Ceremony marks opening of Aria

Today was all about celebrating the opening of CityCenter’s centerpiece. But it also was a time for putting the $8.4 billion project into perspective.

During an hourlong ceremony in the porte cochere of the 61-story glass and steel Aria, MGM Mirage officials and others associated with CityCenter said the 18 million-square-foot development would transform Las Vegas.

This isn’t just another opening,” MGM Mirage Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren said. “This is a game-changer.”

About 400 media and invited guests attended the ceremony, held next to the Lumia fountain and the curved wall Focus, two of CityCenter’s water features designed by WET. An additional 5,000 VIPs are expected to attend a celebration inside the 4,004-room Aria hotel-casino starting at 7:30 p.m. The public gets its first look at Aria about midnight after an 11 p.m. fireworks display.

Adding to the celebration, Murren, fellow MGM Mirage executives and officials from CityCenter joint venture partner Dubai World rang the closing bell for the New York Stock Exchange at 1 p.m. from Mandarin Terrace, a walkway between Mandarin Oriental and Aria.

Murren rang the bell used for championship boxing matches at the MGM Grand Garden, and the event was broadcast live on CNBC and other financial networks.

“I’ve been waiting to say this for over five years: Welcome to CityCenter,” Murren said.

Those involved in CityCenter’s five-year building process said they were happy to see Aria unveiled.

Architect Cesar Pelli, founder of the New Haven, Conn.-based Pelli Clarke Pelli firm that designed Aria, said the hotel-casino’s standards will be hard to match.

“This is really 21st century Las Vegas,” he said. “It was a very complex and very difficult task.”

Aria has a 150,000-square-foot casino, the only gaming inside the 67-acre CityCenter complex, which includes two nongaming hotels, Vdara and the ultra luxury Mandarin Oriental. Also, CityCenter has high-rise residential and 500,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.

Aria President Bill McBeath said the hotel-casino was built to accommodate the entire complex of nearly 7,000 hotel rooms and condominiums.

“Las Vegas didn’t need five more casino hotels,” McBeath said. “Aria was designed to absorb all the other capacity around it plus the circulation in and out of CityCenter.”

Aria will become MGM Mirage’s 10th casino on Strip, which includes the company’s flagship Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage.

Las Vegas was the only city in the world that could house CityCenter, said JF Finn III, the managing director of Gensler, which oversaw the seven architectural firms brought in to design CityCenter.

The company, which has worked on projects worldwide, said CityCenter may already be one of the five top developments in the world.

“It is truly ground breaking in every aspect of the word,” Finn said. “Las Vegas has international cache, which immediately places CityCenter on a worldwide stage.”

Finn said the “cowboy mentality” in Las Vegas helped the project get completed in five years time, something unheard of for a development of CityCenter’s magnitude in the architectural community.

“I have designs that take five years,” Finn said. “The mentality here was to do it and there is a great spirit here in that sense. Las Vegas gets it done like no other place in the world.”

The architects who designed CityCenter’s elements all have worldwide recognition. Finn likened the group to an all-star team line-up featuring members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“These guys take on serious assignments and that’s a huge validation for this project,” Finn said. “Everyone is proud to see what was accomplished.”

CityCenter received six Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certifications from the US Green Building Council, including Aria’s hotel tower and convention area. Rick Fedrizzi, the president and CEO of the council, was hopeful CityCenter and Aria would inspire more environmentally friendly design in Las Vegas.

“This is transforming development,” Fedrizzi said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at or 702-477-3871.


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