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Howard Stutz

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MGM has grand plans with trendy plaza, sports arena

18 Apr 2013

By Howard Stutz
LAS VEGAS -- MGM Resorts International will spend $100 million to transform land along the Strip and surrounding the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts into an outdoor plaza and pedestrian mall with trendy shops, restaurants and a public park.

The plaza will serve as a gateway into a 20,000-seat sports arena, which the company will build behind the two resorts with national arena developer AEG.

The facades of New York-New York Hotel & Casino and Monte Carlo Resort and Casino will be renovated as part of the retail, dining and entertainment district. The development will include several eateries, nightlife venues and entertainment attractions new to Las Vegas.

MGM Resorts announced the development today . Some initial construction has begun, and the company expects the retail and restaurant complex to open by early 2014.

“Our vision is to dramatically change the sidewalk along the Las Vegas Strip, creating an area that will greatly enhance the area and create an energy that you find in the world’s great cities,” MGM Resorts Chairman Jim Murren said in an interview.

“A visitor to Las Vegas no longer wants to be shackled to one resort. That visitor wants to move around and be social. That’s what this type of development offers a customer,” Murren said.

The nongaming project is the second such attraction under construction on the Strip.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. is building the $550 million Linq project between the Flamingo and The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace), featuring retail, dining and entertainment and a 550-foot-tall observation wheel. Linq is scheduled to open by the end of this year, with the observation wheel set to open in 2014.

Murren said Las Vegas has grown beyond the megaresort era of the previous decade and needs to create new types of entertainment and attractions beyond the typical casino experience.

“Today’s consumer doesn’t find that previous concept as compelling,” he said. “I think these types of investments enhance the experience for the visitor.”

MGM Resorts will pay for the Strip development through its $350 million capital improvement budget for 2013 and 2014, which includes hotel room renovations and other amenities at several of its 10 Strip casinos.

The arena budget is separate and not part of the plaza development. MGM Resorts and AEG are requesting proposals for an architect for the arena, which will include designs and budgeting.

The development will take part in phases, Murren said, with the park and arena as the final pieces with a 2016 completion date. The entire project, including Strip frontage, land between the two resorts and the arena site, is 63 acres.

Central features of the new outdoor plaza include Hershey’s Chocolate World, a two-story interactive attraction that celebrates Hershey’s-branded products, to be built near New York-New York. The resort’s skyline and Brooklyn Bridge areas will be modified for better pedestrian access.

Shake Shack, a New York-based “roadside” hamburger and hot dog stand developed by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, will open its first location in the West at the gateway to the outdoor park. The park itself will have dining pavilions and performance spaces.

The Monte Carlo’s European facade will be replaced with Double Barrel, a roadhouse-style bar and restaurant being developed by SBE Entertainment, and a Sambalatte Coffee House. Diablo’s Cantina will remain in its current location.

The architecture firm Cooper, Robertson & Partners will design the plaza area. The company has developed urban public places, including the Battery Park City Esplanade and Zuccotti Park in New York City, Fountain Square in Cincinnati and the Cityfront Center in Chicago.

Murren said MGM Resorts will own most of the venues in the plaza, although lease agreements will be signed with several partner companies, such as Hershey’s.

The development is expected to employ 1,000 to 1,500 construction workers, and the venues in the plaza could employ an estimated 2,000 workers.

The arena will allow MGM Resorts to offer more events, including professional and college basketball and hockey games, that sometimes have to be turned away from the company’s two other Strip venues: the 17,000-seat MGM Grand Garden and the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center.

“We will be able to accommodate more acts and sporting events than ever before,” Murren said.

With the renovations of the facades of New York-New York and Monte Carlo, construction crews will remove the now unused CityCenter preview building and several buildings behind New York-New York that serve as offices for CityCenter.

Murren said MGM Resorts is locating office space here to accommodate the 400 workers.

In addition, Rue De Monte Carlo, the street that leads into the resort’s parking areas from the Strip, will be expanded and improved.

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