Hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into meeting-space projects

Ernest Stovall, MGM Grand vice president of sales, outside the new MGM Grand Conference Center.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s massive $935 million expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center has been well-documented, but it’s not the only event-space project around town. Other high-profile efforts along the Strip have been popping up.

One of the most notable is MGM Resorts International’s MGM Grand Conference Center, a $130 million effort that added 250,000 square feet to what was already a 600,000-square-foot facility. MGM officials announced its completion in late February.

“With our expansion, we provide our convention customers an enhanced meeting experience with options,” said Ernest Stovall, vice president of sales for MGM Grand. “I’m proud that many of our clients consider MGM Grand their home in Las Vegas, and I look forward to sharing our new look and feel.”

Features include an open-air courtyard, four main ballrooms—including the nearly 47,000-square-foot Chairman’s Ballroom—and four additional “junior” ballrooms.

Other MGM properties, including Mandalay Bay, Aria and Park MGM, have also had meeting-space expansions in recent years.

In fact, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center—which expanded by 350,000 square feet to a total of about 2 million square feet in 2015—is one of the largest meeting and exhibit facilities in the country.

It’s all part of an aggressive effort by MGM to further penetrate the events business.

“The interest in Las Vegas, and specifically MGM Resorts destinations, has been tremendous,” said Michael Dominguez, chief sales officer for MGM Resorts. “The increased demand for space compelled us to develop more robust and creative meeting options throughout our portfolio, including the new offerings at MGM Grand.”

Not to be outdone, Wynn Resorts is adding a 400,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and Caesars Entertainment Corp. is working on a $375 million conference facility near the Linq, called Caesars Forum.

“We’ve seen strong demand from meeting planners looking for the high-touch service and personalized meeting experiences that we’re known for,” said Chris Flatt, executive vice president for hotel sales and marketing at Wynn Las Vegas. “Our convention expansion will allow us to reach a new level of guest experience through the combination of the latest technology, exquisite decor and stunning views of our golf course.

Flatt said the company has had positive responses from planners who have previewed the convention space. It’s expected to open late this year or in early 2020.

Expected to be finished next year, Caesars Forum will feature a total of 550,000 square feet of space with two 110,000-square-foot ballrooms. According to the company, they will be the two largest pillar-less ballrooms on the planet.

More than 500,000 room nights have already been booked for the under-construction facility, along with $150 million worth of conferences, according to Caesars.

“Caesars Forum redefines meetings and events offerings in Las Vegas,” said Lisa Messina, Caesars Entertainment’s vice president of sales. “It will ultimately be a gateway to the brand’s unmatched network of exclusive features that our guests and groups have come to expect.”

When complete, Caesars Forum will provide access via skywalk to the Linq and Harrah’s Las Vegas. It will also feature a large outdoor plaza for events ranging from concerts to private cocktail parties.

As for the LVCVA and its 1.4 million-square-foot expansion construction—which will include an additional 600,000 square feet of exhibition space and is expected to be finished early in 2021—the goal is remain the top destination when it comes to convention offerings.

For 24 years, Las Vegas has reigned as Trade Show News Network’s top trade show destination. According to the network, Las Vegas hosted 47 trade show events in 2017, nearly double that of its nearest competitor, Orlando, Florida.

LVCVA CEO Steve Hill wants to make sure it stays that way.

At a recent real estate talk, Hill said that it’s important that an oversight committee—appointed by former Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2017—is made up largely of gaming industry executives, a segment that has a lot of experience in attracting groups.

While certain gaming firm properties might in some ways compete with the Las Vegas Convention Center, Hill said the arrangement has worked well.

“The gaming industry wanted to make sure that their expertise in building facilities of this size was lent to the project,” Hill said. “It’s a very talented group of people, and they’ve been remarkably helpful.”


This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.