When I first moved to Las Vegas in 2001, there were more construction cranes in the Las Vegas skyline than anywhere else in the western hemisphere. Seriously! Many other cities were complaining that they could not get major construction projects in their cities started because nobody could find building cranes. Sheldon Adelson was building the Venetian, he was smart, he bought the cranes because he knew he was not finished building in Las Vegas.
In 2007, the Boyd Gaming group decided they wanted to join the building boom as well as the luxury resort market by imploding the historic Stardust with plans to replace it with Echelon Place. This would be a multi-use project with a 140,000 sq ft casino, 4 hotels providing 5,300 rooms, 25 restaurants and bars, and the 650,000 sq ft Las Vegas ExpoCenter. After the implosion, they started to build the foundation for several of the hotel towers before the international economy crashed and all the Vegas cranes went silent.
The ghostly structures sat quietly waiting for Boyd to get the money and for the markets to rebound enough to restart the project. In March 2013, Boyd sold the Echelon site for $350 million to the Genting Group, a Malaysia-based gaming company with plans to build an Asian resort complex to complement their other international gaming properties. They had the money, the experience and the desire to see it happen.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place on May 5, 2015, with an expected opening date of mid-2018. Planned features include a panda exhibit and an indoor waterpark. The completed 21,847,314-square-foot project will eventually include four towers totaling 6,583 rooms and could cost up to $7 billion. (yes, that’s with a “B”)
And Again, Vegas Waited
After the groundbreaking, not much happened. They continued to move piles of dirt around, gave the parking structure a new coat of paint and send out press releases telling us of the plans. But nothing credible was taking place on the site. Last fall, some permits to lay pipe and run electrical lines were approved by the county. We were all wondering if this was another scheme to make it pretty then sell it as what was happening across the street where an empty landmass sits where the New Frontier once stood.
Wonder No More!
Now we see six huge construction cranes are in place and all look active. These things aren’t cheap and the people who work them don’t work for minimum wage. So we know this means business. And Vegas loves the construction business. With this, the Las Vegas Stadium and a couple of other smaller construction projects happening along the Strip, things are coming back to life and money is now flowing back into the Las Vegas economy big time.
Reports put the first tower opening in about 18 months. The Genting company is actually more focused on tourism than on gaming. They have plenty of successful; experience in both, so no worry there. But it’s the fact that they are so tourism-related and building such a large resort, that it is matching the changing demographics of the average Vegas Tourist. Less about gambling and more on the overall experience.
They will have a pretty good-sized gaming floor at 100,000 sq ft gaming area that will reflect the theme of the resort. The gaming floor will be dominated by baccarat table games. But gaming will not be the center of their guest’s world. No word on the once rumored Panda Exhibit.
Look for over 1,000 construction jobs being created then over 3,000 people to work what they said will be a very technology-driven resort when it opens in around 2020. About the same time as the Las Vegas Stadium opens.