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The Strip:

Resorts World, off to ceremonial start, vies for theme of authenticity

Groundbreaking of Resorts World Las Vegas

L.E. Baskow

Members of the Resorts World and White Crane Lion Dancers welcome guests as the Malaysia-based Genting Group prepares to break ground on the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas property on Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Updated Tuesday, May 5, 2015 | 7:25 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 »

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A rendering of Resorts World Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

A rendering of Resorts World Las Vegas.

Resorts World Las Vegas' Chinese theme isn't just for tourists — it should be appealing to Chinese citizens, too.

At least that’s what executives affiliated with the $4 billion upscale project on the north Strip sought to impress at a Tuesday groundbreaking event.

Malaysia-based Genting Group is building Resorts World on the site once home to the Stardust, then the scrapped Echelon project. It’s expected open in 2018.

Genting CEO K.T. Lim stressed in a speech that the property will pay tribute to the diversity of real Chinese life. He said it will be known in Chinese as “Genting’s World of China,” and that it aims to highlight the country’s 34 administrative regions and its 56 minority ethnic groups.

“To have the ability to experience the authentic history, culture and cuisine of China in Las Vegas, within a few hours’ flight from all U.S. cities, will provide yet another compelling reason to visit or to revisit Las Vegas,” Lim said. “And it will not be just old China that visitors will see, but also the vibrant new China — a true representation of the importance of this ongoing and ever-growing relationship across the Pacific in this century.”

Lim’s point was underscored by a traditional Chinese lion dance performance that followed his remarks.

In an interview after the ceremony, architect Paul Steelman echoed Lim’s comments about authenticity.

“It’s a Chinese-themed resort, but it’s not a themed resort in the sense that we’re sitting around trying to copy Tiananmen Square and make it a dusty old replica,” he said. “It’s not a fully-themed, over-the-top kind of thing where we’re trying to copy every single thing in China.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval and several other public officials joined Lim at the groundbreaking to usher in the ceremonial start of construction on the project. The event marked the most significant progress on Resorts World since it was first announced more than two years ago.

“This is a day that we’ve been waiting for for a very long time,” Sandoval said in his speech.

Sandoval and others highlighted the economic impact of Resorts World, which officials expect to support more than 13,000 direct and indirect jobs once it opens.

Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison called Resorts World a “magnificent addition” to Nevada’s dominant tourism industry, and said in his speech that it will be a “jewel in the desert.”

Other prominent people who participated in Tuesday’s ceremony included Rep. Cresent Hardy and Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani. Even Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn was in the audience.

In addition to speeches and performances, Tuesday’s carefully choreographed groundbreaking included the requisite ceremonial dirt-shoveling to mark the advancement of the project.

But the scene was distinguished by elements unique to the Resorts World project: The dirt-shovelers were flanked by lion dancers, and they stood by the concrete remains of what almost became Echelon.

After imploding the Stardust on the site in 2007, Boyd Gaming started to construct Echelon, only to halt it later as the recession took its toll on Las Vegas. It sold the site to Genting in 2013.

Resorts World had shown few public signs of progress over the last two years. Now, it’s moving forward amid a surge of activity on the north Strip.

Across the street, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has plans to demolish the Riviera, which closed at noon Monday, and replace it with more convention space. And just down Las Vegas Boulevard, a group including Australian billionaire James Packer and former Wynn Resorts executive Andrew Pascal revealed plans last year to build a resort on the site of the former New Frontier.

A little bit north, MGM Resorts International is about to debut a new festival grounds in time to host Rock in Rio USA. Across the street from that, SLS Las Vegas opened in the shell of the old Sahara last fall.

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