New Orleans, Tunica, and Detroit have joined Las Vegas, Reno, and Atlantic City as gaming destinations offering not only first-rate casinos and entertainment, but the necessary infrastructure to host groups. Here is the latest on acquisitions, new construction, renovations, and airline news from these destinations.
Las Vegas, Nevada * National Airlines, Las Vegas' only hometown airline, continues to grow since beginning operations in May 1998. Service to Chicago's O'Hare starts January 25, joining existing destinations that include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago's Midway Airport, Dallas, New York (JFK), Philadelphia, Newark, and Washington, D.C. National ranks fifth among Las Vegas carriers in seat levels and departures. Call (888) 757-5387; www.nationalairlines.com.
* MGM Grand purchased Mirage Resorts, now MGM Mirage, for $6.4 million in March, adding the megaresorts Mirage and Bellagio, among others, to its hotels and casinos. Call (800) 929-1112; www.mgmgrand. com.
* The Venetian Resort HotelCasino, which opened in May 1998 with 3,036 suites, features the Grand Canal Shoppes, a 500,000- square-foot retail center. The $1.5 billion resort, which has a Renaissance Venice theme, also features 120,000 square feet of gaming, 500,000 square feet of meeting space at the Congress Center, and a direct link to the 1.2 million-square-foot Sands Expo & Convention Center. Call (888) 283-6423; www.venetian.com.
* The tropically themed $950 million Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino that opened this past March with 3,644 rooms and suites added "The Shark Reef" aquarium/attraction this year. It features sharks, endangered aquatic species, and other sea creatures. Other features include the Mandalay Bay Events Center, a 12,000-seat sports and entertainment complex, a House of Blues live music theater seating 1,800, and more than 190,000 square feet of meeting space. The adjacent Four Seasons Resort has a separate 10,000-square-foot ballroom plus additional meeting rooms. Call (702) 632-7777; www.mandalaybay.com.
* The $800 million Paris Las Vegas Casino Resort has 2,916 rooms, an 85,000-square-foot casino, eight French restaurants, a 1,200-seat theater, and an 87,900-square-foot ballroom. Overall, it has 140,000 square feet of pillarless function space. Call (888) 727-4758; www.parislasvegas.com.
* Aladdin, a $1.3 billion resort, opened in August with 2,567 rooms and suites, 130 shops, 21 restaurants, the 7,000-seat Theater of the Performing Arts, 100,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Desert Passage, a 500,000- square-foot retail center featuring world-class cuisine and shopping. Call (877) 485-2020; www.aladdincasino.com.
* Park Place Entertainment Corp., a Hilton spin-off, is buying Caesars World Inc., including Caesars Palace, for $3 billion from Starwood Hotels & Resorts, making it number one worldwide in gaming properties, with the most hotel rooms, most casino space, and greatest cash flow.
* Steve Wynn, former owner of Mirage Resorts, bought the Desert Inn for $270 million from Starwood Hotels and Resorts in June. The property closed in August. Plans to implode it and build a new resort, possibly several, are being discussed.
* A 1.3 million-square-foot expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center is under way. Upon completion in 2001, the Convention Center will total 3.2 million square feet, making it one of the largest convention facilities in the United States.
Las Vegas CVA * Contact: Nancy Murphy, director of sales
* Phone: (702) 892-0711
* Fax: (702) 892-2824
* Total guest rooms: 121,665
* Total gaming venues: About 150
Atlantic City, New Jersey * Renovations estimated at $90 million will transform Boardwalk Hall into a special events arena to accommodate 12,000 to 16,000 people. It will remain home to the Miss America pageant.
* Construction is under way on "The Borgata," Boyd Gaming Corp.'s $750 million casino resort in Atlantic City's Marina District. It will feature 2,010 guest rooms and suites, and is scheduled to open in 2002.
* MGM Grand plans a $700 million casino hotel with 2,000 rooms.
* A $200 million, 900,000 square foot mixed-use retail project will be built between the boardwalk and the convention center. Touted as being for Atlantic City what the Inner Harbor is for Baltimore, it will be built by the Cordish Co. and the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
Atlantic City CVA * Contact: Joe Di Girolamo, VP, convention development
* Phone: (609) 449-7110,
* (888) 222-3683; Fax: (609) 345-3685
* Total guest rooms: 16,000
* Total gaming venues: 12
Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nevada Reno * In April, Silver Legacy Resort Casino expanded its convention space by 10,000 square feet. The property has 85,000 square feet of gaming space, 90,000 square feet of convention space in all, and six restaurants. Call (800) 687-7733; www.silverlegacy.com.
* Peppermill Hotel Casino opened in January after a $65 million expansion and renovation that added 10,000 square feet of multipurpose meeting and event space, bringing its total to 40,000 square feet, two new restaurants, and 40,000 square feet of casino space. Call (800) 282-2444; www.peppermillcasino.com.
* Beginning in March, the the Reno-Sparks Convention Center will undergo a major expansion and renovation, increasing the space to approximately a half a million square feet. Targeted for completion in October 2002, the $105 million expansion and renovation will be a modern, high-tech convention and www.renolaketahoe.com.facility. Call (800) 443-1482;
* Reno Hilton has a total of 200,000 square feet of meeting space. With more than 2,000 rooms, it is northern Nevada's largest hotel/casino.Call (800) 648-5080; www.renohilton.com.
* Atlantis Casino Resort offers a 27-story luxury tower called the Sky Terrace and 37,000 square feet of meeting space. Call (775) 824-4400; www.atlantiscasino.com.
Reno-Sparks CVA * Contact: Gloria Brown, director of convention sales
* Phone: (775) 827-7600,
* (800) 443-1482; Fax: (775) 827-7666
* Total guest rooms: 20,000
* Total gaming venues: 69
North Lake Tahoe * Squaw Valley Lodge, at the base of Squaw Valley USA, has added 40 units. Call (530) 583-5500; www.squawvalleylodge.com.
* To accommodate the new Village at Squaw Valley USA, the resort has added a guest services center that includes a retail shop, ticket sales, and rental shop; the new center will be the starting point for a high-speed chair-lift that will transport skiers to the top of Snow King Peak. The village project will ultimately add more than 600 condominiums and 80 boutique shops and restaurants. Phase I of the Intrawest project, titled First Ascent, will bring 139 condominiums and 19 shops and restaurants to the resort by December 2001. Call (530) 583-6955; www.squaw.com.
* Northstar-at-Tahoe has added 200 acres of expert terrain on Lookout Mountain and a new high-speed lift. Call (530) 562-2278; www.skinorthstar.com.
* Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe has installed its first high-speed lift. The Northwest Magnum 6 will whisk skiers from the base lodge to the summit in 3.5 minutes. Call (775) 849-0704; www.MtRose.com.
* The North Lake Tahoe Visitor Information Center, at 245 North Lake Blvd. in Tahoe City, has added a business center offering computers with Internet access (for a small fee), copy, fax, and Western Union services.
* New pedestrian corridors were completed in Tahoe City this past summer; new paved bike paths await visitors too.
* The Resort at Squaw Creek, a four-star resort offering 33,000 feet of meeting space, completed a $3 million spa renovation this year. Call (530) 583-6300; www.squawcreek.com.
North Lake Tahoe Resort Association * Contact: Paige Nebeker, director of conference and group sales
* Phone: (530) 581-8709, (800) 462-5196; Fax: (530) 581-8779
* Total guest rooms: 6,800
* Total gaming venues: 4
South Lake Tahoe * Lake Tahoe is experiencing a renaissance with more than $1 billion in redevelopment. The centerpiece is a gondola providing direct access from the core of the South Lake Tahoe/ Stateline district, and its 5,000 hotel rooms, to Heavenly Ski Resort. Traveling almost 2.5 miles in 11 minutes, 45 seconds, it will be California's longest ski gondola and will have the most uphill capacity, with 138 cabins, of any gondola in the state. It is scheduled to open in December and will be operational for the 200001 ski season.
* South Shore's redevelopment effort also includes a 91,000-square-foot convention center, accommodating groups of up to 2,000. An additional 540 hotel rooms will be included in the project, and a two-acre replica of Lake Tahoe will serve as an environmental learning center and outdoor recreation center. The project is slated for completion in 2003.
South Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority * Contact: Todd Repsher, program manager
* Phone: (530) 544-5050
* Fax: (530) 544-2386
* Total guest rooms: 11,000
* Total gaming venues: 6
Louisiana New Orleans * The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans opened in October with 452 rooms. Call (800) 241-3333; www.ritzcarlton.com.
* The 209-room Renaissance New Orleans is slated for a mid-2001 debut.
* Jazzland, a 140-acre theme park with a nightly Mardi Gras parade, 12 miles from downtown, opened in May. Call (504) 253-8000; www.jazzlandthemepark.com
* The 70,500-square-foot National D-Day Museum opened June 6, the anniversary of D-Day. It presents World War II in the form of personal stories and dramatic exhibits. Call (504) 527-6012; www.Ddaymuseum.org.
New Orleans Metropolitan CVB * Contact: Nikki Nicholson, VP of convention sales
* Phone: (504) 566-5011
* Fax: (504) 566-5046
* Total guest rooms: 31,000
* Total gaming venues: 4
Shreveport * Harrah's Shreveport is building a 503-room hotel with nearly 17,000 square feet of convention space; it is slated to open in March. Call (318) 424-7777; www.harrahs.com.
Mississippi Gulf Coast * The 236-room Palace Casino Resort opened in June with 12,000 square feet of meeting space, a 5,400-square- foot ballroom, an executive boardroom, and 7,000 square feet of patio and terrace space. The resort features four restaurants, a health spa/salon, and headliner entertainment. Call (800) PALACE-9 or (228) 432-8888; www.PalaceCasinoResort.com.
* Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino expanded its meeting space by 25,000 square feet, bringing its total to 50,000 square feet. Call (800) 436-3000 or (228) 436-3000; www.ipbiloxi.com.
* StarShip Dining Super Yacht is one of the Mississippi Gulf Coast's newest attractions and venues for corporate events. The entire 180-foot yacht can be chartered, or several rooms can be used for meetings and receptions. The yacht accommodates up to 600 for a reception and up to 575 for seated meals. Call (877) 744-7999; (228) 374-7475; www.starshipcruiseline.com.
* Gulfport Biloxi Regional Airport has 4,000 seats available and 50 flights daily. Northwest added a daily flight to Memphis; AirTran added one to Atlanta; and Canada 3000 now offers seasonal direct flights to Toronto and Winnipeg through December.
* Mirage Properties' $680 million Beau Rivage is a 32-story beachfront resort with 1,780 rooms, 12 restaurants, and a 50,000-square-foot conference center that can accommodate up to 2,000 attendees. It was recently named one of the top 100 hotels by Travel & Leisure magazine. Call (800) 567-6667; www.beaurivage.com.
Mississippi-Gulf Coast CVB * Contact: Donna Tarasavage, director of conventions
* Phone: (228) 896-6699,
* (888) 467-4853;
* Fax: (228) 896-6796
* Total guest rooms: 18,000
* Total gaming venues: 12
Tunica * The Paul Battle Jr. Arena and Exposition Center, one of the largest arenas in the southeast United States, opened in August. With 48,000 square feet of climate-controlled exhibit space on the main arena floor, the facility is the largest indoor arena in Mississippi. It can seat 6,000 and has 14 luxury skyboxes, each accommodating up to 24 guests; it can seat up to 2,500 for a banquet. The facility has two self-sufficient outdoor arenas and an adjacent pavilion with an additional 100,000 square feet of exposition area. Call (666) 363-3299; www.tunicamiss.org.
* Nine months after the grand opening of phase one of the Casino Factory Shoppes, construction has begun on a 60,000-square-foot expansion. The expansion will bring the outlet center to more than 200,000 square feet.
* Isle of Capri Casino is building the $14 million Paradise Entertainment Center, slated to open this month. The center will feature two theaters under one roof: The larger Flamingo Bay Theater will have fixed seating for 1,280 and the smaller Caribbean Cove Showroom will be a multi-use facility with theater-style seating for 500, cabaret seating for 250, and banquet seating for 300. Call (800) 843-4753; www.islecorp.com or www.isleofcapricasino.com.
Tunica CVB * Contact: Bill Canter, director of sales
* Phone: (888) 488-6422
* Fax: (662) 363-1493
* Total guest rooms: 6,000
* Total gaming venues: 10
Missouri Kansas City * The Flamingo Hilton Casino, sold to Mississippi-based Isle of Capri Casinos, is undergoing a $15 million renovation. It will be rebuilt to more accurately resemble a 19th-century paddlewheeler; the interior will feature a Caribbean beach theme, including a 16-foot-high waterfall. Call (816) 855-7777; www.islecorp.com or www.isleofcapricasino.com.
* In February, the Fairmont at the Plaza (formerly a Ritz-Carlton) embarked on a $10 million renovation of all guest rooms, the Lobby Lounge, and restaurants. The refurbishment is scheduled to be complete in early 2001. Call (416) 874-2457; www.fairmont.com.
* The Hotel Phillips, one block from the convention center, is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation. Marcus Hotels and Resorts, a Milwaukee-based company, bought it from a division of Dallas-based Wyndham International in May. The renovation will reduce the number of rooms from 240 to 170 suite accommodations. Expected completion date is June 2001. Call (816) 221-7000.
* Construction has started on a $45 million expansion of the Mardi Gras Casino at Harrah's North. Call (816) 889-7117; www.harrahs.com.
* The state-of-the-art, $250 million Kansas Speedway opens in 2001 with seating for 75,000 and plans to increase seating capacity to more than 150,000. Call (913) 328-3300; www.kansasspeedway.com.
* The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will undergo an $80 million expansion. Construction is slated to begin in 2001. Call (816) 751-1286; www.nelson-atkins.org.
* Second in size only to New York's Grand Central Station, Union Station was recently refurbished at a cost of $253 million and opened in November 1999 with a Science City museum, shops, and restaurants. The Grand Hall and North Waiting Room are available for groups.
* The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum is undergoing a $22.5 million renovation and will reopen shortly after January. Call (816) 833-1400; www.trumanlibrary.org.
CVB of Greater Kansas City * Contact: Denise DeJulio, director of sales
* Phone: (816) 221-5242
* Fax: (816) 691-3805
* Total guest rooms: 22,500
* Total gamingvenues: 4
St. Louis * South of the America's Center complex in downtown St. Louis, the 1,081-room Reniassance Hotel and Suites is being built and is slated to be complete by the end of 2002.
* St. Louis gets its first Westin Hotel next year. The 257-room hotel is being built adjacent to Busch Stadium in the historic Cupples Station complex downtown. Call (314) 621-2000.
* A 288-room Sheraton Hotel and Suites is opening in July adjacent to the Savvis Center, formerly the Kiel Center, home of the St. Louis Blues hockey team.
St. Louis CVC * Contact: Bill Bohde, VP, convention and trade show sales
* Phone: (314) 421-1023
* Fax: (314) 621-7729
* Total guest rooms: 28,000
* Total gaming venues: 5
Illinois/Iowa * In 2000, the Lady Luck Casino Hotel and Conference Center in Bettendorf, Iowa, was purchased by Isle of Capri Casinos. Renamed the Isle of Capri hotel, it offers 256 guest rooms, four meeting rooms, and a buffet-style restaurant. The conference center has 13,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel is connected to the casino by skywalk, and the convention center is next door. The casino is the largest in the Quad Cities, and cruises from spring through October from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Call (800) 724-5825; www.islecorp.com.
* The President Casino and President Casino's Blackhawk Hotel in Davenport, Iowa, have also been purchased by the Isle of Capri. In spring of 2001, a new riverboat casino, Rhythm City, will replace the current boat. The newer, larger casino will feature three gaming decks. The new owners will also operate the historic Blackhawk Hotel in downtown Davenport. The hotel offers 191 rooms and suites, and is connected to the 100,000-square-foot River Center/Adler Theatre. Major renovation is scheduled. Like the President Casino, the new riverboat will cruise from spring through October from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Call (800) 553-1173; www.prescasino.com.
Quad Cities CVB * Contact: Cheryl Ealy, VP sales
* Phone: (309) 788-7800,
* (800) 747-7800
* Fax: (319) 322-6066
* Total guest rooms: 5,400
* Total gaming venues: 3
Michigan * The final of Detroit's three temporary casinos, Greektown Casino, opened in November. It joins the MGM Grand-Detroit, in a former IRS building, and Motor City Casino, formerly a Wonder Bread Bakery. The temporary casinos, which include 75,000 square feet of gaming and excellent dining options, will be replaced by permanent casinos over the next four years. Each permanent facility will feature 100,000 square feet of gaming and an 800-plus room hotel. All three casinos will be within a half-mile of the Renaissance Convention Center.
* On opening day 2000, the Detroit Tigers played in their new home, Comerica Park, a $300 million open-air stadium. Next door, construction continues on the Detroit Lions football team's $300 million, 65,000-seat domed stadium, expected to be complete in July. The stadiums will co-anchor a sports and entertainment area near the city's theater district.
* General Motors' $120 million renovation of the 73-story Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, slated for completion in fall 2001, will create a world-class hotel that includes a new ballroom. GM will also renovate the rest of Renaissance Center at a total estimated cost of $500 million. GM has hired Taubman Centers, one of the nation's top developers of upscale malls, to draw stores and restaurants to the Renaissance Center.
Detroit Metro CVB * Contact: Janis Schmees, director of sales
* Phone: (313) 202-1800
* Fax: (313) 202-1832
* Total guest rooms: 31,000
* Total gaming venues: 3
Native American-Owned Casinos * Foxwoods--Operated by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe in Ledyard, Conn., this is a 4.7 million-square-foot destination resort with three hotels totaling 1,421 guest rooms (including 312 four-diamond rated rooms).This massive resort features 314,000 square feet of gambling space, 25 restaurants, a spa and fitness center, tennis, golf, a pool, and a host of entertainment options that include performances by big-name entertainers. It also features the 54,000-square-foot Grand Pequot Conference Center. Call (800) PLAY-BIG; www.pequotcasino.com.
* Mohegan Sun--On the other side of the Thames River in Connecticut, the Mohegan Sun is undergoing an $800 million expansion scheduled to open in April 2002 (see "Mohegan Sun Focuses on Service," this page). Call (877) 204-7100; www.mohegansun.com.
* Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort--The largest casino between Atlantic City and Las Vegas, Soaring Eagle has more than 4,000 gaming machines, 512 guest rooms, 26,000 square feet of conference and entertainment space, and banquet facilities for more than 1,000 meeting guests. For more information, call (888) 7 EAGLE 7; www.sagchip.com.
* Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley--Both are in central Minnesota, with full-service hotels each offering more than 280 rooms and separate meeting facilities (a 14,000-square-foot ballroom at Mille Lacs and a 10,425-square-foot ballroom at Hinckley). Call (800) 626-5825 or (800) 472-6321; www.grandcasino.com.
* Chinook Winds Casino--The facility overlooks the Pacific Ocean 100 miles southwest of Portland near Lincoln City. The city itself has 2,200 rooms, and a free shuttle bus takes visitors to the casino. The Casino also features the largest convention center on the Oregon Coast, with 23,000 square feet of meeting space and two restaurants. Call (888) 244-6665 or (541) 996-5825; www.chinookwindscasino.com
It's hard to believe that Atlantic City's Miss America Pageant, which has become an American institution, started as a publicity stunt in 1921. Almost 80 years later, the event is cherished by millions of Americans, none more than those who call Atlantic City home.
In October, Miss Hawaii, Angela Perez Baraquio, an elementary school gym teacher, won the tiara in the midst of a $72 million renovation of Boardwalk Convention Hall that will transform the historic site of the pageant, built in 1929, into a modern sports and entertainment complex.
Visitors can find pageant memorabilia all over the city. The Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel showcases pageant treasures and is the site of a statue commemorating former pageant master-of-ceremonies Burt Parks. If you press a button, you can hear his famous rendition of "Here She Is, Miss America."
The Miss America Organization celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, with new president and CEO, Robert Renneisen, Jr., at the helm. Renneisen came to the city in 1979 to work for Ramada and then transferred to the Tropicana in 1981. He has held various management positions in the casino industry, most recently as chairman and CEO of Atlantic City's Claridge Hotel and Casino.
Mohegan Sun, the Uncasville, Conn., casino that is spending $800 million to create a resort and gaming complex, recently made meeting industry news when it announced that is requiring all its conference services staff and senior managers to earn a CMP or CMM within a year. The property will underwrite the application and examination for qualified employees.
Mohegan Sun is the nation's fourth-largest casino. After the expansion project is complete in 2002, it will include a 1,200-room luxury hotel tower, 100,000 square feet of meeting space, and a second gaming hall, the 115,000-square-foot Casino of the Sky.
The Mohegan Tribal Nation's plans include architectural details in sync with Mohegan culture. And the new gaming floor will feature a planetarium dome and a mountain of back-lighted onyx and alabaster. The latter, called the Wombi Rock, will house a lounge and dance floor. The 4 million-square-foot expansion, which will triple the size of the Mohegan Sun, will also include a 10,000-seat arena, 175,000 square feet of retail, a spa, and a business center.
Despite the size of the casino, the gaming department will control less than 50 percent of the hotel's guest rooms on weekends. That will enable sizable meetings to book over Fridays and Saturdays.