It’s time to dust off the $890 million expansion and face-lift of the Las Vegas Convention Center shelved when the city went bust, the head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said Monday.
Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter, in a meeting with the Review-Journal editorial board, said the overall economy remains weak, but strong convention bookings for 2012 and steady improvement in visitor volume show the need to revive the dormant project. He said he plans to present the idea to the authority’s board on Thursday.
With board approval, Ralenkotter plans to solicit opinions from customers, hotels and authority board staff to determine how to update what is now at least a 5-year-old plan. Reworking the plan, which would include recalculating the cost of the work and financing, could take 16 months, he said.
With Las Vegas’ convention business running about 5 percent to 6 percent ahead of last year, and 19 straight months of visitor and convention attendance increases, Ralenkotter said the time is right to capitalize on the momentum.
“We’re not totally out of the recession, we’re not totally recovered, but there’s enough information for us to move forward with a couple of initiatives,” Ralenkotter said. “We’ll do it in phases because we can do it more effective, financially, that way.”
Initial infrastructure work was under way when the recession forced the authority to delay construction in 2008.
Ralenkotter said the new effort would extend beyond the building with better streets and amenities such as placement of historic neon signs to give the surrounding convention district a uniquely Las Vegas look.
Chris Meyer, the authority’s vice president of sales, said the project is needed if Las Vegas wants to maintain its status as a convention and trade show destination.
“If you look at what our competitors around the country have leading up to their convention centers, ours doesn’t match up,” Meyer said.
Immediate repairs would include maintenance on the convention center’s north, outdoor escalators; adding 25 new, USB-outfitted charging stations in the area near Nathan’s Hot Dogs; and fresh paint to the exterior.
“Our campus, and parts of our building, have been around for 52 years,” Meyer said.
The project would include a 100,000 square-foot addition for new meeting and exhibition space.
The travel authority has started sprucing up, and recently replaced concrete-block barriers in the silver parking lot 1 with wrought-iron fencing that allows pedestrians direct access to the facility without having to walk around the barriers.
When looking at past economic downturns in Las Vegas, Ralenkotter said, “The tourism industry has always been the industry in the community that has led us out of that, and that’s happening now.”
Since November 2009, more than 15,000 new jobs have been added to the resort industry.
“As we attract more visitors, it truly does support more jobs,” Ralenkotter said.
Based on the travel board’s research, 1,000 visitors to Las Vegas support nine jobs. About 30 percent of the region’s jobs are in the tourist industry, and a third of the tax on hotel rooms goes to the authority.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588.