The need for a possible $2.3 billion expansion and renovation to the Las Vegas Convention Center was heard during the Sept. 9 meeting of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
Consulting firm Cordell Corporation presented a feasibility study outlining what it would take to retain Las Vegas’ status as the No. 1 tradeshow and convention destination in the world.
Alongside Las Vegas’ three largest tradeshow consumers – Con Expo, International CES and SEMA – indicating a desire to expand their shows, competition in other cities and countries have identified the Las Vegas market as a primary target for new business.
“This is a definitive moment for all of us,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO, Las Vegas Convention Center. “Not just us at the convention center but the entire community. This will take us 25 years into the future.”
With a five- to eight-year timeline completed in two phases, the total square footage added would equal 1.8 million square feet in Phase One. Phase Two would consist of renovations and upgrades of the existing facility, which was built in 1959.
Ralenkotter emphasized the amount of jobs the project would create for the community.
“This would keep us at the top, and create 6,000 permanent jobs and 6,000 construction jobs that are sorely needed,” he said.
The report states that the current convention facility is reaching its physical limit of meeting the demands of exhibit space and meeting rooms for its existing tradeshow customer base. The potential loss of one large tradeshow with 150,000 attendees, Ralenkotter continued, would be equivalent to losing $220 million in local economic impact.
As evidence to back up the study’s claim that an expansion will indeed further the growth of convention and trade show business in Las Vegas, an analysis was shown of how show size has, on average, steadily grown as square footage has been increased in competing cities such as Chicago, Orlando and New York City. Several of these cities already have significant renovations underway.
Financing for the project may prove to be somewhat of a challenge however, as the study projects that with a 30-year bond and a financing cost of five percent annually, the shortfall is about $115 million per year.
A preliminary schedule suggests that construction for phase one of the expansion will begin sometime in 2016, after funding, design and land acquisition matters are settled.
While visitor numbers have remained stagnant for 2014, Las Vegas occupancy rates at 80 percent continue to be significantly higher than the national average. Aggressive advertising campaigns by LVCVA have been launched in strategic locations, which seek to push Las Vegas forward in the eyes of event and meeting planners as well as leisure travelers.
One such effort was GeoVegas, an option available on the LasVegas.com website to interact the user with their travel experience on a heightened level. Las Vegas was the first destination to create an experience using Google’s 360-degree interactive tours highlighting properties and venues on and around the Las Vegas Strip.
With GeoVegas, users immerse themselves in images of Las Vegas while receiving education about the breadth of offerings in the area. It is a virtual experience that navigates through the journey of sites one can customize for their particular interests. GeoVegas has seen more than 250,000 personal site tours since earlier this year.
Las Vegas also has 1.3 million fans on Facebook, 143,000 followers on Twitter, and is the ninth most Instagrammed city in the world.