Mark your calendars — in pencil — for CityCenter openings

Last week, the New York Times printed a succinct status report on the $8.5 billion CityCenter project. Despite months of financial uncertainty, all systems are go for several openings between October and December, according to MGM Mirage officials quoted in Alison Gregor’s article.

The first opening will be Oct. 1, when the Vdara, a high-end condo-hotel with 1,500 units, ushers in its first residents and guests. The condo owners can be part of a program in which their units are rented out as hotel rooms.

Two big events are set for Dec. 3. On that day, the Mandarin Oriental hotel and the Crystals mall are set to open.

One expects the Crystals, a 500,000-square-foot “shopping, restaurant and entertainment complex,” will be of particular interest to locals, who will be eager to measure the mall’s design and offerings against its competitors on and off the Strip.

Then, on Dec. 16, the heart of CityCenter, the 4,004-room Aria hotel-casino, will open its doors. Thousands have already booked rooms at the Aria, which will have big-name restaurants and an Elvis Presley-themed Cirque du Soleil show. Another enticing attraction will be artist Maya Lin’s 84-foot silver cast of the Colorado River.

It’s not clear precisely when the Veer Towers condominiums will open but most likely somewhere between the opening of the Vdara and year’s end. Meanwhile, the construction-challenged Harmon Hotel — about half the height it was originally intended to be — will open in late 2010.

With lots of expert talk that the national economy will start to rebound in the fall, CityCenter may end up being well-positioned to serve as the engine for a Las Vegas revival. If the gushing adjectives MGM Mirage officials use to describe CityCenter are anywhere close to reality, the project appears destined to give millions of people a new reason to visit Las Vegas.

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