“Hooray for Vegas” is still the cry among veteran meeting planners. Even after the tragic events of September 11, Las Vegas is thriving and is considered to be a meeting planner's haven.
“Las Vegas is the ideal destination for corporate meetings and incentive programs,” boasts Michael Goldsmith, sales executive with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. With more than 124,000 hotel rooms and 7 million square feet of meeting and function space, Las Vegas provides meeting planners with options and flexibility not available elsewhere. In addition, the numerous award-winning restaurants, spas, world-class shopping, golf, entertainment, and a modern airport minutes from the center of the city make Las Vegas one of the most exciting destinations in the world.
With the completion of the 1.3 million-square-foot, $150 million expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, which was targeted for the end of November, Las Vegas will become even more attractive. The winter Consumer Electronics Show will be the first group (110,000 delegates) to use the new space.
Las Vegas' infrastructure is unparalleled: The city has about 8 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space, and meetings that are held there almost always have healthy attendance.
Las Vegas isn't the only Nevada city making a meeting destination name for itself. Reno touts an ongoing downtown redevelopment project that has reclaimed the Truckee riverfront. The focus now is on creating an events center and retail/entertainment venues. Construction began last spring on a $105 million expansion and renovation of Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
At nearby Lake Tahoe, the heart of activity is on the South Shore, where a year-round gondola linking Stateline to Heavenly Ski Resort began operating last winter. The gondola is a prominent component of the South Shore's $750 million revitalization plan, one that seeks to balance development with an increase in open space. Work will begin in South Lake Tahoe in the spring on a 91,000-square-foot meeting facility and 540 hotel rooms.
I WAS THERE
Debra Jacobs is vice president of operations with Resort Meetings Consortium, a full-service meeting management company with offices in Philadelphia, Orlando, Fla., Las Vegas, and San Diego. Jacobs plans and manages more than 40 meetings for her clients in Las Vegas for many different reasons.
“We love to host meetings in Las Vegas because of the quality and diversity of the properties. One meeting, you can create a French theme at the Paris Resort and Casino, and the next meeting could be a New Orleans theme at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino.
“Another reason we prefer Las Vegas is the variety of options available for our attendees when they are not in meetings. The shows are great, the restaurants are wonderful, and there is truly something for everyone.”
Lynn McGowan, director of marketing with Torrance, Calif. — based DaVita Inc. (formally Total Renal Care Inc.), says, “Las Vegas is a very popular destination for our meetings. The first thing that appealed to me is that there is no Saturday night stay-over necessary for flights, which helps to save money, and the accessibility from all over the country is great. Another reason Las Vegas is a wonderful destination is the weather. It is very consistent year-round, which enables us to plan outdoor events without sweating it! Our attendees want to come back to Vegas every year … so we give them what they want.”
Home of television's beloved Bonanza series, the Ponderosa Ranch in Incline Village, Nev., can accommodate 2,000 people. Groups can mosey down Main Street, explore the general store, take a hayride breakfast tour, go horseback riding, and enjoy a staged gunfight. Additionally, Ponderosa can accommodate guests for an authentic Western-style dining or event experience. (775) 831-0691; www.ponderosaranch.com
The Reno Livestock Events Center, which hosts the world-famous Reno Rodeo, known as “The Wildest Richest Rodeo in the West,” is a versatile venue for meetings of all types. The Center is especially suitable for smaller shows, concerts, and event receptions. It offers 35,000 square feet of exhibit space, a climate-controlled indoor arena that can accommodate 6,200 guests, and a lighted outdoor arena that seats 9,000. (775) 688-5751; www.renolaketahoe.com
The National Bowling Stadium, which has been dubbed the “Taj Mahal of Tenpins” by The Los Angeles Times and “Pin Palace” by USA Today, is the only facility of its kind in the world. The stadium has 78 championship lanes, advanced pin setting, 30 mph ball return, the world's longest video screen, and stadium seating for 800. Housed within the center is a 172-seat 70mm giant-screen IWERKS theater, making the stadium an ideal location for off-site meetings, receptions, or events, including a customized bowling www.renolaketahoe.com. (800) 304-2695;
The Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas has debuted Desert Passage, which is a 500,000-square-foot shopping complex featuring a North African theme. The complex is a magnificent addition to the phenomenon that has become known in Vegas as “shoppertainment.” Among other highlights: The Fashion Show Mall is undertaking a $350 million expansion that will double its size, and the Forum Shops at Caesars, which is said to be the country's top-grossing mall, has launched its third expansion. www.aladdinhotelscasinoslasvegas.com
WHERE TO GO
“The shows are great, the restaurants are wonderful, and there is truly something for everyone.”
— Debra Jacobs,
Resort Meetings Consortium
The National Automobile Museum in Reno offers a venue reminiscent of an earlier age, featuring more than 220 vehicles and a presentation theater. With authentic streets lined with vintage cars, the museum can accommodate larger groups. Watch history drive by in the multimedia theater, changing exhibits gallery, and masterpiece circle.
LAS VEGAS — New
The 470-room Palms Casino Hotel on Flamingo Road opened in December. It features a 10,000-square-foot banquet and conference center, a 25,000-square-foot special events area, a spa, and a 14-screen movie complex with an IMAX theater.
The 3,000-room Mirage opened a new meeting complex with 11 meeting rooms, a 10,000-square-foot ballroom that divides into six rooms, and a boardroom with videoconferencing capabilities. An events center with a 90,000-square-foot ballroom is scheduled to open in April.
Mandalay Resort Group's 1.8 million-square-foot convention center opens in 2003.
MGM Grand acquired Mirage Resorts for $6.4 billion and began operating under the name MGM Mirage. The company's holdings on the strip in Las Vegas now include MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, Bellagio, The Mirage, Treasure Island, New York-New York Hotel and Casino, the Boardwalk Hotel and Casino, and 50 percent of Monte Carlo; in downtown Las Vegas, the company owns the Golden Nugget.
The Palms, a hotel-casino that was designed by the same person who designed Bellagio, opened November 15. The 470-room, $250 million project is owned by the Maloof family, which also owns the NBA's Sacramento Kings.RENO — Expansion
The 1,070-room Peppermill Hotel Casino added a 10,000-square-foot convention and entertainment center, a new casino, and two restaurants. Phase two of the $300 million plan began last year and will include an 85,000-square-foot convention center. The Peppermill has 40,000 square feet of meeting space.Renovation
The former Holiday Hotel and Casino was remodeled and reopened as the Siena Hotel Casino & Spa. The 230-room hotel offers 15,000 square feet of meeting space.
The $105 million Reno-Sparks Convention Center expansion and renovation will provide nearly 600,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space in a high-tech convention andfacility. After the expansion and renovation, the center will be capable of hosting national and regional shows and staging multiple groups simultaneously. The project is on schedule and on budget. The convention center renovation work will be completed and all space available for show occupancy by October.
The Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority and the city of Reno have approved the transformation of the National Bowling Stadium and an adjacent lot into a downtown events center. The plan calls for the fourth floor of the NBS to be converted into 179,600 square feet of exhibit and meeting space. The facility will consist of a 77,800 square foot exhibit hall, 30,100 square feet of multipurpose meeting rooms (or 18 meeting rooms), and a 71,700 square foot ballroom.LAKE TAHOE — Renovation
The 450-room Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino has completed a $47 million renovation, creating a 1920s-era mountain-lodge feel. The property offers 23,000 square feet of meeting space with a 5,800-square-foot ballroom.
CONTACT THE CVB
Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
• Fax: (702) 892-2824
Hotel Tax: 9% on the Strip, 11% downtown
Reno Convention & Visitors Association
(775) 827-7662, (800) 443-1482
• Fax: (775) 827-7646
Hotel Tax: 12% in Reno, 11% in Sparks
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority (South Lake Tahoe)
(530) 544-5050, (800) AT-TAHOE
• Fax: (530) 544-2386
North Lake Tahoe Resort Association
(530) 583-3494, (800) TAHOE4U
• Fax: (530) 581-4081
Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors & Convention Bureau
(775) 832-1606, (800) Go-Tahoe
• Fax: (775) 832-1605
Hotel Tax: 9% to 13%