Do the construction crews in Las Vegas ever rest? Even now, after a year of four major casino-hotel openings (Stratosphere, Monte Carlo, Orleans and New York-New York), the booms continue.
Some of these booms come from the construction of still more new hotel-casinos. Other loud sounds emanate from existing properties adding rooms or redesigning public spaces, or both. And this isn't even counting the racket raised by that emergent Vegas trend, the implosion (one claimed the Sands on Nov. 26; another took out the Hacienda on New Year's Eve).
Here, gleaned from the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and various hotels, is a view of Vegas to come, beginning with the all-new projects:
* Bellagio, a high-end Strip project with 3,000 rooms, developed by Mirage Resorts, is designed to evoke the lakes and hills of Northern Italy. At an estimated cost of $1.2 billion, it will stand on a 122-acre site in the footprint of the old Dunes hotel. Opening in 1998. Its building already rises high above the middle stretches of the Strip. Early reports predict room rates beginning at $200 to $300 nightly.
* Paris, another Strip project, is intended for a 24-acre vacant lot next to the Bally's hotel and casino (and roughly across the street from Bellagio). The developer, Hilton-owned Bally Entertainment, proposes 2,900 rooms under a 50-story Eiffel Tower. Estimated cost is $500 million, and target completion date is 1998.
* The biggest Planet Hollywood--not a restaurant but a hotel and casino--is to be a joint project of the Planet Hollywood restaurants backers and ITT Corp. (operators of Sheraton hotels). It is designed to house 3,200 rooms, cost $830 million and open in 1999. It will take up 35 acres next to the Desert Inn Hotel.
* Project Paradise is the working title of a Circus Circus plan for a 4,000-room, $800-million hotel-casino complex with tropical environment suggesting "an ancient culture from the South Seas" on the old Hacienda site. Target opening: late 1998. One hotel building will stand 42 stories high. Adjacent will be a joint project with the upscale Four Seasons Regent hotel chain to create a 400-room high-end hotel. The architectural idea, Circus Circus says, is to make it seem "as if a forbidden city were to be discovered on an exotic jungle island."
* On the site of the old Sands Hotel, which closed after 44 years in June (with the November implosion following), owner Sheldon Adelson has announced plans for a $1.8-billion, 6,000-room resort with a Venetian theme, 200,000 square feet of casino space and about 30 restaurants. The resort has no name yet, but opening has been targeted for 1999.
Meanwhile, farther off the strip, plans have taken shape for two high-end hotels, each to be run by a high-profile hotel company new to Las Vegas. One is Hyatt, which in 1998 expects to open a $150-million, 500-room hotel-casino as part of the Lake Las Vegas residential development (with golf) near Lake Mead at Henderson, Nev. The second is Ritz-Carlton, which aims in 1999 to open a 526-room hotel-casino as part of the upscale Mountain Spa Resort residential development at the northwest end of Las Vegas Valley.
On the expansion and renovation front, just about everyone seems to have something in the works, from the Mirage's Secret Garden of Siegfried & Roy (an exhibit of rare lions and tigers and one elephant, now open) to the Las Vegas Hilton's "Star Trek: The Experience," due to open in mid-year.
Among projects already completed: The Holiday Inn Boardwalk, on the Strip near the Monte Carlo, has added a 456-room tower at a cost of $80 million. And a few miles down the Strip on Dec. 23, Circus Circus added 1,000 rooms (at about the same cost), giving it nearly 3,800 rooms.
In coming months, the Luxor is adding 1,950 rooms--in a pair of 22-story rectangles next to its signature pyramid--to its 2,526, at a cost of $240 million.
MGM Grand has embarked on a $250-million make-over that will recast the property's theme park, re-theme the restaurant walking area with a Hollywood atmosphere and replace the casino's signature gold lion's head at Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. Still the biggest hotel in town with 5,005 rooms, the MGM does not plan to add more of those.
Caesars Palace (which has accelerated expansion plans since its acquisition by ITT Corp. in 1995) will add 2,150 rooms to its existing 1,450 as part of a $900-million expansion. A doubling of the Forum Shops mall's square footage is also planned for completion this year. One 1,200-room tower is to be completed in December; another 900 rooms are to follow a year later.
Harrah's expects to add nearly 1,000 rooms in mid-1997 for about $200 million.
Reynolds travels anonymously at the newspaper's expense, accepting no special discounts or subsidized trips. He welcomes comments and suggestions, but cannot respond individually to letters and calls. Write Travel Insider, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053 or e-mail email@example.com.