Las Vegas Keeps On Rollin'

For a destination that is as vibrant and unpredictable as Las Vegas, the only constant is change. So, it makes sense that one of the most striking additions to the Vegas skyline in the next year will be a giant observation wheel, turning and perpetually rotating some 550 feet in the air.

That would be the Las Vegas High Roller. Nine feet taller than the Singapore Flyer and 107 feet higher than the London Eye, the High Roller will be the tallest observation wheel in the world when it is completed by summer 2013. Even better, each of the High Roller’s 28 pods can hold up to 40 passengers, with food-and beverage and multimedia options available for groups. 

“They can roll in a bar cart, or do some kind of interesting product launch,” says Amy Allen, director of marketing at Caesars Entertainment, which is building the Roller. “It will be interesting to see how groups use this for different purposes.”

Each revolution of the wheel will take 30 minutes, and groups will be able to book as many pods as they like for multiple rotations, enjoying an unbeatable view of the Strip as they chat with fellow attendees. 

The High Roller is the centerpiece of an all-new outdoor retail, dining, and entertainment concept The Linq. Occupying the private street that separates the Flamingo and the Imperial Palace, this $550-million project will offer 30 to 40 shops and attractions in a 200,000-square-foot open-air marketplace.

“It will really be an outdoor gathering place for people, as opposed to ‘meet me in the casino,’” says Allen, adding that there will be plenty of opportunities for incentive groups to buy out any number of the spaces for events.

The Great Outdoors

But Las Vegas is not known to do things by halves and, while the High Roller will be the biggest, it will not be the only new wheel in town. By late 2013, the 500-foot-tall SkyVue Las Vegas Super Wheel, part of a new 9.6-acre entertainment and retail area being erected on the South Strip, will be up and rolling. Each of its 40 gondolas will carry as many as 25 guests.

“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. She adds that the Strip itself has become a growing attraction for groups, leading to more development in 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.”

In addition to SkyVue, there are six additional rides planned for the area, as well as a 21,000-square-foot convention center and a 139,500-square-foot space for retail, restaurants, and live entertainment.

The Linq is not the only ambitious project that Caesars Entertainment is tackling this year. The company is also in the process of transforming one of its oldest hotel towers into the 180-room Nobu Hotel, slated to open in the coming months. The property includes a Nobu restaurant and lounge, which will occupy 11,200 square feet at its base with a large bar and a 327-seat lounge. The entire decor, from room furnishings to public spaces, will draw on the modern Japanese aesthetic of the restaurant brand.

Functioning as a hotel-within-a-hotel, similar to Mandalay Bay’s THEhotel, Nobu will have its own dedicated check-in desk, unique amenities, and offerings that are distinctly different from the larger Caesars Palace. 

However, incentive groups working with Caesars Entertainment will still be able to use all the venue, restaurant, and entertainment offerings available at the parent property next door. 

“If an incentive or meetings group needed meeting space, they could utilize the space at the Caesars Palace conference center,” says Allen. “It’s kind of the best of both worlds, with this unique experience that’s very much in tune with the Nobu brand, but you’re still connected to a world-class resort.”

Allen emphasizes that this applies to all of the company’s eight Las Vegas properties. So, a group can arrange for a buyout of Rio’s Voodoo Lounge, a backstage tour of Bally’s Jubilee! show, and a stay at Nobu Hotel, all through the same sales team. 

A Feast of New Dining Options
A number of new restaurants and clubs are slated to open in coming months. 

Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, serving high-end Chinese food with a modern feel, will be taking over the space previously occupied by Studio 54 at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. It is slated to open at the end of 2012.

“It’s going to be a massive, five-level, 75,000-square-foot restaurant, lounge, and nightclub,” says Riley. She adds that the Euro-chic club and restaurant Bagatelle Beach & Nightclub is set for a soft opening in August of this year at the Tropicana Las Vegas. Bagatelle will offer a sprawling single level of pools and cabanas, as well as a sandy beach. “It’s going to be a great use of an outdoor venue.”

In May, the Gordon Ramsay Steak opened in the Paris Las Vegas casino hotel. The first Las Vegas restaurant from the celebrated, and famously ill-tempered, chef aims to transport visitors to the city of London with its high-end takes on British staples like fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, as well as traditional steakhouse fare. Its 274 seats, including a large bar area, chef’s table, and private dining room, and can accommodate a wide range of incentive groups.

At the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino, MGM Resorts will entertain audiences with the Blue Man Group at its 1,200-seat Monte Carlo Theater. The show will feature new material, as well as signature set pieces. 

Not to be outdone, Wynn Entertainment is in the process of upgrading and expanding its restaurant and hotel offerings. In May, it opened Mizumi, featuring traditional Japanese cuisine from Executive Chef Devin Hashimoto. The design includes bold colors and floor-to-ceiling views of Las Vegas. In September, the Italian-American restaurant Allegro opens, giving old-world recipes a modern twist. Its name comes from the musical term referring to a lively tempo — an upbeat feeling Wynn hopes can be passed along to visiting incentive groups.

The Spa at Wynn is also now being renovated and will reopen to the public in late September with a new aesthetic and fresh offerings for guests. The Wynn and Encore Esplanades will also be opening a number of new stores for those groups looking to get in some shopping. Timepiece enthusiasts will be particularly pleased with the additions, which include the luxury watch stores Chopard and Wynn & Company Watches, as well as Reichmont Group stores with a timepiece focus.

A bit off the Strip, Palms Casino Resort began a $50-million first-phase renovation of its property, expected to be complete by the end of the year. The property will see all 428 of the rooms and suites in its 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 increase the ambience of the casino overall,” says Scott Thrasher, director of sales for the Palms, pointing out in particular that the property’s Center Bar will be getting a makeover. “When incentive groups want to meet at the Palms, they say, ‘let’s meet at the Center Bar.’ Now that’s going to be renovated with a new look and new vibe.”

It will also be expanding its culinary options with the new Heraea sports-themed restaurant and lounge, where groups can watch a game or hold a reception in a chic, high-energy atmosphere. 

“The one thing we were missing was that casual, upscale environment to watch the game, then after the game it transitions into a nightlife scene,” says Thrasher.
Further renovations are expected over the coming years, though no specific decisions have been made about what’s next. 

Inside the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel is the new street-foods-inspired China Poblano restaurant from James Beard Award–winning chef José Andrés. Fusing Mexican and Chinese cuisine, this restaurant offers dishes like the Viva China taco (with Kumamoto oysters and Sichuan peppercorn sauce) or Huitlachoche noodles (combining Mexican corn truffle with knife-shaved noodles). This brightly colored venue is ideal for a casual lunch or cocktail reception, whether margaritas or Lychee Sours are being imbibed. 

Those more inclined to crack open a beer will want to stop in at the newly opened Public House, in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, which boasts more than 200 brews, not to mention some top-notch beer floats. Its small-plates menu showcases elevated pub grub like roasted bone marrow, foie gras parfait, and spiced pork rinds. The venue’s tagline, “United We Stand, Pint in Hand,” just about sums it up.

But one of the most significant new developments at Las Vegas is not on the Strip at all. On June 27, the new Terminal 3 opened at McCarren International Airport. After five years of construction and $2.4 billion invested, the 14-gate terminal will be serviced by 15 international air carriers as well as a handful of domestic ones. 

“It’s being called a game-changer for the meetings industry, especially when it comes to international travel,” says Riley. “It adds ease and convenience to getting in and out of Vegas, and was designed to not feel like an airport terminal — there’s great artwork by nationally known artists, the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ signs. Travelers know where they are when they come here.”