by Michael J. Shapiro | December 18, 2009

AriaCityCenter’s main attraction, the 4,004-room Aria Resort & Casino, celebrated its grand opening Wednesday night on the Las Vegas Strip. The property’s debut follows that of its CityCenter neighbors: the 1,495-suite Vdara Hotel & Spa, which opened Dec. 1; the 392-room Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, which began welcoming guests Dec. 4; and Crystals, a 500,000-square-foot luxury shopping center that opened its doors Dec. 3. (Following construction delays, the 400-room Harmon Hotel is slated to open in late 2010.) MGM Mirage and Infinity World, joint-venture partners in the $8.5 billion "city within a city," opened their signature property with much fanfare. Aria hosted a 5,000-guest, invitation-only party Wednesday evening, treating industry VIPs and media to a sampling of signature dishes and drinks from the venue’s 14 on-site restaurants and lounges. At about midnight, the resort opened its doors — and 150,000-square-foot casino, the only gaming venue in CityCenter — to the public. Among Aria’s dining options are new restaurants from star restaurateurs Michael Mina (American Fish), Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean Georges Steakhouse), Sirio Maccioni (Sirio Ristorante), Masayoshi Takayama (Bar Masa, Shaboo), Shawn McClain (Sage) and Julian Serrano. The property, which earned a LEED Gold certification for its sustainability initiatives, offers 300,000 square feet of meeting space on three levels, including four large ballrooms and 38 meeting rooms. MGM Mirage executives say the successful launch of the much-celebrated project will bring new visitors to Las Vegas and help the city begin its path to economic recovery; the development has provided new jobs to 12,000 people. "We did this for them," declared MGM Mirage chairman and CEO Jim Murren at a Wednesday morning press conference. "This is nothing if not for the people who work here."