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New Convention Center hall makes debut. Take a look inside.

Updated April 8, 2021 - 5:56 pm

The buildings are ready. Now, all that’s needed are the people.

Meetings, convention and trade show media heard Thursday from Las Vegas leaders of the industry and got their first look at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s $989 million, 1.4 million-square-foot West Hall expansion on Global Meetings Industry Day.

Panelists said that the pent-up demand for a return to live face-to-face meetings is real and that the major players in the meetings and convention industry in Las Vegas say they are seeing impressive bookings of their show facilities.

“We’re making great strides and I think things will continue to move quickly,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“There already was appreciation of meetings and trade shows among our elected officials and I’m sure absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Hill said. “It’s not a hard sell. Who’s not sick of Zoom meetings?”

Two companies represented on the panel — Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Caesars Entertainment Inc. — just opened convention facilities when the coronavirus set in last March. The new Wynn facility was only open a couple of months while the new Caesars Forum was open for just weeks when the state’s health and government leaders ordered shutdowns to protect against the spread of the virus.

Two other companies represented on the panel, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and MGM Resorts International, operate the city’s two largest privately held convention facilities.

Chris Flatt, executive vice president of hotel sales and marketing for Wynn, said customers hunger for the return of face-to-face meetings because they add to the energy that occurs when people make business connections. She added that in-person meetings give participants the opportunity to socialize and have fun at the same time they’re making business connections.

“People are ready,” said Stephanie Glanzer, chief sales officer and senior vice president of sales for MGM Resorts International. “Groups have been surprised by how popular face-to-face gatherings are.”

Mike Massari, chief sales officer for Caesars Entertainment, said meetings and shows are picking up where they left off in 2019.

“We’ve booked more in the past 12 months than we’ve had” leading up to the closure, Massari said. “And that’s how you grow.”

While the meetings planners have emphasized the importance of meeting in face-to-face settings, they’ve also worked hard to convince attendees that their return to Las Vegas will be safe.

MGM, for example, has established its Convene with Confidence program that enables virus testing in hotel rooms and the option of connecting an individual’s test results and, eventually, vaccination records via biometric identity app company Clear.

Chandra Allison, senior vice president of hotel sales and marketing at The Venetian and Las Vegas Sands Corp., said her company also has Venetian Clean, its own health and safety program that emphasizes thorough cleaning of facilities.

Allison said companies have added amenities in preparation for the return of conventioneers. She noted the most visible addition for Sands is occurring next door to the Sands Expo and Convention Center: the MSG Sphere at The Venetian, which is expected to open in 2023.

Hill said Las Vegas has an advantage over competitors because longtime fans of the city already enjoy attending events there.

A recent survey indicated conventioneers have a high level of confidence they’ll be safe when they return to meetings in Las Vegas and that Las Vegas is the best equipped city to accommodate the return of visitors safely.

The panel was staged in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s new West Hall.

The LVCVA has the nation’s second-largest convention facility in the country at 4.5 million square feet with the addition of the West Hall.

The new West Hall includes a 600,000-square-foot concrete floor for a new exhibit hall. Journalists also were to get a look at the facility’s meeting rooms, food court, atrium and third-level outdoor plaza on their tour of the building.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson, the late chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

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

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