At long last, Las Vegas’ highly-anticipated CityCenter opened it doors this week to much fanfare. The $8.5 billion live/work/play mega-complex, located on 67 acres between Bellagio and Monte Carlo resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, is billed as the largest privately-funded project in the country and considered an enormous gamble for a city that’s been struggling to stay afloat since the recession hit.
CityCenter will celebrate a number of openings in December, culminating with one final grand opening celebration on Dec. 16. Vdara Hotel & Spa opened Dec. 1; Crystals, a 500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment district, opens today; Mandarin Oriental, a hotel plus residences, opens tomorrow; and ARIA Resort & Casino, a 61-story, 4,004-room gaming resort complete with a Cirque du Soleil Elvis tribute, debuts Dec. 16. Move-ins at Veer Towers, the development’s only strictly residential building, are slated to begin in mid-January; and The Harmon, a 400-room luxury boutique hotel, is scheduled to open in late 2010. Six of the facilities are LEED Gold-certified, including the Mandarin Oriental and Veer Towers.
“Jim [Murren, MGM MIRAGE’s CEO] and I know there has been much speculation as to the timing of Vdara, ARIA, and all of CityCenter for that matter,” Bobby Baldwin, CityCenter’s president and CEO, said at the ribbon-cutting on Dec. 1. “When we lit the fuse for CityCenter in 2004, almost five years ago, no one could predict the current economic environment. Mr. Murren and I are convinced that CityCenter will stand the test of time.” The development is a joint venture between MGM MIRAGE and Infinity World Development Corp., a subsidiary of Dubai World, which provided much-needed capital late in the game to bring the project to fruition.
The development opens at a precarious time, falling on the heels of MGM’s third-quarter net loss of $750.4 million, which is attributed in part due to failing hotel revenue at nine other MGM casino resorts and because the firm wrote down the value of CityCenter. Additionally, the project is $1.2 billion over budget.
Perhaps the biggest question is the fate of CityCenter’s residential component—2,400 condo units spread throughout Veer Towers and every lodging property but ARIA and Harmon. MGM announced a 30 percent reduction in price in October after a number of buyers threatened to sue because of the property’s drop in value. Studios that once sold for $500,000 have dropped to $350,000, according to MGM spokesperson Jenn Michaels.