The New Vegas

Aria Resort & Casino will be the focal point of MGM Mirage’s $8 billion city within a city, CityCenter

By: By Michael Lowe

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View an exclusive photo tour of Las Vegas CityCenter conceptual renderings

I don’t do Vegas.” Or at least that’s what award-winning architect Cesar Pelli said when asked to design MGM Mirage’s latest marvel, the Aria Resort & Casino. Fortunately, MGM Mirage didn’t want him to “do Vegas.” They were looking to create an unconventional and unparalleled resort that the city of Las Vegas had never seen before, and Pelli, most famous for his Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, was the right designer to achieve that vision. Now, after three years of work, the vision is nearly realized.

 Aria’s pool. // © MGM Mirage
Aria’s pool

Still in development and preparation for its grand opening, Aria Resort & Casino will be the focal point of MGM Mirage’s $8 billion city within a city, CityCenter, located between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo. A 61-story high-rise, complete with 4,004 rooms (including 568 suites), Aria Resort & Casino just might attract gawkers to the Strip, mesmerized by the new skyline — two sleek, curvilinear glass and steel towers peering over CityCenter’s four residential towers.

“Aria is going to look dramatically different,” explained Gail Fitzgerald, vice president of hotel sales and marketing for Aria Resort & Casino. “As Bellagio is traditional elegance, Aria is contemporary sophistication.”

Set to open for individual room reservations in February 2009, the new resort will feature panoramic glass windows that filter in natural light, and a three-story lobby and casino. Inside, dark woods and contemporary decor will accompany dramatic color schemes, textures and materials.

Although Fitzgerald was unable to disclose guestroom specifics at press time, she mentioned that the rooms will keep up with the contemporary design of the building and will feature advanced technology.

Floor-to-ceiling windows are protected by specially designed panels that let light in but heat out, and from what Fitzgerald said, the HD flat-panel plasma TVs and state-of-the-art remote systems won’t be the only technological highlight to Aria Resort & Casino’s rooms.

“We have a company designing specific technology for the sole purpose of these hotel rooms,” Fitzgerald said.

Aria boasts an 80,000-square-foot spa and salon, equipped with just about everything. Guests will find eucalyptus steam rooms, redwood saunas, over 100 treatment rooms and a lounge area with a smoothie bar.

Keeping up with Las Vegas’ entertainment expectations, the resort will be home to the much-anticipated fusion of Cirque de Soleil and Elvis Presley Enterprises. Live musicians and singers, projections and the latest multimedia sound and lighting will accompany the circus and acrobat troupe known for past Las Vegas shows “O” and “Mystere.” The new, Elvis-themed show will be set to the timeless rock-and-roll music of The King himself.

Clients more interested in the quieter side of the arts will find comfort in the tens of millions of dollars that MGM Mirage invested in fine art. From sculptures and paintings to larger installations, such as Maya Lin’s 133-foot silver cast of the Colorado River (featured in Aria’s main reception area), walking through the CityCenter will be like taking a stroll through Las Vegas’ newest art gallery.

“The best part about our art program is that it isn’t something you have to pay to see,” said Fitzgerald. “We have $40 million in artwork throughout our entire complex for free viewing.”

Featured artists include Nancy Rubins, Frank Stella and Henry Moore among others.

Perhaps the most innovative characteristic about the project is its environmental consciousness. At 18-million-square feet, the CityCenter and Aria Resort & Casino will secure the resort as one of the largest environmentally sustainable urban communities in the world.

“From the development stage, it was MGM Mirage’s decision to build a LEED-certified resort,” Fitzgerald said.

Once completed, Aria will be the single largest building in the U.S. to earn a Silver LEED certification, the second level of sustainability out of four.

“Down the road, as more people embrace these new technologies, it’s going to be more important for us to be aware of the environment,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s getting to the point where people want to see what we’re doing because they want to feel good about the places they’re going. They want to make sure there is a consciousness.”

Eighty percent of the imploded Boardwalk Hotel — which previously occupied CityCenter’s location — is being recycled into this project or sent somewhere else for use. Blocks and mortar are being crushed and used as aggregate in concrete and asphalt and bathroom fixtures were shipped to other countries for further use.

CityCenter’s commitment to the environment will be the equivalent of removing more than 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the road for one year, according to Fitzgerald.

“Las Vegas has reinvented itself a number of times and we believe that Aria will be another one of those times,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s definitely something very different for Vegas.”

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