Gambling on Growth

Expansion is the next big thing on Vegas’ horizon

By: Kathy Espin

Las Vegas grows in stages. Although, the resort market never stops, it seems to swing from one stage to the next.

For a while, it seems everyone holds their breath, waiting for the latest blockbuster resort to open its doors. Next comes a wave of expansion and upgrading. Since the highly anticipated Wynn Las Vegas opened in April, Las Vegas is now in expansion mode.

The Grandeur of Rome
On Aug. 12, Caesars Palace opened the new Augustus Tower. The decor in the 949-room tower puts a modern twist on Caesars’ Roman theme. A massive new lobby is bedecked with mosaics, tapestries and lots of marble and inlaid wood.

“This is the lobby we’ve been waiting 32 years for,” said long- time Caesars spokeswoman Debbie Munch.

The new tower features three wedding chapels and two new restaurants. Soon to come will be a new 35,000-square-foot spa.

The lobby has a VIP reception lounge. Down the hall is a separate lobby and lounge for high-roller casino guests. It has its own entrance and porte cochere.

A new restaurant in the tower will be headed by and named for Guy Savoy, an acclaimed Michelin three-star chef whose Paris restaurant is ranked among the finest in the world.

Regular rooms have nine-foot ceilings and are 650 square feet, making them some of the largest in Las Vegas. Each room has an extra large bath with a spa tub, televisions and phones by the toilet.

The Augustus Tower is the finishing touch on an expansion and renovation project that has been ongoing for seven years, according to Munch. The project has included an expansion of the Forum Shops, the addition of the Roman Plaza outdoor facility, the opening of the Colosseum where singer Celine Dion performs, expanded meeting and convention space and the renovation of more than 600 rooms plus several new restaurants.

Standard rooms in Augustus Tower start at $220 per night.

A Boutique Look
MGM’s project can’t really be called an expansion because it involves the revamping of an existing section of the MGM Grand but, in a way, it can because the results of the remodel are so dynamic, clients may feel they are in a new hotel.

People may recall that when the MGM Grand was built in 1993, it replaced the old Marina Hotel. The majority of the existing building was torn down except for one tower. That newer facility was left intact and the MGM Grand was built around it. The existing rooms were completely remodeled but they are smaller than the rest of the room inventory.

A recent facelift has taken that part of the hotel and created a boutique-type hotel within the MGM. The new look has a completely different feel and a highly creative use of space.

Design firm Yabu Pushelberg took some unusual approaches to hotel room design with dynamic results. The bathroom area has been opened up with celadon frosted glass. A sink, countertop and shelving are in an open area that gives the illusion of a large bath. A small flat-screen TV is built into the mirror to save space.

Glass and mirrors in the bedroom add to the illusion of more space and the king bed has been moved to the outside wall under the window opening up the floor space. The result is a small room that looks big.

The area has now been dubbed the West Wing because of its location on the west side of the hotel. It does not have a separate check-in but does have a separate elevator located next to the West Wing Lounge, a quiet bar done in the same modern style. The lobby area also includes the Boutique West Wing, a gift and sundry store.

West Wing rooms are part of the regular room inventory but agents may request them for clients. If a bathtub is required, clients might want to request other accommodations.

Room rates at the MGM Grand vary but range from $109 to $499.
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Still to Come
The Las Vegas Sands has begun construction on a 3,050-room hotel right next to the existing Venetian Resort and Casino. The Palazzo Casino Resort is scheduled to open in mid 2007.

Before Wynn Las Vegas opened to the public in April, ground was broken on a half-billion-dollar expansion to the resort. The new tower will add 1,300 suites to the hotel.

Just off the Strip, the Palms Resort is building a $600 million expansion that will add 347 rooms and almost 600 condo units to the hotel inventory when owners aren’t using them.

A similar project combining hotels and condo units has been announced at the Hard Rock Hotel. The $1 billion project is set for completion in August 2007.

With the opening of Wynn Las Vegas, Las Vegas has approximately 134,000 hotel and motel rooms, a 46 percent increase since 1995, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. While the existing properties take time to regroup, the next explosion is around the corner.
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