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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

First CityCenter property opens on Strip

1 December 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- And so it begins.

When the nearly 1,500-room nongaming Vdara hotel welcomes its first paying customers late tonight, the $8.5 billion CityCenter development moves into its operation mode.

Finally.

The Strip project will open in phases this month after more than five years of development and construction. The 500,000-square-foot Crystals opens Thursday, and the 392-room Mandarin Oriental opens to customers Saturday. Aria, CityCenter's centerpiece 4,004-room hotel-casino, opens Dec. 16.

For now, Vdara commands the attention.

Aria President Bill McBeath, who also oversees the operation of Vdara for MGM Mirage, said the hotel is a separate brand from the nearby hotel-casino, which is easily reached by a short walk. And Vdara is about 100 feet from the entrance to Bellagio's south tower via a pedestrian walkway.

"It was designed to complement Aria, not operate as an extension of Aria," McBeath said. "It has its own style, own flavor and its own personality. We really believe the Vdara brand is going to be the sleeper of CityCenter."

The 57-story Vdara, designed by RV Architecture, which is led by Rafael Viñoly, has 1,495 suites, all with fully equipped kitchens. The units include deluxe suites and one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 500 to 1,650 square feet. There are also penthouse units and 250 corner-end suites with panoramic views.

Nightly rates at Vdara are expected to range from $159 to $2,000.

Vdara is a condominium hotel, which means the units can be bought and then placed into a rental program in which they can be leased as hotel rooms when not in use by the owners. The owners and MGM Mirage would share in the revenues produced by the units.

McBeath did not say how many of Vdara's units are under contract with potential buyers, but those under contract will not be used as hotel rooms. Condominium sales closings at Vdara aren't expected to start until March.

The plan, he said, is to have 600 units available by New Year's Eve with more to open as a need exists.

He said Vdara was built for customers who want the benefits of a casino, without the noise, volumes of people and the energy a casino often provides.

"I think there is some overlap with Aria," McBeath said. "The target demographic in terms of age is very similar."

Vdara will have a signature restaurant, Silk Road, created by chef Martin Heierling, who developed Bellagio's Sensi restaurant. Bar Vdara is in the hotel's center lobby. Vdara also has an 18,000-square-foot spa, 10,000 square feet of meeting space and a 40,000-square-foot pool deck.

McBeath said Las Vegas has a growing customer base that wants a nongaming option.

"Vdara is marketed and branded as everything Las Vegas has to offer, and everything it doesn't," he said. "All you have to do is walk across to Aria or Bellagio. Then you can come back and escape from being in a casino."