They bought the Riviera and then tore it down. With good reason. A city that is booming with record-high convention business—and the only convention center in the US with a designated World Trade Center—needs to stretch its legs every once in a while.
The fall of the iconic Riviera Hotel and Casino, the first high-rise to hit the Strip and one of the only remaining casinos from the city’s infamous mob days, marks the steady rise of Las Vegas as a formidable meetings and conventions destination. The demolition of the building by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) opened up 26 acres to a new Las Vegas Convention Center District project that will add 600,000 sf of exhibit and meeting space, as well as design and tech modernizations to the existing center. That pretty much makes the Riviera’s last leg the cornerstone to an estimated $800 million in annual revenue that the district will funnel into the city.
We were in town during this year’s World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) General Assembly, along with 300 other attendees representing 90 WTA’s worldwide, to experience the impact of Vegas conventions firsthand. “More than 30,000 jobs are dependent on the Las Vegas Convention Center,” explained Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA, during a morning session at the convention center. “Every dollar spent generates $12 dollars back.” For the record, MICE business generates more than $12 billion into Vegas annually.
Along with a diverse set of keynotes that highlighted everything from the importance of innovation (“If things don’t change there’s no reason to get together—no reason for trade shows. Without innovation, there’s no reason to meet…”) to the necessity of immigrants (“The rhetoric does not represent us…”), the World Trade Center Las Vegas and World Trade Center Santiago signed a Memorandum of Understanding, underscoring their mutual commitment to build deeper international business relationships. “We’re using business tourism to connect the dots between Las Vegas and global business partners,” said LVCVA’s VP of Global Business Sales, Chris Meyer.
For a city that offers planners more than 11 million sf of formal meeting space, the phrase “experiential meeting space” was a unifying theme around town—whether a meeting next to an outdoor waterfall at the Wynn or a speakeasy vibe at the Cosmopolitan. Walking trees and dancing shrubs greeted us during a welcome reception at Paris Las Vegas, while Gordon Ramsay’s Steak took experiential dining to a whole new level (even for this vegan).
Amidst Vegas’ neon lights and larger-than-life persona, there was also much ado surrounding the forthcoming arrival of NHL and NFL teams, the Vegas Golden Knights and the Oakland Raiders, and the synergy that national and international sports convention groups will undoubtedly find. The Raiders are getting a shiny new stadium at a yet-to-be-determined location.
Until then, the steady inflow of meetings, conventions and exhibitions will continue to spur non-gaming growth throughout the city, giving this iconic desert city a new reason to twinkle.