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Sandoval ‘absolutely confident’ in progress at Resorts World Las Vegas

Groundbreaking of Resorts World Las Vegas

L.E. Baskow

Malaysia-based Genting Group CEO K.T. Lim chats with Gov. Brian Sandoval as they and others receive scrolls from lion dancers before breaking ground on the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Updated Wednesday, May 6, 2015 | 2:36 p.m.

Groundbreaking of Resorts World

The Malaysia-based Genting Group breaks ground on the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas joined by Gov. Brian Sandoval and Clark County officials on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. Launch slideshow »

Genting Group Announces Resorts World Las Vegas

An artist's illustration of the new Resorts World Las Vegas is displayed during a news conference at Steelman Design Monday, March 4, 2013. The Genting Group announced plans for Resorts World Las Vegas, a multi-billion dollar resort to be built on the site of the stalled Echelon project. Launch slideshow »

The Kats Report Bureau has been canvassing the scene to great response, covering the final night at the Riv, the groundbreaking at Resorts World Las Vegas and the run-up to Rock in Rio USA.

All of this activity has taken place on the northern end of the Strip, where darkened parcels are becoming animated with development or plans for such. The last time I’d stepped on the Resorts World site was the night of the implosion of the Stardust on March 13, 2007.

That was a wild night. Propelled by a sudden gust of wind, the plume of smoke and dust from the resort’s destruction descended on the cluster of media types amassed at the south end of the property. Everyone scrambled to their vehicles and fled the scene or risk being covered in Stardust soot, which covered many of the cars on the site as they sped away.

During Tuesday’s groundbreaking on that property stood the skeletal frame of Echelon, the resort Boyd Gaming was building in the place of the Stardust before suspending work on the project in 2008. That structure is to be incorporated in the Resorts World project, which is to be a towering fortress similar in scope to Wynn and Encore across the Strip.

At the groundbreaking, among the stream of dignitaries addressing the packed VIP tent was Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who referred to Resorts World Las Vegas as “a jewel in the desert.”

Decades ago, a groundbreaking Strip hotel was deemed just that: The Sahara, now SLS Las Vegas. Everyone on hand welcomed a new addition to our jewel box.

More from the groundbreaking scene:

• Gov. Brian Sandoval has been aware of the skepticism about plans for Resorts World Las Vegas, as original plans were for construction to begin last year. He said that he was eager to grab one of the ceremonial golden shovels to finally break ground on the $4 billion project.

Standing in a tent lined with images of the resort, the governor said he expected those wondrous renderings to come to life when the resort opens over the next three years — even as no specific timeline has been announced. Reportedly, the project is to open in phases beginning in 2018.

The first phase planned is the completion of the 3,500-foot main tower, but, again, nothing concrete — announcement-wise or otherwise — has been issued in terms of the “when” of it all.

Which matters little to our governor.

“I am absolutely confident. Actions speak louder than words, and here we are,” Sandoval said before taking the podium at Tuesday’s ceremony. “This was a property that was, unfortunately, an unfulfilled dream.

“We’re now going to have a world-class property from a world-class company. … I have every confidence in Resorts World that they are going to build something from around the planet that people are going to come to see.”

Sandoval went on to note the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s takeover of the Riviera site as part of its $2.3 billion Las Vegas Global Business District, and also the development of MGM Resorts Festival Grounds on the southwest corner of the Strip and Sahara Avenue.

“It’s an amazing amount of momentum for us,” the governor said. “Rock in Rio is a great development for all of us. The LVCVA expansion will be a once-in-a-lifetime destination once they are finished. This is a great time for the north end of the Strip, no question.”

• Those who spoke from the podium at Tuesday’s event included Sandoval, Genting Group CEO K.T. Lim, County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani (whose district covers the northern stretch of the Strip), Hutchinson, and longtime Las Vegas political operative and communications exec Sig Rogich. His company, Rogich Communications, is handling media relations for the Genting Group in Las Vegas, and Rogich handled the introductions.

Some of the noteworthy folks in the room who did not address the audience were Steve and Elaine Wynn, LVCVA chief Rossi Ralenkotter, County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, longtime Las Vegas entertainment attorney Mark Tratos, Smith Center for the Performing Arts President Myron Martin, Smith Center Chairman Don Snyder, UNLV President Len Jessup, and officials from Live Nation and Westgate Las Vegas.

The event marked the groundbreaking of what will be the first ground-up resort on the Strip since the Cosmopolitan opened in December 2010.

• The hourlong event featured an Asian-tinged entertainment presentation filled with Taiko drums and acrobats dressed as dragons leaping from pillar to post. One of the great questions about Resorts World is how it will book the 4,000-capacity theater, which (at least in terms of size) would compete with the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, Pearl at the Palms, Brooklyn Bowl, the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan, the Colosseum at Caesars Palace and Axis at Planet Hollywood.

But that theater is reportedly not part of the first phase of the resort, leaving a lot of planning ahead for how it will fit into the new project and, in a larger context, the Strip entertainment scene. Maybe an Asian-themed production show, fitting in with the design of the resort, which is to include a replica Great Wall of China (fitting nicely with the replica Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty to the south) cutting through the property and red-topped, pagoda-style buildings replete with tea gardens and a water park and, yes, the oft-reported panda habitat.

Put it this way: The preliminary vibe at Resorts World Las Vegas does not hint to much of any amenity or attraction that is not Asian-themed. This is a genuine Asian experience.

• Lest we forget, the original Echelon Place plans included a hotel with a familiar name: Delano. Echelon was to be an 87-acre complex with four hotel towers, one operated by Boyd and three others — the Delano, Shangri-La and Mondrian — in partnership with outside companies. Delano, of course, is now linked to Mandalay Bay in a partnership with MGM Resorts.

• Ralenkotter, a big Beatles fan, said he was “thrilled” to finally meet Ringo Starr. The two met at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign on March 15, declared “Ringo Starr Day” by the LVCVA. Ringo, who later performed a tour-ending show with his All-Starr Band at Pearl at the Palms, presented Ralenkotter with a pair of drumsticks. “Now all I need is a set of drums,” Ralenkotter said.

• Lim, incidentally, is a regular Las Vegas visitor and is known to stay at Wynn Las Vegas during his trips to the Strip. He’s a Las Vegas customer, too.

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