Upgrade of Las Vegas Convention Center takes major step forward

The $1.4 billion Las Vegas Convention Center expansion and improvement project authorized in a special session of the Nevada Legislature in October took a big step forward Tuesday.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors approved the second phase of the project by unanimously authorizing an eight-month $1.28 million contract extension with its builder representative, Cordell Corp., to begin the process of designing a 600,000-square-foot exhibit hall.

The first phase involved demolition of the Riviera.

Between the middle of February and the end of March, Cordell officials will meet with convention authority staff, its contracted partners and customers that conduct conventions and trade shows in Las Vegas to solicit ideas for needs in the construction program. Those ideas will be reviewed by the authority board and a seven-member oversight panel appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to develop the building design.

Cordell principal Terry Miller said he hopes to bid the design and engineering of the project by August and have a construction process in place by the end of the year, with the groundbreaking of the new hall by early 2018.

Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of operations, said Cordell would conduct focus groups and interviews and present industry trends and best practices to develop a quality facility.

“We’re not looking at using Italian marble and building a 300,000-square-foot ballroom, but we won’t be using residential carpet either,” Jicinsky said of the quality the authority will work to provide.

The oversight panel will provide another level of scrutiny over the project and was legislated in Senate Bill 1, the law that details the financing and oversight of both the convention center project and a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed football stadium.

The oversight panel has yet to be appointed, but Sandoval is expected to name members in future weeks.

Under the legislation, nominations for the oversight board can be made to the governor by the Clark County Commission, city councils of incorporated cities in the county, the majority leader of the state Senate, the speaker of the Assembly and the Nevada Resort Association.

The panel must include five members who are executives or directors of construction for a resort hotel in the county or who have experience in managing design, engineering, cost-estimating and construction of commercial conference or convention facilities. The other two members must have experience financing capital projects in the state.

Miller said his company’s contract on the demolition of the Riviera is 99 percent complete and only a few minor details remain before the space is turned over to the authority next month. Contractors have paved and striped a parking lot that will serve as outdoor exhibition space for upcoming conventions.

In other business Tuesday, the authority board approved funding for three consumer-friendly events. In unanimous votes, the board approved spending $300,000 — and expects to generate $108,000 revenue — for the Big League Weekend exhibition baseball games featuring the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds at Cashman Field March 25-26; $265,000 to sponsor the NASCAR RaceJam Weekend March 10-12 at the Fremont Street Experience and the Rock of Vegas Summer Concert Series in May and June; and $100,000 to sponsor a Kiss concert April 22 in Laughlin.

The board also agreed to spend $399,500 to sponsor the 22nd annual Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit Aug. 26-29 at Wynn Las Vegas and $225,000 to exhibit at the IMEX Frankfurt meeting industry conference in Germany.

The board also received reports on Hainan Airlines’ inaugural flight to Las Vegas last week and the wrap-up on October’s presidential debate at UNLV. Next month, the board will consider crediting the university a share of revenue generated from the debate to offset the event’s $7.3 million costs.

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

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