by Michael J. Shapiro | February 01, 2014
Why Here?

Las Vegas is more than just the Strip, a fact that has become all the more evident in the past year. The city's downtown has been undergoing a revitalization, which has seen the opening of new museums and venues as well as hotel reinventions. The Downtown Grand, above, is the town's newest hotel.


The Modern Contemporary Art Museum is in development, planned for a two-acre site in the downtown arts district. The museum will be part of a larger cultural-center campus, which will also include the Center for Creativity and Luminous Park, an outdoor sculpture garden and gathering space. As of December 2013, the initiative had received $2.4 million in cash and land donations, the first step in a $29 million capital campaign.

Hang on to Your Lunch
El Loco, the new roller coaster in the Adventuredome at Circus Circus Las Vegas, can get attendees' blood flowing with a 72-second thrill ride. To wit: a 90-foot ascent followed by a greater-than-straight-down drop, as well as a 180-degree turn that goes into a barrel roll.

Meat With Style
The celebrity-magnet N9NE Steakhouse at Palms Casino Resort reopened last month following a redesign and the addition of private and semi-private dining areas -- including the Center Table, enclosed by a sheer canopy of drapes.

Casual Fix
Chef Shawn McClain, the culinary master behind Sage at Aria Resort & Casino, recently opened FIVE50 Pizza Bar, also at Aria. Pizza, pasta and small plates are served until midnight, and the slice window stays open until 2 a.m.

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Local Update

• The World Trade Center Las Vegas, a collaboration between the Consumer Electronics Association and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, signed a partnership deal last month with the World Trade Center Mexico City. Under the agreement, the two trade centers will co-market under the World Trade Center brand to create more business between the two cities. Since 2010, World Trade Center Las Vegas has worked to bring more international visitors and trade events to Las Vegas.

• The SLS Las Vegas, a highly anticipated luxury lifestyle property from hotel and nightclub magnate Sam Nazarian, chef José Andrés and designer Philippe Starck, is on track to open this fall. The property is being constructed on the North Strip, on the site of the legendary former Sahara Hotel and Casino. The 1,622-room property will include a casino and at least a half-dozen restaurants, including high-profile eateries such as The Bazaar by José Andrés, Cleo, 800 Degrees, the Griddle Café, Katsuya by Starck and Umami Burger. The hotel will offer more than 30,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including a 9,000-square-foot ballroom. An outpost of the Los Angeles nightspot the Sayers Club will be on-site, as will a number of Fred Segal retail outlets from the L.A.-based designer.

• The 634-room Downtown Grand Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, part of Choice Hotels' Ascend Hotel Collection, celebrated its grand opening in mid-November 2013. The hotel, formerly the Lady Luck, is near the Fremont Street Experience and across the street from the Mob Museum. The property includes three on-site restaurants -- Stewart + Ogden dinner bistro, Red Mansion Chinese and MOB Bar -- as well as 2,400 square feet of indoor meeting space. The hotel's 35,000-square-foot rooftop-pool area, Picnic, also will be available for events when it opens this spring. The casino, housed in a reclaimed factory space with an industrial-chic atmosphere, offers unique gaming options such as "Street Dice," which gamblers can play outside the casino on 3rd Street.

Genting, the largest casino operator in Southeast Asia, purchased Boyd Gaming's unfinished Echelon development on the North Strip last spring. This past December, Genting's chairman said the company would spend as much as $4 billion to complete the mega-resort. The Nevada Gaming Board currently is investigating the group before officially issuing the gaming license, which Genting expects to receive soon. The Malaysia-based gaming company paid $350 million for the 87-acre development, which Boyd had shelved in 2008. The new resort, the four-tower, 6,583-room Resorts World Las Vegas, should begin construction in June, with a projected opening in 2016. Plans call for about 500,000 square feet of meeting space, a 175,000-square-foot casino and approximately 250,000 square feet of retail space.

• Late last year, MGM Resorts and AEG released renderings and announced further details of their joint venture to construct a 20,000-seat arena on the Strip. The project is expected to break ground this April and to open in early 2016. The arena will be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development, stretching from the Strip to Frank Sinatra Drive, in the area between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo casino resorts. The venue, which will be available to host National Basketball Association and National Hockey League teams as well as concerts, awards shows and other sporting events, is being designed to meet LEED Gold standards. The project, costing some $350 million, also will include a variety of restaurants and entertainment venues. As for the arena itself, initial designs call for a glass facade, sweeping balconies and an exterior performance stage.

• The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has issued $50 million worth of bonds toward funding the Global Business District, an ambitious plan announced a year ago. The decade-long, multiphase project calls for the convention center to expand and become the new hub for a surrounding business district. The center will provide additional space for exhibitions, meeting rooms and general session space, as well as improved technology infrastructure and new food-and beverage outlets. New public spaces outside the center will help to transform the area into a business campus.

• Caesars Entertainment continues to revamp the former Bill's Gamblin' Hall on the Las Vegas Strip, transforming the property into a boutique hotel that should open in mid-2014. The property likely will have about 188 guest rooms as well as a 65,000-square-foot rooftop pool and a nightclub/dayclub -- in addition to the first restaurant from chef Giada de Laurentiis.

• In June, the 349-room Ravella Lake Las Vegas was rebranded as the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa. The Mediterranean-inspired resort in the master-planned community of Lake Las Vegas is approximately 20 minutes from the Strip. The upscale property features a 30,000-square-foot spa, a salon, a fitness center and an outdoor pool with cabanas. Four restaurants are on-site, and guests have privileges on a nearby Jack Nicklaus golf course. The resort offers a total of 92,500 square feet of meeting space, including an 11,813-square-foot ballroom. An on-site wedding chapel overlooks the lake. Dolce Hotels & Resorts had rebranded the resort as Ravella in February 2011; previous to that it was called the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas, which closed in 2010.

• The 548-room JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa plans to complete renovations this month on the Valencia Ballroom. Spanning approximately 12,320 square feet, the circular room, together with its large terrace, provides views of Red Rock Canyon and the Strip, and can accommodate as many as 1,000 attendees.

• The Marriott Las Vegas Convention Center completed a $4.3 million guest-room renovation and added about 600 square feet of meeting space last month. The 278-unit all-suite property is two blocks from the Strip. New room features include RFID lock systems, large safes, new brown leather ottomans to replace coffee tables, additional outlets, French doors separating the bedroom from the living room in 200 of the suites, new bathroom lighting and new bath amenities from Thann, a luxury Asian spa brand. All of the hotel's 17th-floor meeting rooms will be renovated later this year, including the grand ballroom.

• Last August, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority put the finishing touches on about $20 million worth of renovations to the Las Vegas Convention Center, carried out over the course of two years. Among the improvements are a color change to the facade, trading in the previous mauve exterior for two shades of gray; an expansion of more than eight acres of the Green parking lot, with more parking spots to come; more than 1 million square feet of new red carpet and coats of paint inside the convention enter; and more energy-efficient lighting in the Central and North Halls. Additionally, American Express debuted its Open Business Lounge inside the main entrance.

• The 2,884-room Treasure Island Las Vegas completed a renovation to the tune of more than $1.7 million last spring. The project involved upgrades of the resort's meeting space, including new furniture, wallpaper, wall furnishings, carpeting and audio systems. The space consists of three areas: the 11,808-square-foot Treasure Island Ballroom, which can be divided into six rooms; the 3,120-square-foot Caribbean Room, divisible into three rooms; and the 598-square-foot Mediterranean Room, which can seat up to 40 people.

• The Las Vegas Convention Center installed four electric-vehicle charging stations in late December 2013, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Consumer Electronics Association, owner and producer of the annual International CES convention. The covered stations, which are in the Gold parking lot, are complimentary to visitors. They will serve as a prototype for future stations, to be added as demand requires.

• The first Nobu Hotel began welcoming guests last February, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony with owners chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro, Meir Teper and Trevor Horwell, along with architect David Rockwell. The 181-room boutique Nobu Hotel Restaurant and Lounge is within Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Eighteen luxury suites at the property range from between 1,000 to 3,500 square feet. The property also features the world's largest Nobu Restaurant, with 327 seats as well as several private dining areas. Soon, hotel owners expect to open the 10,300-square-foot Nobu Villa, a luxurious rooftop venue that will be available for special events, convention groups and private parties. The villa's 4,700-square-foot outdoor terrace promises to provide spectacular views of the Strip.

• The 2,496-room Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino recently completed renovations of its 7,000-seat theater, which has been renamed The Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Caesars Growth Partners, the new business entity responsible for Planet Hollywood and Caesars' interactive gaming business, has partnered with Live Nation Entertainment to bring big-name artists to The Axis. The revamped venue's first headliner, Britney Spears, kicked off her residency at the end of December 2013.

• The Container Park, an open-air destination with restaurants, galleries and retail establishments, recently opened downtown, at Fremont and Seventh Street. The park, one aspect of a investment project that aims to bring more businesses and entrepreneurs to downtown Las Vegas, will host a variety of events, including fashion shows and wine walks. Among the first tenants are Big Ern's Barbecue, BIN 702, Bolt Barbers, The Boozery, Pinches Tacos and Pork n Beans.

• Grand Bazaar Shops, an outdoor retail and dining market, is scheduled to open this fall at the entrance to Bally's Las Vegas. The "21st-century bazaar," as it's been dubbed, will be at the intersection of the Strip and Flamingo Road, featuring more than 150 shops spread over two acres.

• The 2,956-room LVH-Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, was the first property to join the Red Lion Hotels Leo Hotel Collection. That group, which also now includes the 300-room Riverside Hotel in Boise, Idaho, features independent boutique or historic properties that gain access to Red Lion's reservation and revenue-management systems, sales and marketing support, and loyalty club network. Red Lion and LVH signed the agreement last year. The LVH is next to the Las Vegas Convention Center and sports an impressive array of statistics, including 220,000 square feet of meeting space, a 1,650-seat showroom, 14 restaurants, a spa and a 95,000-square-foot casino.