Only in Vegas can you turn a groundbreaking into a show,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in November 2017 as ceremonial shovels hit the ground for the new $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed football stadium that will bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020. “Nevada is a get-it-done state.”
Long-standing bias against Nevada’s sports betting industry and other constraining factors had historically made NFL football in Vegas seem out of reach. Increasingly, though, it seems that anything is possible in the world’s entertainment and meetings capital. And the current investment and development wave, valued at more than $10 billion, has a destiny all its own.
Borrowing from the chart-topping 1969 hit In the Year 2525, the Vegas theme song could be In the Year 2020. If all goes to plan, that’s when a futuristic new landscape will emerge. Present overnight capacity, around 150,000 rooms, will grow by some 9,000 units, the largest year-on-year gain since 1993. And the new venues and experiences slated for 2020 and surrounding years are thrilling to contemplate.
From blockbuster projects changing the Center and North Strip to a roundup of other developments, here is a preview of your Vegas meetings ahead.
The Class of 2020
Officially all caps, CAESARS FORUM (www.caesars.com), announced in December 2017, will be a global titan among conference centers. Scheduled for 2020, the approximately $375 million, 550,000-square-foot project with 300,000 square feet of flexible conferencing space for 10,000-plus attendees is empire-worthy. As in ancient Rome, this forum will be a rare “marketplace for the assembly of people.”
Each 108,000 square feet, the venue’s two pillarless ballrooms will be the largest and most divisible in the world. Plus, there will be two 40,000-square-foot junior ballrooms, boardrooms and a versatile 100,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.
Seamless connectivity is integral to the design of the technologically advanced single-level facility. Advantages include convenient load-in, load-out and advanced air-wall systems, including massive glass doors opening onto the outdoor plaza. Located on 20 acres east of the Strip, the complex will have bridge connections and direct access to 8,500-plus Caesars Entertainment rooms at Harrah’s Las Vegas, The LINQ Hotel & Casino and Flamingo Las Vegas, along with the open-air, attraction-rich The LINQ Promenade.
“We wanted to build the world’s premier facility for meetings and events, our core business,” said Michael Massari, Caesars Entertainment’s chief sales officer.
“We will host tradeshow components for association and corporate clients, but CAESARS FORUM is first and foremost for meetings and events. And it will be unprecedented. The combination of indoor-outdoor space with hotel rooms and The LINQ optimizes and maximizes networking, social and experiential opportunities like nowhere else.”
Already home to an arcade, restaurants, bars, boutiques and group-ready attractions including the High Roller observation wheel and Brooklyn Bowl, The LINQ Promenade is set to become the ultimate adult playground. First, Caesars is investing $20 million in the Strip’s first zipline experience. Targeting late 2018, Fly LINQ will be able to launch 10 riders at a time from the Strip to the High Roller.
Then comes Kind Heaven. Announced in March 2018, Caesars Entertainment is partnering with Perry Farrell, alternative rock pioneer and Lollapalooza founder, as well as with L.A.-based Immersive Artistry, award-winning creators of “immersive, multisensory, communal experiences” for Hollywood and other entertainment, to introduce an epic $100 million Southeast Asian-inspired fantasy to The LINQ.
Equipped with wearable technology, visitors will embark on “a sensual exotic journey” that blends holographic and virtual imagery with a soundscape curated by Farrell. Diverse food, drink and entertainment experiences will be able to be purchased with digital currency. The 100,000-square-foot experience is aiming for completion in 2019.
Another kind of group heaven, slated for March 2020, is Paradise Park. Ambitious even by Vegas standards, this $1.5 billion repurposing of the Wynn golf course will create a new meetings and hotel complex adjacent to a 25-acre lagoon.
Complementing 275,000 square feet of existing space across the Wynn and Encore resorts, highlights of the new 280,000-square-foot convention complex will include 18 meeting rooms; an 83,000-square-foot pillarless ballroom; 20,000-square-foot outdoor events pavilion; and a 2,500-square-foot hospitality lounge with a 72 x 10-foot LED video wall, ideal for branding and messaging.
Lined by a winding mile-long boardwalk, the lagoon, a first for Las Vegas, will feature a white-sand beach, recreational daytime activities and nightly entertainment. Plans also call for a 47-story, 1,500-room luxury hotel.
“Combining design, technology and sustainability is the future of meetings in Las Vegas,” said Chris Flatt, executive vice president, hotel sales and marketing for
Wynn Las Vegas. “Viewing large-scale developments like Paradise Park as an opportunity to innovate, we strive to create a finished product that upholds our commitment to excellence while pushing us in a new direction. Our entirely modern eco-friendly approach started with constructing our 160-acre Wynn Solar Energy Facility to run Paradise Park on total clean energy. Totally self-contained, this lush, private oasis in the middle of the desert is truly unique in the city. It is important to us to protect the environment without sacrificing even the smallest five-star detail, and we hope this approach will become a model for others.”
At the Las Vegas Sands Corporation (www.sands.com), a strategic focus on innovation and non-traditional meeting spaces is producing a venue that by its orbital shape alone will affirm Las Vegas’ place as a seat of global entertainment.
Conceived in partnership with Madison Square Garden, the 360-foot-tall MSG Sphere (also coming to London) has an exterior fully programmable for digital messaging and displays. The interior 18,000-seat bowl will feature the world’s largest and highest resolution media display. An adaptive acoustics system will beam crystal-clear audio to individual seats, programmable in different languages. And MSG has developed a custom spherical camera system capable of capturing, curating and distributing new original content. Concerts and corporate presentations will never be the same.
Construction of the venue, attaching to the Sands Expo Center by pedestrian bridge, reportedly will start in the second half of 2018, for anticipated completion by late 2020.
Revival is finally at hand for the unfinished $2.8 billion, 63-story Fontainebleau Las Vegas, halted in 2009 and an enduring reminder of the downturn ever since. Announced in February 2018, the eyesore will be reborn as The Drew Las Vegas (www.thedrew.com). Comprising three hotels—The Drew, along with Marriott International’s first Edition in Vegas and first JW Marriott on the Strip—the integrated property, with some 3,900 rooms and suites, 500,000 square feet of convention and meeting space, 20 restaurants and more is slated for late 2020. The property will reportedly also connect directly to the expanded Las Vegas Convention Center.
Across the Strip, redevelopment of the recession-halted Echelon site, previously the legendary Stardust, into Resorts World Las Vegas (https://rwlasvegas.com) has inched along to date. Now, however, with the North Strip heating up, construction is proceeding on the Asian-themed mega-resort. Reportedly on track for 2020, the multibillion-dollar property, its architecture inspired by “modern Shanghai and Hong Kong,” will offer 3,500 rooms in three hotels, 100,000-plus square feet of gaming space, Asian cuisine and an elaborate garden attraction.
In February 2018, ARIA Resort & Casino (www.aria.com) unveiled the former Zarkana Theater’s $170 million transformation into a new four-level, 200,000-square-foot, LEED Gold-certified convention venue. Boosting ARIA’s total space to 500,000 square feet, highlights include the Cypress Executive Lounge, featuring a conference room and three private meeting suites. Plus, there are 15 meeting rooms and three ballrooms, including the top-floor, 2,000-capacity Primrose Ballroom, its two outdoor verandas offering views of MGM’s The Park and T-Mobile Arena.
Monte Carlo Resort and Casino’s $450 million transformation into the upscale, European-styled 2,700-room Park MGM (www.parkmgm.com) this spring includes the Madison Meeting Center. The first executive meeting center in Vegas, this 10,000-square-foot venue offers 10 rooms flexibly accommodating 10 to 50 people. The venue complements 58,600 square feet of modern conference space at the resort, which includes expansive ballrooms and 43 flexible meeting rooms, and the exclusive 4,345-square-foot Central Park Terrace. Later this year, the advanced Ideation Studio will complete the resort’s 77,000-square-foot conference and event space. Other resort highlights include 23 self-check-in/check-out terminals; upscale dining concepts Primrose and Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar; and an entire floor of Stay Well Rooms, with Stay Well features in some of the meeting space. Scheduled for late 2018 on the top four floors is the self-contained 292-room NoMad Las Vegas. Also coming are Eately Las Vegas and celebrated chef Roy Choi’s first restaurant outside of Los Angeles.
The completed $140 million transformation of Harrah’s Las Vegas added 1,622 new guest rooms and suites in the Valley Tower. This follows 672 renovated units on the tower’s south side. Other enhancements include a new lobby bar and remodeled casino floor. The resort now offers 2,500 rooms and suites, and 25,000-plus square feet of meeting and convention space.
Las Vegas-based Golden Entertainment, the new owner of Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower (www.stratospherehotel.com), is investing $140 million in property-wide enhancements. Announced in March 2018, the phased three-year project includes refreshing nearly half of the Stratosphere’s 2,427 guest rooms, upgrading the Top of the World restaurant and transforming 50,000 square feet of unused room into meetings space. Some $32 million in 2018 renovations include 317 rooms, a new gastro-brewery and an observation deck upgrade.
In April 2018, Alex Meruelo, owner of the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev., acquired SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (https://slslasvegas.com). Formerly the legendary Sahara Casino, SLS has struggled since opening in 2014. Incorporating the 239-room W Las Vegas, the 1,616-room, three-tower resort-casino offers 80,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, multiple F&B concepts including Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres, entertainment venues and an outdoor pool. Meruelo will reportedly invest up to $100 million to revitalize SLS.
Last upgraded in 2004, the Fremont Street Experience is investing some $33 million in a major enhancement of its signature LED light display that will boost its current brightness seven-fold, making daytime programming now possible. Plus, there will be new content offerings and interactive elements.
In March 2018, plans were announced for a new $76 million expo and convention center in Downtown Las Vegas. Endorsed by the city’s redevelopment agency in April, the joint venture between the City of Las Vegas and International Market Centers would create a 350,000-square-foot facility, three times the size of the recently mothballed Cashman Center.
In April 2018, South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa (https://southpointcasino.com) commenced a $40 million redesign of all 2,049 rooms and 84 suites in its three towers. The phased tower-by-tower refurbish aims for completion by September 2020, with 630-plus refreshed rooms available by the end of 2018.