Published Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 8:51 a.m.
Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 8:36 p.m.
The Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas announced a $66 million expansion project that will boost its convention center from the seventh-largest to the fifth-largest in the United States.
Hotel officials said Thursday that the 350,000 square feet of new exhibit space and extra underground parking will help it attract larger trade shows, and will allow conferences already there to expand.
"One of the real strengths of the recovery is in meetings," Mandalay Bay President and COO Chuck Bowling told The Associated Press. "We have pent up demand for growing our shows."
The convention center will encompass 2 million total square feet after the expansion, putting it behind only McCormick Place in Chicago, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo, also in Las Vegas.
Construction at Mandalay Bay, which is owned by MGM Resorts International, is scheduled to begin in late fall of this year. Some new spaces will open in August 2015, and the full project is expected to wrap up in January 2016.
The Trade Show News Network recently named Las Vegas the No. 1 trade show destination in the U.S. for the 20th year in a row. The city hosted 53 of the nation's 250 largest trade shows last year, more than any other U.S. city.
Tourism officials are backing efforts to hold the distinction, such as a $2.5 billion Las Vegas Global Business District project that includes revamping the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Las Vegas is also in the running for both the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2016.
"This is not necessarily targeted to that, but it speaks to how we can do something as important as the Republican National Convention or Democratic National Convention," Bowling said of the expansion.