Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The ground didn’t shake in a literal sense Monday when dignitaries met near Las Vegas Boulevard and Elvis Presley Boulevard to official launch the second phase of the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion project. After all, the ceremony only involved nine shovels going into the ground.
But make no mistake, it was a thunderous moment for the Southern Nevada economy.
The expansion, which will enlarge the convention center by 1.4 million square feet and will give it streetside space along Las Vegas Boulevard, will help the city continue to beat back intense competition for convention business from around the globe.
That’s critical for Las Vegas, as conventions are a cornerstone of our economic vitality. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported that in 2016, the last full year for which statistics were available, conventions supported 54,800 jobs paying $2.3 billion in compensation in Las Vegas.
The convention center, which annually brings in a little over 20 percent of all of the city’s conventions, was overdue for an expansion. Convention organizers had been demanding more space and amenities, and competing communities had invested in their convention centers in a bid to lure visitors away from Las Vegas and other cities.
But the recession threw a wrench in the works, and Las Vegas had to mark time while the economy recovered.
So it was a cause for celebration to see those shovels go into the ground on Monday.
Credit goes to several industry, regional and state officials, with a big thumbs-up going to LVCVA chairman and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter for being a leading and longtime proponent of the project. The $1.4 billion project, of which phase two represents $860 million, is being funded by a half-cent increase in the city’s tax on hotel rooms, approved by the Nevada Legislature in 2016.
Phase one involved the purchase and implosion of the Riviera resort, and phase three will result in the renovation and upgrade of the existing convention center facilities.
Officials project that the expanded and upgraded convention center will bring in an additional 600,000 visitors to Las Vegas and will create 7,800 full-time jobs upon completion.
It also promises to help drive development along the north Strip, where construction on Genting Resorts World has swung into a higher gear and where the new owner of the Fontainebleau recently announced a plan to revive the abandoned resort.
Combined with several other convention center upgrades up and down the Strip, the expansion will allow Las Vegas to retain its position as a global power player in conventions.
The groundbreaking ceremony was a nice way to start 2018.