of a meeting or convention, Wynn determines the number of renewable energy credits, or RECs, associated with the event. Officially accounting for one megawatt-hour of energy produced by a renewable resource, RECs are then credited to the client’s account or retired on their behalf. The bottom line? “Our clients can certifiably report that they came to Las Vegas and uniquely held a zero-carbon event at our resort,” Hansen said.
This premium package also includes:
- Zero-waste recycling effort
- Aluminum water bottles
- No single-use plastics
- Sustainable food sourcing
- Event materials upcycling
NFL Helps Vegas Score Big
The 2020 NFL season brings the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. Naming rights for their futuristic black-clad new 65,000-seat domed stadium, set to open this July, went to Las Vegas-based integrated travel company Allegiant.
Operating 55 nonstop U.S. routes, Allegiant flies 1.2 million-plus customers to Las Vegas each year. Affordable flights and fan packages will help bring in the Raider Nation and other fans.
Photo: M Resort and Raiders partnership. Credit: M Resort
Just west of the Strip’s southern end, Allegiant Stadium will also host UNLV football, the Las Vegas Bowl and NCAA football championship games, along with other sporting contests, concerts and more.
The luxurious Forbes Four Star M Resort Spa Casino was designated as the “Official Raiders Team Headquarters Hotel” in November 2019. M Resort is in Henderson near the team’s under-construction offices and training facility.
Raiders-branded features include an onsite restaurant and exclusive guest experiences on property and throughout Las Vegas.
Gabe Kuti, M Resort’s vice president of sales, anticipates significant business benefits from the alliance. “These include enhanced perception of M Resort as a ‘locals’ favorite’ and lift of awareness locally, regionally and nationally,” Kuti said. “And, increased local visitation, out of market hotel bookings, F&B covers, and social media followers and engagement.”
Offering 165,000 square feet of versatile space, nearby South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa continues to flourish as a value-driven off-Strip alternative. Long with popular with association and mid-range groups, the resort completed the phased $40 million remodeling of all 2,049 rooms and 84 suites last summer.
New Developments in Downtown Las Vegas
The Fremont Street Experience ushered in 2020 with the official unveiling of its enhanced Viva Vision video screen. Seven times brighter with four times the resolution, the $32 million upgrade features mind-blowing new visuals, 3D graphics and concert-quality sound, including the new signature “MIXology” light show.
On track for December 2020, Circa Resort & Casino stands to redefine the Downtown Las Vegas experience altogether.
Photo: Fremont Street Experience facade of Circa Resort & Casino. Credit: Mark Damon for Las Vegas News Bureau
Developers Derek and Greg Stevens first reenergized Fremont Street in 2012 by relaunching the former Fitzgeralds as D Las Vegas Casino Hotel. Next was their 2017 update of the Golden Gate Hotel, its famed One Fremont address the site of Hotel Nevada, the city’s first, from 1906.
Circa, across the street, is rising 44 stories on the site of former landmarks including the Overland Hotel, which introduced neon to Vegas in 1928, and long-running Las Vegas Club.
With details on group space forthcoming, unique features of the 777-room integrated resort include:
- Year-round rooftop amphitheater with six tiered outdoor pools, 125-foot high-resolution screen and 50-person “Super Cabanas.”
- The world’s largest sportsbook.
- Nine-story, “Garage Mahal” with high-efficiency ride-sharing area
Homages include installing neon cowgirl Vegas Vickie in the hotel lobby. Donated by the Stevens, another famed Fremont neon, the Golden Goose now brightens Fremont East, which is being pedestrianized and greened under Downtown’s master “Project Enchilada” revitalization plan.
The nearby Neon Museum resumes private event hosting this April following the conclusion of the now extended Tim Burton exhibition.
New Experiential Conference Venues
Synonymous with the future of meetings as the home of IMEX America, The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino welcomes other future-forward events like Money20/20 (see Planner’s Perspective below).
Offering 7,000 luxurious suites and 2.25 million-plus square feet of space, the integrated resort is set to redefine business and entertainment events with MSG Sphere at The Venetian.
Aiming for calendar 2021, the next-generation spherical venue, with its design driven by the Madison Square Garden Company, will reportedly feature:
- Seven seating levels with approximately 17,500 seats and maximum seated-standing capacity of just over 20,000.
- World’s largest and highest resolution LED screen wrapping the interior, creating a totally immersive visual environment.
- Fully programmable LED exterior.
- Dynamically adaptive acoustics system delivering crystal clear audio to every guest.
- Infrasound bass-driven haptic system allowing the audience to “feel” the experience.
“To say that we’re excited about how this new innovation will change the face of Las Vegas meetings and events is an understatement,” said Chandra Allison, senior vice president of sales for The Venetian, The Palazzo and Sands Expo. “MSG Sphere at The Venetian incorporates game-changing technologies that will provide meeting professionals with new and immersive ways to connect with their attendees, which is a trend we continue to see evolving year after year.”
Photo: AREA 15 art. Credit: Jeff Heilman
Housed in a massive building west of the Strip across I-15, AREA 15 will also send groups into new orbits. Scheduled for phased 2020 openings starting in January, this “experiential retail and entertainment complex” is anchored by immersive experiences leader Meow Wolf. The venue also comes with festival-style art installations and 40,000 square feet of “infinitely customizable” indoor and outdoor event space, with catering from the Hakkasan Group.
Changing Hands, Fresh Faces and New Partnerships
The merger of Caesars Entertainment and Eldorado Resorts headlined a transactional 2019 in Vegas. Expected to close this year, the deal creates the nation’s largest casino operator, led by Eldorado under the Caesars name.
Caesars also finalized the $516 million sale of Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to a real estate investment company. Caesars will continue to operate the off-Strip property for at least two years.
At MGM Resorts International Stephanie Glanzer is the new senior vice president and chief sales officer, overseeing convention sales and operations efforts.
Along with Wynn Las Vegas’ Chris Flatt, Glanzer, at MGM Resorts since 1998, was featured as one of the Leading Ladies of the Las Vegas meeting industry, Meetings Today’s top-read story in 2019.
In other moves, MGM sold Bellagio Las Vegas into a $4.25 billion joint venture with Blackstone Group Inc. MGM will continue to operate the luxurious Center Strip property. MGM also sold Circus Circus to Phil Ruffin, owner of Treasure Island TI Hotel Casino and Resort, and announced in January that MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay will be sold in a joint venture between MGM Growth Properties and Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust.
In 2019, TI became the first and only Radisson-affiliated hotel in Las Vegas and Nevada. Don Voss, TI’s vice president of marketing, shared the advantages of this partnership with the global brand.
“Now, many of the 20 million-plus worldwide Radisson Rewards members traveling to Las Vegas can exclusively redeem, and later this year, earn points with us,” Voss explained. “We anticipate that this will significantly impact our consumer direct reservations. They can earn points by booking TI through Radisson.com and potentially upgrade to Silver, Gold or Platinum status with benefits including exclusive rates and offers, and complimentary hotel services.”
TI is also planning to introduce Radisson Rewards for Business around mid-2020.
“This offers very competitive loyalty benefits for meetings professionals at TI and over 1,100 hotels in the Radisson Hotel Group portfolio,” Voss said. “Planners can already access group rates and book rooms directly at groups.treasureisland.com, and contact TI’s Hotel Sales team to request additional services or concessions.”
More than $9 million in recent upgrades includes boosting flexible space by 12,500 square feet to 30,500 total square feet.
Offerings and enhancements include:
- 100,000-plus square feet in alternative venues including Gilley’s Saloon and resort restaurants.
- New event-capable sports bar with a large LED video wall.
- New naturally lit Antilles Ballroom adjacent to the tropical pool area.
- Ongoing full renovation of all 2,884 rooms and suites.
“Many of our planners already say that our room product exceeds their expectations based on our price point and location on the Strip,” noted Voss of the upgrade, which is on course for completion this summer. “Long established in the Strip’s upper-middle market segment, TI’s meeting and event services are in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ of accommodating most requests for both budget and quality. And we are well positioned for the years ahead as new developments on the Strip’s north and south ends.”
A Planner’s Perspective on Las Vegas: Q&A with Monique Ruff-Bell, Event Director of Money20/20 USA
What is Money20/20?
Money20/20 is where the payments, FinTech, and financial services ecosystem unites to create and explore the disruptive ways in which consumers and businesses manage, spend and borrow money. At this premier global industry event, C-Level executives, renowned speakers, innovators and disruptors from across the world gather to drive change in the future of money.
Photo: Money 20/20 USA Event Director Monique Ruff-Bell. Credit: Money 20/20 USA
Why Las Vegas for your program?
Vegas was the perfect location to launch Money20/20 back in 2012. Globally connected, it’s easy to reach and is known universally as a top-notch, one-stop show destination. Our delegates are excited to come here. They can bank on first-class thought-leadership, networking and business opportunities at our event. Outside of the show, their options run the gamut, from world-class dining and entertainment to unique activities. Vegas has it all and provides phenomenal services for any group size.
Which venues do you utilize?
Primarily the Venetian and Sands Expo and Convention Center, which provides a unique campus feel with its unmatched layout, accessibility and networking spaces.
The proximity of the meeting rooms in the Venetian Congress Center and Sands Expo is ideal for hosting content and exhibitors. The luxurious all-suite offering at The Venetian and Palazzo aligns well with the delegate experience we provide. Numerous dining outlets and hospitality suites offer additional unconventional ways for our sponsor partners to conduct business and further opportunities for our attendees to connect organically.
Photo: Main stage at Money 20/20 USA. Credit: Money 20/20 USA
The resort is also within walking distance of after-hours locations like Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, where we host our Industry Night Party.
Money20/20 USA returns in October 2020—what keeps bringing you back?
We continue to measure success and impact by our continued attendance growth and the positive feedback from the thousands of delegates that have been with us since our inaugural event. We’re proud of this incredible growth and our continuing momentum.
Money20/20 is truly the place for doing business, making valuable connections and announcing the future of money. It all happens because Las Vegas allows us to comfortably expand our show while reliably providing unparalleled experiences for our delegates.
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority | 702.892.0711
Read more: The Las Vegas meetings and events landscape is always evolving. Stay up to date with what’s new on our Las Vegas destination page!