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CEOs of CES and Las Vegas Tourism Say the Vegas Strip Needs More Meeting Space

Skift Take

The $1.4 billion expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center is significant because it cements the city as the meetings and events capital of the western U.S. for the foreseeable future.

— Greg Oates

Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA), and Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, officially opened the new site for the $1.4 billion expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center yesterday.

Shapiro was in town to oversee his organization’s 50th annual CES tech conference kicking off today, the biggest annual convention on the Las Vegas Strip.

The ceremony marked the completion of the first phase of the three-phase expansion, which consisted of imploding the old Riviera Hotel & Casino and building a 20-acre parking lot on top of it. The second and third phase revolve around building out the 600,000 square-foot expansion of meeting, function, and exhibition space. As a point of reference, many convention centers in large American cities have less than half a million square feet total.

The expansion is being funded, in part, with a 0.5 percent increase in the Clark County room tax. When the new construction is complete, at a date yet to be announced, the entire area will be billed as the Las Vegas Convention Center District.

Ralenkotter contends that the additional real estate is required for large citywide events like CES, which welcomed 177,000 attendees last year. According to the LVCVA, the meetings and events sector pumps $9.3 billion annually into the local economy, while supporting more than 66,000 jobs.

“This project was critical because our customers were telling us we needed to improve and expand our facilities,” Ralenkotter said at yesterday’s press conference.

Shapiro added that CES was the first major convention to establish an annual base on the Strip back in 1978. This year, the new parking lot allowed him to open additional outdoor exhibitor venues, because the event now requires over four million square feet of operable space to host attendees and exhibitors visiting from more than 3,600 companies worldwide.

“We need more room to grow,” said Shapiro. “We think we can have over 200,000 people at CES in the future, but we need a convention center that can do it, and we’re out of space at this point.”

Speaking with Ralenkotter after the press conference, he said the new facility will support upwards of 6,000 new jobs and inject another $300-400 million into the local economy.

He also explained that the LVCVA is focusing on attracting more high-tech, advanced industry conventions, which is further supported by the raft of new tech companies moving into the region.

“The fact that Las Vegas now has the Faraday [electric car factory] development going on in North Las Vegas, as well as the Hyperloop and Tesla developments in northern Nevada, means we as a state are embracing those technologies,” Ralenkotter said. “And we’re certainly taking advantage of the fact that the world is coming to Las Vegas for international technology tradeshows like CES.”

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