Las Vegas has quickly become the poster child for the deflating travel market. With several resorts featuring 2,000 to 3,000 hotel rooms or more, it’s the centerpiece of conversation when people talk about the impact of the current economic recession.
Developers have scaled back many of their ambitious future plans, as both financing and demand have dried up. Major projects have been put on hold, such as Boyd Gaming’s Echelon and a multibillion-dollar version of New York’s Plaza Hotel. Throw in news reports that make it seem as if this market has come to a virtual standstill, and it’s easy to get confused about what is actually taking place in the neon jungle.
And yet, 2009 is looking to be one of the most spectacular years ever in casino resort development in Sin City. That’s right, the city is still in the midst of a construction boom because financing for resorts scheduled to open next year is in place. Construction cranes are still adding elements to the skyline while planners work out the final details for interior design.
That’s not to say this market is without its troubles. These new properties, such as MGM Mirage’s nearly $10 billion CityCenter, will open in a market that many experts believe already has too many hotel rooms (141,608, according to the LVCVA), meaning these brilliant new structures may not be able to garner premium rates. It won’t be until 2010 and beyond when that construction freeze will really be felt in a lack of new room openings.
Though CityCenter has been garnering much coverage, 2009 will see the opening of several major new resorts and expansions, including the $2.8 billion Fontainebleau Las Vegas, the $1 billion M Resort, an expansion of the venerable and ultra-hip Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and new towers at the Planet Hollywood Resort and the Golden Nugget downtown.
In 2009, 13,954 rooms are set to open, making the total room count 155,562. And that doesn’t even include the 2,000 that make their debut this week when Encore at Wynn Las Vegas opens.
Here’s what you can expect to see in 2009 from the greatest resort city in the world.
Now under construction on the Strip between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo are MGM MIRAGE and Dubai World’s CityCenter. The largest private construction project ever conceived in North America, this resort complex is radically changing the way casino resorts are being designed. Instead of building a single resort property with everything under one roof, CityCenter is the first of what’s expected to be a new wave of mega-resorts.
Bigger isn’t always better, so instead of building a gigantic 6,000-room property under one roof, CityCenter is breaking down experiences into a more human scale. Designers are realizing that not only is it not possible to effectively run a property that’s more than 4,000 rooms, guests start to become overwhelmed at the size and scope of these mega-structures.
Instead, CityCenter will comprise a variety of hotel experiences appealing to different personalities. The 67-acre complex will feature ARIA, a 61-story, 4,000-room resort casino, as well as three non-gaming hotels, including a Mandarin Oriental. The Harmon is the first hotel (400 rooms and 207 condo units) from the entertainment and nightlife company Light Group. Vdara will be a 1,495-room condo-hotel promising oversized rooms from 500 to 1,650 square feet.
Also here will be The Crystals, CityCenter’s 500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment district, $40 million in outdoor art exhibits and a new Elvis-inspired Cirque Du Soliel show.
Coming in March 2009 is M Resort. Located farther south on the Strip than other resorts, this property will be an intimate hideaway featuring a total of 390 guest rooms and 39 suites. One highlight that we love is that the hotel will be built on a higher elevation than other casino resorts. That additional 400 feet, plus the fact that the hotel will be situated in a north-south direction—as opposed to the other hotels, which are east-west—should make for some pretty cool views.
The rooms will also be larger than standard-sized Las Vegas rooms and will feature a modern design and decor. Though smaller in room count than competing hotels, the property will still have a 92,000-square-foot casino, which compares in size to larger area resorts.
Fontainebleau Las Vegas
As of press time, the 63-story, 725-foot Fontainebleau Las Vegas tower is taking shape on what’s quickly becoming a development hot spot on the Strip. Located where the Algiers and El Rancho once stood, the property is indicative of the new wave of design taking place. It’s a gorgeous glass-clad tower that shimmers under the desert sun and brings to mind the recently reinvented Fontainebleau Miami, which utilizes a curvilinear shape.
The property will also have a 60,000-square-foot spa; 95,000-square-foot casino; 3,300-seat performing arts theater; retail shops; and the world’s largest rooftop pool and club scene with views directly down the Las Vegas Strip. Expect the property to open sometime next fall.
Bigger and Better
When Morgan’s Hotel Group acquired Vegas Hard Rock back in early 2007, it promised big changes. Known for owning some of the coolest boutique hotel brands, Morgan’s is injecting Vegas Hard Rock with more elements, which are sure to expand the hotel’s appeal.
Most exciting is the addition of an all-suite hotel tower with about 400 rooms. Another new tower will have an additional 550 rooms. Hard Rock has always been notoriously small, and this $800 million enhancement should help revitalize the hotel as the coolest spot in town. Expect the rooms to open mid-year, in time for the popular REHAB parties held every Sunday around the pool.
Since opening in 1966, Caesars Palace has seemingly always been in expansion mode. Though it expanded in 2005, the property is once again getting bigger, with a $1 billion expansion plan that will include the 665-room Octavius Tower.
Downtown, the Golden Nugget Las Vegas will complete phase III of its reinvention with the opening of a new $150 million, 500-room Hotel Tower on the western side of the property that will bring additional accommodations, gaming, dining and amenities to the property. It is expected to be completed by late 2009.
Finally, the Planet Hollywood resort will debut a 1,200-room, $750 million 52-story tower developed in conjunction with Westgate Resorts. There will be a host of new dining options here, as well as a fitness center and more meeting space.