Nevada Development Booms into 2009

Elsewhere, the country’s moribund dollar and recessive real estate market is slowing development. But in Nevada, construction cranes are busy drawing a new line in the sand, working hard for a slew of 2009 openings. Hard hats aside, the numbers speak volumes: $1 billion-plus in financing for at least 10 ongoing Reno-Tahoe projects, plus a whopping $25 billion on the books through 2009 for Las Vegas.

That speaks to the ongoing attraction of these areas. “It’s a combination of gaming, dining and entertainment,” said Steve Walker, director of sales for the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, which itself is expected to complete a $680 million expansion and renovation by early 2010.“Our show managers find that attendees tend to stay longer [than in other destinations] on the show floor because they know that there are shows (at 7 and 10 p.m.) and that the hotel dining rooms tend to get busy around 9 p.m.” said Walker.

Recent ultraluxe properties include the Palms Place Condo Hotel and Spa (599 condo rooms; 50,000-sf spa), Trump International Hotel and Tower (1,232 suites; 24-carat gold glass exterior) and the $1.9 billion Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino (3,000 suites; 450,000 sf of retail). Encore Suites, Wynn Las Vegas’ $2.2 billion 2,000-room resort, is set to open this December.

Next year, the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a $2.9 billion, 63-story condo-hotel resort sporting roughly 3,800 rooms and is set to open in the fall. Included at the property: a 60,000-sf spa, 3,200-seat theatre, and posh dining and shopping a-plenty. Caesars Palace wraps a $1 billion expansion next year as well, led by the new 665-room Octavius Tower and a new 263,000-sf meeting and convention center.

Also coming in 2009, MGM Mirage’s new City Center, 76 acres and $9.2 billion worth of urban-style living. High-end (as in incentive and corporate meetings) is the operative word for a quartet of the center’s hotels—the 1,543-room Vdara, 675-room Veer Towers, 400-room Mandarin Oriental and 400- room Harmon Hotel, Spa & Residences. For larger meetings the main draw will be the ARIA Resort & Casino, a 61-story, 4,000-room resort with an 1,850-seat theatre and 300,000 sf of meeting space.

The $3.5 billion Grand Hyatt Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino, which includes 3,000 rooms and 140,000 sf of meeting space, makes its Strip debut in late 2009, while south of town, the $1 billion, 390-room M Resort is slated for a spring 2009 opening with 60,000 sf of meeting space and a 100,000-sf pool area.

While Las Vegas continues its growth spurt, it’s not alone in Nevada’s additions. To the north, the Reno-Lake Tahoe area is undergoing a boom too, led by several major new and renovated resorts.

Harvey’s Casino & Resort recently added a restaurant on the 19th floor that features a 180-degree view of the lake’s south shore. Meanwhile, the 1,635-room Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, in the midst of a $400 million renovation and expansion, typifies Reno’s attitude towards gaming growth, adding a new ballroom, spa and quadrupling its retail space.

“Our average demographic had been geared towards an older clientele and gambling, and we’re really moving to change that,” said Pat Flynn, the Peppermill’s executive director of hotel and sales. “We’re focusing more on group business and adding a lot of components that would be perceived as the ‘extra’ things to do while here in Reno.”

Atlantis Casino Resort Spa is finishing a $50 million facelift that will include a new executive boardroom, 14,000-sf Grand Ballroom, health spa and, by year’s end, a skybridge that connects with the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

Phase I of a $90 million redo is wrapping up at Reno’s 1,995-room Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, adding a non-smoking wine bar, leather furniture, and flat panel TVs to the 825 guest suites.

And with a nod, perhaps, to MGM Mirage’s City Center, a Lake Tahoe business consortium plans to turn the Tahoe Biltmore and former Mariner Hotel and Casino site, near Crystal Bay, into a resort community with hotels, meeting space, and a pedestrian village with shops and restaurants. Construction should begin by summer 2009.

Originally published July 7, 2008