Speeches, fireworks launch $1.4B Las Vegas Convention Center expansion

Updated January 8, 2018 - 10:17 pm

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority picked the first rainy day in months Monday for the groundbreaking of its $1.4 billion convention center expansion and renovation project.

But dignitaries at the hourlong ceremony brought plenty of sunshine to their remarks about the project and the sky was further illuminated at the conclusion of the event with a two-minute fireworks show.

The event was a broad mix of looking back and looking ahead with historic photos of events at the original Convention Center rotunda flashed on video screens while speakers reminded about 300 chilled attendees how the three-year project will provide 13,000 construction jobs, 8,000 new permanent jobs, attract 600,000 additional conventioneers and provide $850 million in economic impact.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, flashing his notorious competitive side, vowed Las Vegas would never be overtaken as the nation’s top trade show destination despite recent challenges from Chicago, Orlando and New York.

Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who chairs the LVCVA board of directors, offered thank-yous in three languages and Rossi Ralenkotter, who will observe his 45th year with the LVCVA in March, promised to be on hand for the opening of the new 600,000-square-foot trade show hall — which some speakers referred to as “Ralenkotter Hall” — when it opens in January 2021.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which will open CES on Tuesday, said one of the reasons his event annually draws more than 175,000 people is because of the allure of Las Vegas.

“They want to come to Las Vegas, but then they justify it with a business reason,” Shapiro said.

The 2021 CES show is scheduled to be the first event in the new exhibition hall that is being built on what is now a parking lot at the northwest corner of Paradise Road and Convention Center Drive.

The Convention Center’s first column-free exhibit hall will be filled with new public space and technology and will be the primary structure in what is being called Phase 2 of the project. Phase 1 was the $182.5 million acquisition of the Riviera, its implosion and the clearing of the land.

Phase 2 will cost an estimated $860 million and have improvements, including outdoor exhibit space, extending to the Strip and giving the Convention Center a new Las Vegas Boulevard address. Phase 3, which will begin after the new hall opens, will be the two-year renovation of four existing halls.

Atlanta-based TVS Design in December signed a $59.8 million contract to design the new building. TVS is partnering with four Las Vegas companies — TSK Architects, Simpson Coulter Studio, Carpenter Sellers Del Gatto Architects and KME Architects — to deliver plans.

The $1.4 billion financing package includes a portion signed off by the Nevada Legislature when it approved Senate Bill 1 in a special legislative session in October 2016. That legislation was the same law that delivered $750 million in public funds to build a 65,000-seat domed football stadium being built by the Oakland Raiders at Interstate 15 and Russell Road.

The legislation authorized a 0.5 percentage-point increase in Clark County’s tax on motel and hotel rooms to secure bonds to pay for construction of the convention center improvements.

When renovation work is completed in 2023, the Las Vegas Convention Center will be the second largest in North America behind Chicago’s McCormick Place and will give the LVCVA the ability to attract more shows throughout the year and keep up with competitors technologically.

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

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