Saying Good-Bye to the Riviera


Las Vegas has had its difficulties since the Great Recession began in 2006. However, the city continues to move forward and there is always a new project waiting just around the corner. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) expansion is one of the projects in the queue. To maintain its lead as the nation’s number one convention city, the city needs more convention space. The convention and tourism board is taking the bull by the horns and investing $2.3 billion in expanding its facility. As part of that plan, the old and very tired Riviera is going to come down. Time does not stand still on the Las Vegas Strip; the has-beens must always stand aside and make room for tomorrow.

By all accounts, it was a historic vote. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors agreed to purchase a Strip hotel that has been operating for nearly 60 years and at the same time, jump-start a project some say is bigger than the state’s Tesla Motors deal in Northern Nevada. Board members unanimously agreed to spend up to $191 million. The convention authority will work with architects and engineers to develop a site plan for the $2.3 billion Las Vegas Global Business District. Richard N. Velotta/ Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2-20-15

The convention authority is the marketing arm of Las Vegas; since the 1950s it has worked to make the city and the Strip a worldwide phenomenon. It spends over $100 million a year advertising Las Vegas to the rest of the world. It is not likely that there is one serious gambler on the planet who does not know about Las Vegas. In my mind’s eye, I picture those gamblers planning, as they drop off to sleep each night, to one day perform a personal pilgrimage to the gambling shrine. The casino industry has responded to the convention authority’s efforts by building more casinos and more hotel rooms. There are over 125,000 hotel rooms to accommodate the pilgrims responding to the LVCVA message.

Lots of people do respond; over 40 million people visited Las Vegas in 2014. Most of the visitors are independent tourists who come to gawk, shop and gamble. However, conventions are also a very important segment of the city’s business. Las Vegas is the nation’s most popular venue for conventions. Twenty-two thousands conventions and meetings were held in Las Vegas in 2014 with five million attendees. But to maintain its lead, Las Vegas needs more convention space. The authority currently has over three million square feet of space. Now, it is in the process of adding another million square feet to its space.

In the first phase, the authority will add 750,000 square feet of new exhibit pace and 187,500 square feet of additional meeting space. The second phase would involve renovating existing space to create 100,000 square feet for general sessions and 100,000 square feet for new meeting space. Ralenkotter said some kind of people-mover transportation system also is planned because of the distance from the Riviera’s front doorstep on Las Vegas Boulevard to the Convention Center’s existing South Hall. Richard N. Velotta/ Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2-20-15

That new space is not going to be cheap; the convention authority is willing to spend over two billion dollars to create a unique convention district. To put that in perspective, if it were a casino it would be in the top ten most expensive casinos ever built in Las Vegas. That is what makes Las Vegas unique; a public agency is spending more on an expansion of its facitilites than has ever been spent on any casino in this country, except of course in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, that makes sense and fits into the pattern of growth and expansion in the city. After a pause caused by the Great Recession, the Strip is on the move again. Just down the Strip the $4 billion Resorts World is planned and according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there is a total of $10 billion in projects on the drawing board.

It is sad to see the famous Riviera disappear. At the LVCVA’s meeting there were even those wishing to save the Riviera. It is a romantic notion, but not practical and not Las Vegas. The Riviera had outlived its time; the city and the Strip have changed too much for it to be competitive. The Riviera will come down as the Dunes, Stardust, New Frontier, Boardwalk, Bourbon Street, Castaways, Desert Inn, El Rancho, Aladdin, Hacienda, Sands and the Landmark came down in grand displays and clouds of dust. It is a noble tradition and without it, Las Vegas would not be Las Vegas. The city has become a phenomenon because it has been willing and able to continually recreate itself for a new era and a new audience.

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1 Response to “Saying Good-Bye to the Riviera”



  1. 1 Createurs de Luxe Trackback on March 7, 2015 at 1:16 pm

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