You have to give Las
Vegas its due: It doesn't rest on its development
laurels. While SinCity spends countless
amounts of advertising dollars each year to lure potential vacationers—more
importantly casino customers—it's backing up its marketing efforts with
substance. Coming soon will be even more substance, in the form of the most
ambitious and expensive project ever to be constructed on The Strip. Travel
agents and travelers alike will soon say hello to MGM Mirage's $7 billion
CityCenter, a literal city unto itself, being built in the heart of the Las
Vegas Strip and dramatically redefining its landscape. The entire project, a
collaboration between the MGM Mirage and eight internationally acclaimed
architects, will consume some 76 acres of land.
At the mixed-use development's fulcrum will be the
4,000-room, 60-story CityCenter resort tower, which will include a 165,000
square-foot casino. The as-yet-unnamed tower will have a new brand name under
the MGM Mirage umbrella. A 400-room Mandarin Oriental—the brand's first
property in Las Vegas—gives
the development luxury caché, while a host of other rooms at CityCenter will be
When people aren't sleeping or gambling, they'll be
inundated with new shopping and amusement choices in the form of a
500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment space designed by famed architect
Daniel Libeskind. To underscore how self-contained the new development is, it
will even house its own fire station.
The entire project is reminiscent of the over-the-top
mega-projects shaping Dubai;
yet this project is taking place on a landscape that is already ripe. Could the
project's effect be more detrimental than beneficial? "It will have an
effect," says Jay Shapiro, owner of Five Star Travel in Las Vegas. Which way? "Positive,"
he affirms. Shapiro should know: He sees the germination almost every day, and
is excited over its completion. "It's different from everything else on
The Strip," he opines. "A first in its combination of apartments,
theater, shopping, restaurants and hotels. It's adding more things for more
people—almost like a mini-Dubai."
With land becoming scarcer and more expensive ($25 to $30
million per acre), developers had to come up with ways to best maximize the
space. "Instead of building out, the smart thing was to build up,"
says Jenn Michaels, vice president of public relations for the MGM Mirage. But
above all else, CityCenter should provide nuance—a different entity for the
some 43 million guests expected to visit Las
Vegas in 2010. "CityCenter will give people a
reason to come back regularly," Michaels says.
Not only is CityCenter being showered with encomiums for its
signature components and design elements, it's also receiving praise for its
willingness to embrace and follow environmentally sound building and operating
practices. CityCenter is pursuing the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design certification and promises to follow such
green measures as reclaimed water utilization and on-site power generation.
The effect CityCenter—along with other new resort
developments—will have on Las Vegas
will be striking, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
currently has roughly $30 billion in new resort development planned or already
underway citywide," says Art Jimenez, director of leisure sales for the
LVCVA. "Our entire skyline is changing with the addition of large-scale,
multi-use projects such as CityCenter, not to mention Las Vegas Sands' Palazzo
and Wynn's Encore (both new 1,000-plus-room hotel towers) and the new expansion
project slated for the Tropicana. All of this ultimately means more options for
our visitors and more reasons for them to make plans to return in the future to
see what Las Vegas
has added to the landscape." It should be a boon for travel agents as
well. "Of course, it also means travel agents will have even more products
to offer their clients," Jimenez posits.
CityCenter, in its entirety, is slated to be finished by
2010, but different phases will open on a rolling basis. Phase A, which
includes CityCenter's resort-casino, is expected to open in late 2009. The
development site will be where the Boardwalk Hotel and Casino once stood—it was
razed last May—and on adjoining land between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo