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CityCenter workers thrilled to remain employed

30 Mar 2009

By Arnold M. Knightly

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Friday was a very special day for CityCenter's 8,500 construction workers: It wasn't their last day of work.

"Everybody was wondering what was going to go on, were we going to have jobs," Todd Greeley, a union laborer, said about the general feeling among workers when they arrived for work at 4 a.m. Friday. "Especially the way times are now."

Rumors had been swirling around the 76-acre Strip work site that Friday might be their last day because CityCenter might have to file for bankruptcy, possibly shutting the $8.7 billion project down.

Soon after 11:30 a.m., however, workers began hearing -- many getting calls from their wives -- that MGM Mirage had made a $200 million payment to keep the project funded for at least another month.

MGM Mirage's payment, which was made on a payday for the majority of the project's construction workers, spread "like wildfire" on the work site, Greeley said. Workers were "high-fiving" and congratulating each other, exclaiming "Alright, we're in."

Some became visibly emotional, with a few workers shedding a tear or two.

"Everybody was just real happy," said Greeley, who has worked on the site for two months. "I'm just relieved, really."

That was seconded by Enrique Quinonez, a laborer on the project for two years.

Quinonez, who heard about MGM Mirage's payment while driving to work at 2 p.m. Friday, called it "good news."

Before then, though, he said it was scary coming in to work not knowing if it might be your last day.

"It's a scary feeling (that) today could be your last day, and there's nothing else," Quinonez said, explaining that workers were especially worried about the project shutting down since gaming companies are no longer announcing new projects almost monthly.

"We still have a few more months and hopefully we can get a couple other projects going on so we can continue building," he said.

For now, though, there are hundreds of construction workers trying to find work.

Greeley said the union's job list currently has 900 names of people looking for work, Greeley said. He speculated that shutting down the CityCenter site would probably double that number.

Officials from the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 17 affiliated construction unions working on the project, praised MGM Mirage's decision to fund not only the company's obligation, but to also cover Dubai World's half of the payment. Dubai World is a 50-50 joint partner in the CityCenter project.

"Clearly, those 8,500 jobs were in jeopardy if they weren't able to come through on that," council spokesman Steve Redlinger said. "We're happy to still have our members to work on that job."

The council also was pleased that MGM Mirage signaled earlier in the week that it intends to do everything it can to complete the massive project on time this year, Redlinger said.

"From that standpoint, we were happy that at the end of the day MGM was able to do the things they needed to do," Redlinger said. "That they were able to fund the commitment that needed to be funded and that the project would go on."

Redlinger continued: "We've never questioned their willingness to work with us or their willingness to do everything they needed to do, to work night and day, to make sure those obligations are met. We certainly appreciate that."

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