by Leo Jakobson | January 01, 2013
The Quad
The Quad is just one of the upcoming additions to the Vegas skyline

There have been a lot of high-stakes games in Las Vegas over the years, but none as big as the upcoming stare-down between two giant, London Eye-style observation wheels that will tower more than 500 feet above the Strip in 2013.

One of the whales in this game is Caesars Entertainment. It is using the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel to anchor its all-new outdoor retail, dining, and entertainment concept, The Linq. This $550-million development, located between the Flamingo and The Quad Resort and Casino (formerly the Imperial Palace), and across from the flagship Caesars Palace resort, will offer 30 to 40 shops, restaurants, and attractions in a 200,000-square-foot open-air marketplace when it opens in late 2013. The High Roller's 28 pods will hold up to 40 passengers each, with food, beverage, and multimedia options available to groups.

The other player is SkyVue Las Vegas, which is building a 500-foot Super Wheel as part of a new, 418,000-square-foot entertainment and retail area being erected on the South Strip, across from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. It will be up and spinning by mid- to late-2013, featuring a 21,000-square-foot convention center and 139,500 square feet of retail, dining, and live entertainment space. Each of its 40 gondolas will carry as many as 25 guests. As for branding possibilities, each side of the SkyVue Super Wheel will have a 50,000-square-foot LED digital sign.

"One wheel is not enough for us - we have to double down," jokes Amy Riley, senior director of convention sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Riley adds that the Strip itself has become a growing attraction for groups, leading to more development of attractions and offerings that showcase the city's views and open air. "There's a lot more of what we'll call 'Strip-front,' with restaurants moving in that direction and taking some of the older traditional areas and completely redoing them," says Riley.

New in Town
The LVH casino and hotel, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, was sold during a foreclosure auction on Halloween to a group that includes Goldman Sachs Mortgage Co. "The future is bright for The LVH," says Rick Stevens, chief operating officer of the Navegante Group, which is now managing the property, which is located next to the Las Vegas Convention Center. "We intend to deliver the excellent service and the top gaming, entertainment and hospitality experiences that have been a trademark of The LVH."

Hilton itself returned to the Las Vegas Strip in October when it announced a partnership with the Tropicana, which became the Tropicana Las Vegas - a DoubleTree by Hilton this month. The Tropicana completed a $200-million renovation in 2010. The 1,600-room property has more than 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

In May, sbe Corporation announced it was going to develop a new hotel, SLS Las Vegas, on the site of The Sahara, on the Strip's northern end. It will be a collaboration between SBE Chairman and CEO Sam Nazarian, a Los Angeles-based developer of mixed retail, dining, and entertainment concepts, and design icon Philippe Starck, as well as James Beard award-winning chef Jose Andres. The SLS will have 1,600 rooms, and sbe restaurants, including The Bazaar by Jose Andres, and Katsuya by Starck and Umami Burger, as well as nightclubs, like Hyde.

The newly renovated Spa at Wynn opened in September with a new aesthetic and fresh offerings for guests. The 45,000-square-foot facility has 45 treatment rooms offering new signature treatments including the Choco Latte Body Buff, using organic green coffee and cacao from Hawaii. Facilities also include a lavish fitness center, a full-service salon and barbershop, steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools, and relaxation lounges.

A bit off the Strip, Palms Casino Resort began a $50-million first-phase renovation of its property, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. The property will see all 428 of its rooms and suites in the Palms Tower redesigned, giving them an ultra-modern makeover with velvet accents and wood tones. Part of the revamp has included the refurbishment of Cantor Race & Sports Book, as well as its Tonic Bar. "We're also revamping the casino layout, so it's logistically a little easier to get from Point A to Point B and enhance the ambience of the casino overall," says Scott Thrasher, director of sales for the Palms.

One of the most significant new developments in Las Vegas in 2012 was the opening on June 27 of McCarren International Airport's new 14-gate Terminal 3, after five years of construction and a $2.4-billion investment.

"It's being called a game-changer for the meetings industry, especially when it comes to international travel," says the LVCVA's Riley. "It adds ease and convenience to getting in and out of Vegas."

Caesars Entertainment
As part of the work on The Linq, the Imperial Palace is scheduled to change its name to The Quad, while the property undergoes interior and exterior renovations, most notably to the main entrance, front desk area, hotel lobby, dining levels and a much-expanded casino floor. Work is scheduled to be completed by late 2013.

The Linq is not the only major investment that Caesars Entertainment is making in Las Vegas. In late November, the company announced a $185-million project to turn Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon into a boutique lifestyle hotel and casino with a 65,000-square-foot rooftop pool and club, a new restaurant, and completely redesigned guest rooms. Bill's, located on the far side of the Flamingo Las Vegas, will close in February and the new property will open early in 2014.

Also in February, the much-awaited Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace will open with 81 rooms above an enormous Nobu Restaurant on the ground floor, inspired by the design aesthetic of sushi chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa's (and partner Robert DeNiro's) many restaurants. The entire property is ideal for incentive groups looking to live, eat, and even sleep high-end dining experiences.

MGM MirageThe MGM Grand completed a $160-million remodel in its main tower in the fall, redoing the decor and furnishings of its 3,570 guest rooms and 642 suites. The work is part of the hotel's ongoing updating and reimagining of every aspect of the hotel, which has more than 600,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 380,000-square-foot MGM Grand Conference Center and 92,000 square foot Marquee Ballroom.

There are three different color schemes for three different room types, each with contemporary, brighter tones that are more open than the old and somewhat dated MGM Studios-themed decor. Other features include automatic shades and a number of sustainable offerings, including LED lighting, upgraded faucets and showers, and bath amenities that are 100-percent biodegradable.

In addition, the MGM Grand now has 42 Stay Well rooms that have a number of wellness features such as allergy-friendly advanced HEPA air filters, electromagnetic (EMF) protection, and a jet lag-fighting wake-up light. They are all on one floor because of a special water filtration system.

The Bellagio was set to complete the remodeling of all of its 928 guest rooms and suites in its Spa Tower by the end of the year. The $40-million renovation followed a $70-million redesign of 2,568 guest rooms in Bellagio's main tower in 2011. The project also added three new 2,500-square-foot Executive Hospitality Suites, each of which features a billiards lounge and separate home theater living area so that guests can host "intimate, yet interactive events," the company says. The Bellagio has 3,933 guest rooms and more than 200,000 square feet of meeting and convention facilities including the 45,458-square-foot Grand Ballroom.

There's a new hotel-within-a-hotel coming to the Mandalay Bay late this year. In partnership with Morgans Hotel Group, MGM Resorts is transforming the 10-year-old all-suite THEhotel into the 1,100-suite Delano Las Vegas, bringing the South Beach experience to the Strip. All of the lounges, restaurants, and the spa will be new as well.

The Mandalay Bay's other boutique hotel, the Four Seasons Las Vegas, isn't resting on its laurels. It was scheduled to complete a full renovation of all 424 of its guest rooms by the end of last year, bringing an art deco-inspired style to the property. Additions include a multi media hub on all televisions, generous desks with ergonomic chairs, sleeper sofas in all suites, and redecorated bathrooms. Additional reporting from Alex Palmer and Matt Alderton.