After New Year’s, the next big show in Las Vegas is CES


Just as New Year’s Eve revelers begin rolling out of town after next week’s big party, their hotel rooms will be filled with thousands of people who will be gathering in Las Vegas for the 50th CES.

The convention and trade show that made Las Vegas its permanent home in 1978 is a carnival of technology where people get their first look at the gadgets that have become indispensible in our lives.

The public got their first looks at VCRs (remember them?), laser discs (what are those?) and big-screen televisions (some with curved screens!) at CES shows over the years.

This year will be the biggest CES ever with 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space. Most conventions and trade shows measure their success on how much real estate they can lease rather than by how many people show up. But CES is no slouch for attendance, the number that grabs Las Vegas’ attention, with somewhere between 165,000 and 175,000 people planning to be here Jan. 5-8.

The exhibit space for this year’s CES will be in record territory, thanks to the city’s tourism leaders anticipating growth not only for this show but for others that are expanding. There also are show producers who want to stage their shows in Las Vegas but can’t as they can’t elbow their way onto the convention calendar because of prior agreements with other shows and date commitments.

Several months ago, the producers of Las Vegas’ largest trade shows — CES Senior Vice President Karen Chupka was among them — huddled with Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to discuss a growing problem. Shows were expanding, but show venues weren’t. While cities around the country were building new exhibit halls to pick off business from Southern Nevada, the Las Vegas Convention Center was growing tired.

To MGM Resorts International’s credit, that company saw the trends coming and moved to expand its convention center at Mandalay Bay and convert a theater that once housed the Cirque du Soleil show “Zarkana” at Aria into convention space.

The LVCVA made its move by announcing a plan to acquire the Riviera, knock it down and then provide additional space for outdoor exhibits before developing plans for a new exhibit hall.

The authority is just about to wrap up Phase 1 of the plan, imploding two Riviera towers over the summer and sweeping everything up for outdoor exhibit use.

CES will be the first show to take advantage of the new space.

A newly striped parking lot where the Riviera’s buildings once stood, designated as the Diamond Lot by the LVCVA, will be available for parking.

The Gold Lot, the vast parking space on the northwest corner of Paradise Road and Convention Center Drive — old-timers remember it as where the Landmark once stood — will be used by CES for self-driving car demonstrations, Chupka said.

CES will still have at least one more show next year and perhaps the year after before things get messy with construction zones.

A new 600,000-square-foot exhibit hall will be built somewhere around the Gold Lot or Riviera footprint. The exact location hasn’t been determined yet.

Once the new hall is built there will be a lot of musical chairs in play as shows formerly in the North, Central or South halls get shuffled around into available buildings while construction crews do what they need to do to upgrade and connect the halls so that conventioneers don’t have to go outdoors to go from one hall to another.

Another big change for CES 2017: It will be the first convention to be served by a new food and beverage service provider.

In October, the LVCVA board of directors approved a 7½-year contract with Centerplate LLC, replacing Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services LLC, which held the contract for 44 years.

LVCVA executives have said Aramark has been cooperative in handing off the important contract to Centerplate, which will be under pressure to perform well for one of the city’s most important shows.

***

Gaming regulators said farewell last week to someone who has been a fixture at state Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission meetings for four decades.

Eric Nelson, who owned Sierra Nevada Reporters in Reno and has served as the board’s and commission’s court reporter since 1974, died Dec. 3.

Attorneys for applicants who appeared for commission businesson Thursday offered tributes to Nelson, a third-generation Nevadan who once served as a court reporter for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.

Nelson had a penchant for wearing brightly colored attire as he quietly recorded the dialogue of every gaming regulatory meeting.

As a tribute, Commission Chairman Tony Alamo and Commissioner Philip Pro wore orange ties at Thursday’s commission meeting. Gov. Brian Sandoval, who knew Nelson as the court reporter in the time he served as chairman of the Gaming Commission, offered a proclamation designating Feb. 3 as a day in honor of Nelson, who would have turned 67 that day.

“I’m sure I speak for my fellow commissioners that he will be truly missed, and in his honor, I’m wearing this colorful orange tie,” Alamo said at the meeting. “He was known for his colorful ties, and orange was his favorite color and he always tried to have a tie that has some time of orange on it.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.