While officially closing its doors in May 2015, the Riviera Hotel & Casino, which opened in 1955 as the Strip’s first high-rise, has not gone down without a fight. In recent months, the “Riv,” its six-decade legend fashioned by the likes of Liberace, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, who once greeted high-rollers in the “Dino Den” bar, has been used by the FBI, K-9 teams and area firefighters for high-rise training exercises.
In late April, however, wrecking crews began tearing down the Riviera’s convention center and other low-level buildings. With the Riviera’s Monte Carlo and Monaco towers reportedly scheduled for implosion this month and August, respectively, the 26-acre site is destined for a new action role in the proposed $2.3 billion Las Vegas Global Business District.
The Riviera site is being prepared to be used in 2017 as extra outdoor exhibition space by CONEXPO-CON/AGG, the international tradeshow for the construction and concrete industries, and Las Vegas’ largest event by exhibit space. The cleared site will then be developed to extend the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). The current plan calls for a new 600,000-square-foot exhibition hall interconnected with existing LVCC halls, with a new main entrance on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Additionally, the Global District Plan calls for multimodal, destination-wide transportation upgrades to meet the continuing rise in conventioneers, delegates and other visitors.
To paraphrase the late Hal Rothman, renowned chair of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ History Department and foremost Vegas expert, the destination, forever “enticed by tomorrow,” is making a number of muscular moves to protect and perpetuate its convention future.
Las Vegas boasts three of the Top 10 Tier 1 convention centers in the nation, or those offering more than 1 million square feet of prime exhibit space. Along with the LVCC, this group, known as the Millionaire’s Club, includes the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and the Sands Expo and Convention Center, paired with the attached 272-room Venetian and Palazzo Congress Center.
Yet, even with close to 11 million square feet of total space at these and other properties, the city is bursting at the seams. In fact, The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), owner and producer of CES, the city’s largest overall show, has capped attendance at 175,000 for its 2016 and 2017 shows, due to the lack of present expansion options in Las Vegas (see Zoom In, this page).
Ahead of the LVCC expansion, Mandalay Bay, also responding to customer demand for more space, commenced a $70 million convention center expansion in October 2014. Among those customers was long-time client MAGIC, the world’s largest fashion marketplace for men’s and women’s apparel, footwear, sourcing and more.
Tony Calanca, executive vice president of exhibitions for UBM ADVANSTAR, the show’s producer, recalls the conversation around that time.
“They counseled with us on the project, including timetables,” he says. “One day after, we asked if they could move up the schedule for our show, they said yes,” Calanca says. “They build fast in Las Vegas, and delivered on time, providing us with the 60,000 square feet we needed to grow.”
With MAGIC christening the space, the first phase introduced a 350,000-square-foot expansion, new 20,000-square-foot foyer and underground parking. With the final phase, unveiled in January 2016, adding the 70,000-square-foot Oceanside Ballroom, total space at the venue now exceeds 2 million square feet, including 900,000 square feet of exhibit space, cementing its place as No. 5 in North America in both total square feet and exhibit space.
“Las Vegas continues to evolve as a meetings destination and this development solidifies Mandalay Bay as a top choice for corporate groups and tradeshows of all sizes,” says Stephanie Glanzer, vice president of sales for Mandalay Bay and Delano Las Vegas.
“In addition to enabling our current clients to grow with us and develop larger events, the additional space and flexibility allows us to attract new business to Las Vegas,” she continues. “With numerous meeting spaces as well as a wide variety of hotel, dining and entertainment options all under one roof, we do ‘large’ well but we equally excel at small meetings and group events. Many people are surprised to learn that small groups are a large portion of our business, and we have a dedicated team focused on providing top-level service for all their needs.”
Concluding an approximately $100 million remodel that began in 2015, Mandalay Bay has also completed its resort-wide remodel of more than 3,000 guest rooms and suites.
“The rule of thumb in the tradeshow business is to take the sellers to where the buyers are,” Calanca says. “From great hotel rooms to incredible food and entertainment options, Las Vegas offers many things, and our people know they will have fun there. That said, our view of a destination’s value is entirely agnostic. Our purpose is to do business, and that’s why we choose Las Vegas—because it’s good for business.”