Vegas Ups the Ante



Next to Crystals at CityCenter’s entrance is Las Vegas’s first Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a 47-story smoke-free ode to opulence that eschews gaming in favor of a 23rd-floor sky lobby, meeting space for 600, and a 27,000-square-foot spa designed to evoke 1930s Shanghai. At the heart of the development is Aria, which combines 4,004 hotel rooms in two curvilinear glass and steel towers with a 150,000-square-foot casino, an Elvis-inspired Cirque du Soleil production, and restaurants from culinary masters Masayoshi Takayama (Masa, New York City) and Shawn McClain (Custom House in Chicago).

Set back from the Strip’s bustle, the 57-story, all-suite Vdara also takes the smoke-free, gaming-free path, wooing its guests with a 40,000-square-foot elevated pool and lounge and an eco-conscious spa. It’s no surprise that in a town where fortunes are easily made, green is CityCen-ter’s color of choice. The 18 million-square-foot project received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification based on its sustainable site development, materials, energy efficiency, water savings, and indoor environmental quality.

The final tower on the scene, the icy-blue Harmon, is the sole reminder of a lengthy construction process that weathered its share of delays and bankruptcy rumors; condos are no longer part of the mix, and the tower will open in late 2010 as a 400-room luxury hotel.

One of the best features of the development is the prices that come with all the new rooms. CityCenter has added a whopping 6,000 hotel rooms to a city that wasn’t hurting for them to begin with. With room rates drastically reduced, the off-season has become nonexistent. There are unbelievable bargains to be easily struck simply by calling hotels directly. For example, compare rates for the March 26-28 weekend at the Mandarin Oriental ($375 per night) with the same hotel in New York ($795 per night).

Some might be surprised that City- Center made it to opening day at all in the middle of a U.S. economic meltdown, but it’s all just a little bit of Strip history repeating. If it weren’t a gamble, it wouldn’t be Vegas.