Published Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009 | 10:44 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 | 9:06 a.m.
MGM Mirage and Dubai World executives on Tuesday marked the unveiling of the first phase of their CityCenter project — Vdara — giving invited guests and media a glimpse inside the first completed property at the urban metropolis.
The non-gaming, 1,495-room hotel marks the first of CityCenter’s openings, with Crystals and Mandarin Oriental opening their doors later this week.
Bobby Baldwin, CityCenter's president and chief executive officer, said CityCenter would perform well despite the downturn in the economy.
“Jim (Murren, MGM Mirage's chief executive officer) and I know there has been much speculation as to the timing of Vdara, Aria and all of CityCenter for that matter,” Baldwin said during a morning news conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony. “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."
Murren acknowledged shareholders, board members and Perini Building Co. representatives in the crowd, thanking them for their commitment to the project.
“We didn’t think that we need to build just another resort,” Murren said. “What we thought we could do instead was create an environment … something that people had never seen before. We didn’t want to create something better than what exists today; we wanted to create something different.”
Employees in freshly pressed uniforms held doors open to the new property, greeting invited guests with culinary samplings and drinks from Vdara’s restaurant, Silk Road.
“Our employees are so enthusiastic and so excited. Everyone is just really happy to have people in the property for the first time,” Vdara General Manager Angela Lester said.
Employees, such as Delores Witherspoon, reflected Lester’s sentiments. Witherspoon, a newly employed security officer at Vdara, said starting at the hotel is like driving a new car for the first time.
Witherspoon, who was unemployed before starting at Vdara, said the lapse in work was a blessing because of the time she got to spend with her ailing grandmother.
“Even though I lost my grandmother, I feel like I gained a family here,” Witherspoon said. “If I am ever having a bad day, I feel like I can come to work to be cheered up.”
Vdara partnered with Vanity Fair for its private grand opening celebration Tuesday night with appearances by actor Orlando Bloom, actress Rosario Dawson and photographer and environmentalist Sebastian Copeland.
Vdara will welcome its first public guests Wednesday evening.
“When we first built Vdara, we weren’t sure how the response would be from the public since it’s a non-gaming, non-smoking hotel,” Lester said “People love the fact that it’s connected to Bellagio and on the north side of Aria so we kind of have the best of both worlds.”
The hotel’s suites come in one- or two-bedroom variations, ranging from 500 square feet to 2,000 square feet, each featuring gourmet kitchens and washer and dryer units.
The suites are more like a loft apartment than a hotel room. Pots and pans sit on stoves in a gourmet kitchen filled with stainless steel appliances with kitchen tables set to the side. Panoramic views of the Strip are seen from the hotel’s 250 corner suites.
Rooms are designed in dark browns and greens, a further representation of CityCenter’s “green” commitment, MGM Mirage spokesman Scott Ghertner said.
Silk Road will be Vdara’s only full service restaurant, serving Mediterranean cuisine around the clock. Other amenities at Vdara include an 18,000-square-foot spa and salon, and 110,000-square feet of meeting space.
Like most of CityCenter, Vdara will house art integrated throughout the hotel, including works from Nancy Rubins, Frank Stella and Peter Wegner.
Following Vdara’s opening will be the unveiling of the high-end retail and entertainment district Crystals on Thursday, then the opening of Mandarin Oriental will be Friday.
CityCenter’s crowning jewel and only gaming property — the 4,004-room Aria resort — will round out the month with a Dec. 16 opening. Residential occupancies at Veer Towers will begin January 2010 while the Harmon will open in late 2010.
Murren, who was behind almost every detail at CityCenter, said he finds the complex difficult to put into words -- even as often as he is asked.
"I'm often asked to explain what CityCenter is," Murren said Tuesday, "but some moments are so great that they need to be experienced, not explained."
Vdara Hotel & Spa is an internationally inspired all-suite hotel and spa designed for those who love the excitement of Las Vegas but prefer to enjoy it in an exclusive, non-gaming, smoke-free setting.
The holistic spa, luxurious pool and intimate meeting space combined with a sophisticated vibe at Bar Vdara and a casual eatery and marketplace at Market Café create a warm and inviting environment within this AAA Four Diamond hotel.
Located between ARIA Resort & Casino and Bellagio, Vdara offers access to all of the entertainment, gaming, shopping, dining and nightlife at CityCenter and in Las Vegas, while also providing a retreat from it all.