by Michael J. Shapiro | January 01, 2019

Massive development projects always seem to be on the docket in Las Vegas, but these days a staggering amount of that development is devoted to group venues and luxury-minded meeting planners and attendees.

Groups represent serious business in Vegas: A record number of convention delegates visited in 2017 -- more than 6.6 million people. As of this past November, the 2018 total was trending slightly lower, but one could argue that more large groups would have visited in the past year if there were more meeting space, which is in high demand in this city. And it just so happens that a lot more of that is now being built. About 2.7 million square feet of meeting, event and convention space currently is under construction, which means that by 2021, the city will have experienced a 21 percent increase in group facilities.  

Among the major projects now underway is phase 2 of the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, which will add 1.4 million square feet to the current facility, including at least 600,000 square feet of exhibition space.   

The 100,000-square-foot Forum Plaza
will be able to host receptions
outside the new conference center.

Last July, Caesars Entertainment broke ground on Caesars Forum -- a $375 million conference center located just off the center Strip, due to open for business in 2020. And in late September, the Las Vegas Sands and Madison Square Garden broke ground on a major undertaking of their own, the 18,000-seat MSG Sphere. This space-age structure will be a giant ball of a performance venue unlike any other, bejeweled inside and out with video displays and state-of-the-art sound, all slated to debut sometime in 2021.

Consider, too, that in fairly rapid fashion Las Vegas has become a true sports town, providing another outlet for group activities. The NHL's Las Vegas Golden Knights skated all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in their inaugural season last year, and by 2020 the now-Oakland Raiders intend to call Las Vegas home. A 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion stadium currently is being constructed on the south end of the Strip to host them.

The Raiders' future home will have plenty of spaces within for football-related luxury VIP experiences -- as does the home of the Golden Knights, the state-of-the-art T-Mobile Arena that debuted in the spring of 2016.

And speaking of luxury, new high-end lodging such as the high-style NoMad Las Vegas and the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas -- a rebrand of the Mandarin Oriental in CityCenter -- have recently opened their doors on the Strip.

Read on for more details about these and a bevy of other remarkable new and soon-to-be draws for the perennial meetings capital.


RECENT ADDITIONS

The NoMad Restaurant takes its
design cues from Rio's Royal
Portuguese Cabinet of Reading.

The highly anticipated NoMad Restaurant opened for business last month within the new NoMad Las Vegas hotel. A collaboration between chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara -- the same team running New York's acclaimed Eleven Madison Park -- this latest NoMad eatery features soaring 23-foot ceilings and a design inspired by Rio de Janeiro's classic Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading library. The menu is based on tried-and-true American classics -- including Humm's justly celebrated roast chicken for two -- and the restaurant embraces a bit of Vegas theatricality that isn't present in the New York and Los Angeles NoMad iterations.

The 293-room NoMad Las Vegas that serves as home to the new restaurant officially opened in October, a boutique hotel that occupies the top four floors of the new Park MGM. (Both properties are a reimagining of the site that was formerly home to the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino.) The NoMad offers a high-limit casino and a Moroccan-inspired pool to complement the residential-style luxury lodging. The whole enterprise is a design collaboration among MGM Resorts, Sydell Group and Paris-based design studio Be-Poles, featuring curated original artwork found in all guest rooms and throughout the hotel's public spaces. Groups can book the more than 2,000 square feet of restaurant space and hold sparkling evening events at the pool deck and café.

Two recently debuted meeting venues in the Park MGM, the Ideation Studio and the Madison Meeting Center, joined IACC in late November, giving the property the distinction of being the conference-center association's first member on the Las Vegas Strip. The interactive, collaborative spaces are part of the more than 77,000 square feet of meeting space at the hotel. Both venues are tailored to smaller gatherings: The 10,000-square-foot Madison Meeting Center, a designated Executive Meeting Center, accommodates groups of 10 to 50 with 10 flexible rooms and two self-service lounges. A Daily Meeting Package offers all-inclusive pricing with a flat rate per attendee. The other venue, the 7,000-square-foot Ideation Studio, features cutting-edge Cisco WebEx Boards and the Cisco WebEx Teams platform. The board is a high-tech, touch-sensitive display that can be used for presentations, note-taking and video communication, while WebEx Teams provides virtual meeting spaces and communication capabilities that go beyond the meeting room itself. The 10 rooms that make up the Ideation Studio offer configurations rooted in behavioral science, with setups designed to enhance engagement and learning.

In downtown Las Vegas, the special-events venue Mansion 54 debuted in December, offering a number of unique, elegant spaces in the former Hartland Mansion in the Arts District. The newly renovated facility has 25,000 square feet of space overall, including a classic double-staircase entrance, an outdoor terrace and two pools.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas completed a renovation of its own last month, wrapping up a remodel of all 3,033 guest rooms. The new rooms, designed in partnership with New York's Virserius Studios, feature modern artwork, better lighting, user-friendly technology and an energy-conscious design. The sophisticated Terrace rooms incorporate rich jewel tones and an improved, functional layout with distinct living, dining, work and sleep areas, while the new 1,050-square-foot Reception Suite, suitable for entertaining friends or colleagues, is complete with configurable seating, meeting space and a wet bar. The new rooms are accompanied by a variety of technological enhancements, among them new WiFi infrastructure that offers blazing-fast, complimentary access for all guests, with download speeds exceeding 100Mbps. Rose, the hotel's cheeky chatbot, now incorporates AI and speech recognition, making the sassy assistant a much better communicator. Rose's latest feature is a new tour experience, in which she guides guests via their smartphones to explore the resort and discover some of its more obscure spots and off-the-menu items.


COMING SOON
MGM Resorts is on the verge of wrapping up a $130 million expansion of its MGM Grand Conference Center, which will expand the current space by 250,000 square feet for a total of 850,000 square feet. Featured in the expansion will be a 5,500-square-foot outdoor courtyard and the addition of 22,000 square feet of Stay Well Meetings space, MGM's wellness meetings experience that will encompass the entire second floor of the facility.

Defining characteristics of the Stay Well meeting rooms will include air-purification systems, aromatherapy capabilities, circadian lighting, menu options designed by nutritionists at the Cleveland Clinic and guided meditation options narrated by wellness guru Deepak Chopra.

Elsewhere on the Strip, Wynn Resorts recently scrapped the ambitious, Carnivale-themed Paradise Park and lagoon development it was building in between the Wynn and Encore resorts, formerly occupied by a golf course. Wynn will instead develop another, improved golf course. Original designer Tom Fazio has created an updated version of the previous links, and the new 18-hole course is scheduled to be fully operational by late 2019. Construction of a 400,000-square-foot convention center in the same area will continue and remains on track to be completed by January 2020. That new facility will offer 200,000 square feet of net rentable space.

Meanwhile, Wynn CEO Matthew Maddox has noted that the former site of the New Frontier, which is across the street from the Wynn Resort and which Wynn purchased last year, would be an ideal site for the company's next ambitious Strip project. Wynn will embark on a two-year design and development process for that site sometime this year.

Last November, Caesars Entertainment became the first founding partner of Las Vegas Stadium, the 65,000-seat facility now under construction that will be the NFL Raiders' new home when they relocate to Las Vegas in 2020. Caesars will sponsor a branded stadium entrance and drop-off zone as part of that deal, which will also entail digital signage, media assets and appearances by players, team alumni and cheerleaders at select Caesars events. Caesars also will be able to offer exclusive VIP experiences to elite customers and Total Rewards members, including access to the Caesars-branded Owners Suite that will be at the 50-yard line, VIP dinners on the field, events at the training facility, tickets and more.

Caesars biggest project, however, is the aforementioned Caesars Forum, the 550,000-square-foot conference center that will be located across from Caesars Palace. That facility promises more than 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including two 110,000-square-foot pillarless ballrooms, said to be the largest in the country. Two 40,000-square-foot ballrooms -- divisible into 38 and 39 sections, respectively -- as well as six boardrooms also are planned for the facility. A 100,000-square-foot outdoor event plaza will be constructed just outside the facility, serving to connect the new conference center to the LINQ Promenade, Caesars' outdoor dining, shopping and retail zone.  

Upscale Bunk Bed Suites at the Flamingo
will include space for entertaining.

Also in the center of the Strip, Caesars is in the midst of the second phase of room renovations at its Flamingo Las Vegas resort. Among the 976 rooms currently being upgraded are two new categories, including 14 Bunk Bed rooms and several larger Bunk Bed Suites -- meant to appeal to small groups or families. The new room types are both spacious and upscale, according to Caesars. The 515-square-foot Bunk Bed Room can accommodate friends or family with two queen beds, each equipped with an overhead full-size bunk, as well as a living area. Bunk Bed Suites span nearly 1,000 square feet each and consist of a 430-square-foot bedroom -- again, with two queen beds and two associated full bunks -- and a connected 550-square-foot parlor with living area and a kitchenette. The 3,500-room Flamingo already has renovated 1,270 guest rooms in Phase 1 of the project, meaning two-thirds of the property's rooms will soon have been remodeled within the past two years. The new Bunk Bed rooms will be available to book starting Feb. 1.

Phase 2 of the Las Vegas Convention Center Expansion project should be ready in time for the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show in January 2021, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority. The project will give the facility a presence on the Strip -- on the site where the old Riviera once stood -- and add 1.4 million square feet to the current convention center. Phase 3, which will occur over two years following the completion of the second phase, will completely renovate the existing 3.2 million-square-foot facility. The phased approach has been established to ensure no business is displaced as a result of the construction. The project's total price tag, including costs associated with construction, design and consulting, could reach $935 million, estimates the LVCVA.

The Drew Las Vegas, a collaboration between Marriott International and development firm Witkoff Group, is still targeted to open in late 2020 on the site of the never-completed Fontainebleau development. Plans call for 4,000 hotel rooms across two Marriott luxury brands, Edition and JW Marriott, as well as 500,000 square feet of convention and meeting space.


GOLD RUSH

The Venetian and Palazzo Las Vegas, two adjoining resorts with nearly 7,100 rooms between them, were the big Las Vegas winners at the 2018 Stella Awards, presented by Successful Meetings' parent, Northstar Meetings Group. The Sands Las Vegas--owned facilities took home seven Gold awards in the Far West region, including Best Hotel/Resort, Best Gaming Property, Best Décor/Design, Best Food and Beverage, Best On-Site Support Staff, Best Green Initiative and Best Renovation.