It was an odd week in Las Vegas last month for the past and future of the city. On May 4, the Riviera closed for good. The property, purchased by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for 2.5 million, will be taken down this summer to serve as a link between the Convention Center at the Strip. And the next day, ground was broken on Genting’s Resorts World Las Vegas.
The Riviera was, perhaps, the quintessential example of Old Vegas on the Strip. When the property opened on April 20, 1955, Liberace received $50,000 a week to wow audiences with his talent and showmanship. Joan Crawford welcomed guests inside.
Through the years, “The Riv,” as it is affectionately known, has had performers such as Elvis, George Burns, Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Dolly Parton… You name it. If they were big, they played there. Even Liza Minnelli graced the cover of the Versailles Theater menu.
Unfortunately, through the years, the Riviera hung on to its storied past, refused to give in to the changing times, and was given an offer they couldn‘t refuse. The Convention Center was in desperate need of two things—more space to accommodate additional conventions, and access for those people to get to the Strip. The Riviera was the perfect purchase, as it will help on both fronts.
Just across the street and a day after the Riviera was shuttered, Genting’s Resorts World Las Vegas broke ground—although “breaking ground” was a bit of a misnomer since large swaths of the development are already under way, courtesy of Boyd Gaming, which had hoped to build its penultimate development, Echelon, on the site of the old Stardust. But the national recession intervened and two years ago, Boyd sold the site to Genting, which will use much of the infrastructure already built for Resorts World.
The groundbreaking was a gathering of Nevada’s rich and powerful, starting with Governor Brian Sandoval, orchestrated by Vegas’ man behind the scenes, Sig Rogich, and including Steve Wynn and other hotel bosses. Resorts World is the first Nevada development by Genting, which owns the most lucrative casino in the U.S. with Resorts World New York at Aqueduct Raceway.
Genting Chairman KT Lim gave a lengthy description of the Las Vegas property, explaining why they chose a Chinese theme (it will attract Americans, as well as international visitors). Included in the project will be a replica of the Great Wall of China, the first 20th Century Fox theme park and other attractions. Most doubted that a “possible” panda exhibit would be completed due to the complication of “panda politics.”
“To have the ability to experience the authentic history, culture and cuisine of China in Las Vegas, within a few hours’ flight from all U.S. cities, will provide yet another compelling reason to visit or to revisit Las Vegas,” Lim said. “And it will not be just old China that visitors will see, but also the vibrant new China—a true representation of the importance of this ongoing and ever-growing relationship across the Pacific in this century.”
Lim said the project will open in phases starting in mid-2018.