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Las Vegas: Bouncing Back, Rolling Forward

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© Getty Images PHOTO: One of the hotel pools in Las Vegas. (photo via PiotrSurowiec/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

By Lark Ellen Gould, TravelPulse

Las Vegas, a city known for reinventing itself, has not shied away from this challenge over the past year. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) recently rechristened its ever-sticky tag, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas”—and, after a precipitous drop in visitor numbers in the aftermath of the deadly shooting rampage on the Strip, the city is getting back to business and going strong.

“Las Vegas is a thriving, vibrant city that never stops evolving; there is always something new in Las Vegas,” said Jacqueline Peterson, chief communications officer at the LVCVA. “While we have always been known as the Entertainment Capital of the world, in the past 10 years we have seen even more big-name entertainment in the destination. As new experiences like eSports and augmented and virtual reality have emerged, Las Vegas has embraced them and created experiences you simply can’t find anywhere else.”

In fact, 2017 was actually a pretty good year for Las Vegas, with 42.2 million people visiting, representing a 1.7 increase over 2016. Hotel occupancy for 2017 was 88.7 percent, a drop of 0.4 points compared to what it was in 2016.

Meanwhile, new projects are continuing to unfold. Plans are underway for an $860 million expansion project of the Las Vegas Convention Center, which will add 1.4 million square feet to the current convention center by January 2021. With those plans comes the possibility of a people mover to make the campus more accessible and viable for citywide sellouts.

On the hotel front, The Monte Carlo is being rebranded as Park MGM. The $450 million transformation will create two distinct hotel experiences: a Las Vegas version of Sydell Group’s New York- and Los Angeles-based NoMad Hotels and new luxury Park MGM.

The 2,700-room property abuts The Park and Toshiba Plaza, where an outdoor park-like setting enhances an outdoor entertainment and dining corridor. They lead to the 20,000-seat T-Mobile arena, which attracts big sporting events and top-name performers.

Clean lines will define the architecture of each space going forward and combine with classically inspired European furnishings and a robust art program, which is core to both the MGM and the Sydell Group. The NoMad Las Vegas will offer 292 guestrooms and suites inside Park MGM, with a dedicated drop-off, lobby and swimming pool, as well as NoMad gaming, and buzzworthy eating and drinking experiences.

Three new pool scenes will take the place of a former mini-waterpark. The new design channels the sun-drenched South of France, and includes an oversized heated spa, 12 cabanas, lounge areas and multiple bars serving bites and beverages.

A date has not yet been set for the rebranding grand opening. NoMad is expected to open on the upper four floors of Park MGM in late 2018. Park MGM began taking reservations on April 1.

In another remake, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will become a revitalized member of the Virgin Hotels Group in 2019. And there are continuous murmurs about the Fontainebleau finally making an appearance at the north end of the Strip, this time as a 4,000-room Marriott property called The Drew Las Vegas. The design plan has been described as a combination of The EDITION and JW Marriott brand, with a possible late 2020 opening.

The eSports Arena, a fanatically popular interactive sports entertainment and dining experience, opened in April at the Luxor Hotel & Casino, elevating Las Vegas as a leader on the global eSports stage. The 30,000-square-foot, multi-level arena is designed to host every form of competitive gaming, from daily play to high stakes eSports tournaments. It features a competition stage, 50-foot LED video wall, virtual reality platforms, telescopic seating, PC and console gaming stations and a network TV-quality production studio. A comprehensive menu by renowned chef José Andrés provides the space a sophisticated panache that could appeal to mainstream visitors.

Since the opening of the T-Mobile Arena in 2016, Las Vegas has become home to the NHL’s Golden Knights and has filled the arena with sizable crowds of pre-paid ticket holders. MGM Resorts acquired a WNBA team that will begin play here next year. In 2020 the city will become Las Vegas’ new home team—putting the city on the map as a serious sports town. The Raiders will play in the new $750 million stadium currently under construction at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip near Mandalay Bay and Interstate 15.

“Probably the biggest shift we have seen is that we are now a sports town, and this happened almost overnight,” said Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International. “This is a whole new demographic for us—and it has long been an important missing piece.”

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