We know Las Vegas for its showgirls and crooners, its casino life and pool scene. But the city that is already firmly positioned as one of the world’s top entertainment, meeting and convention destinations is quickly adopting a new guise that promises to expand its dedicated fan base even further.
This April, the Las Vegas Strip will host the 85th annual NFL Draft, one of the most anticipated events on the sports calendar. And in September, the Raiders move to Las Vegas to play next season’s home games at the new, $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium, now in its final stages of construction just off the Strip.
“Las Vegas is great because it’s arguably the event and convention capital in the U.S.” Samantha Kearns, CMM
“Las Vegas is a place where you can experience sports and entertainment in a way that’s totally different than anywhere else on earth,” says Chris Meyer, CEM, CMP, vice president of Global Sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “We’ve evolved into a year-round professional sports city with the introduction of the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces in the past couple of years, and next fall we’ll welcome the NFL’s Raiders.”
It’s not like Las Vegas needed to add another dimension to its entertainment package. But there’s no question that major league sports teams will help further diversify the city’s attractions — and provide meeting and convention planners with new angles to utilize in producing dynamic and memorable events.
“Las Vegas is great because it’s arguably the event and convention capital in the U.S.,” suggests Samantha Kearns, CMM, owner of Kearns & Company, a San Diego-based corporate event planning company. “The city is incredibly well versed in moving mass amounts of people quickly, the number of hotel options make pricing very competitive, and food and beverage options and customizations are essentially endless.”
Kearns adds: “I have yet to have a client ask for something — no matter how outlandish it seems — that can’t be done in Las Vegas. From experiential events to corporate meetings, everything is doable.”
The Caesars properties have been Kearns’ go-to when bringing corporate groups to Las Vegas for larger tech conferences such as CES or IWCE — groups of 20 to 60 that may walk the show floor or have meeting spaces on-site, but don’t always have an exhibit in the show.
“Caesars has helped me pull off events and meetings that at times felt impossible,” Kearns says. “The properties are always accommodating my meeting needs and last-minute alterations to guest room blocks, food and beverage, and the change of plans that sometimes happen in the 11th hour of the planning process.”
Kearns says, from a planner’s perspective, she particularly likes The LINQ Hotel + Experience. “The impossibly easy access to a variety of restaurants, shops, Monorail transportation, and the Strip make it an easy choice,” Kearns explains. “Oftentimes my corporate groups are in a meeting room or at the convention center all day and The LINQ allows them to stroll the promenade, zip line or take a ride on the High Roller, and experience some of the fun that Las Vegas offers without having to travel far. Easy access to the Monorail is also a budget saver — I can buy passes for my sales teams and cut down on overall transportation costs so we can funnel that spend into different areas of the budget.”
Kearns values being able to offer her groups concessions tailored to their interests — be it room upgrades, or offering Platinum or Diamond status to the C-suite. And, she adds, her requests never generate a hard “No” from the Caesars properties.
“They are always willing to work with my requests, no matter how large or last-minute, to make sure I’m happy with the solution,” Kearns says. “Whether it’s a sudden increase in meeting space for a new product launch party, an on-site revision to my A/V needs, or an addition to my guest room block, they have always made my vision come to life, and made my clients very happy. Since closed mouths don’t get fed, I keep a very open dialogue going with my on-site event and catering managers so they can work in stride with me to make sure we are exceeding my client’s expectations.”
Adds Kearns, “The groups that I bring to The LINQ expect that we go back again the following year. We consistently come in under budget, achieve our event and meeting objectives, and everyone leaves having had a great time socially.”
Come spring, Caesars Entertainment will have even more to attract meetings and conventions with the debut of Caesars FORUM, a $375 million conference facility located adjacent to the High Roller observation wheel. The 550,000-sf facility will provide direct access to 8,500 hotel rooms at Harrah’s Las Vegas, the LINQ and Flamingo Hotel and Casino Las Vegas, and will offer the two largest pillar-free ballrooms in the world, each 110,000 sf, plus more than 100 breakout rooms. Since announcing the project, Caesars reports that more than $390 million in meetings and events have been signed to utilize the facility, with more than 70% of those contracts representing new business.
With 4 million sf of meeting and convention space within a 2-mile stretch on the Las Vegas Strip, MGM Resorts remains the dominant player for the meetings market. Over the last two years, 850,000 sf of meeting space has been added at ARIA Resort & Casino, MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Las Vegas and Park MGM Las Vegas. With its increased flexibility, the new meeting space allows for more robust and creative meeting options to meet the ever-changing needs for collaborative and productive work spaces.
Just more than a year ago, the MGM Grand expanded its conference center by 250,000 sf in a $130 million expansion. Last year, the new Park MGM also debuted a 77,000-sf conference space with a combination of non-traditional spaces, an outdoor terrace and flexible design, filling an unmet need in Las Vegas for small groups, while also offering spaces to host up to 5,000 attendees in the Park Theater.
At the other end of the Strip, the venerable Tropicana Las Vegas — a DoubleTree by Hilton, is preparing for a soft renovation of its 100,000-sf convention center and all guest rooms, slated to begin in the first quarter of this year. The resort has already added three new F&B options during the last two years, including Robert Irvine’s Public House, a partnership with the Food Network that gives the titular chef a chance to provide his spin on American pub cuisine. The 300-seat venue has a private room that accommodates up to 100 patrons, providing two options for groups to take over the space. Next door, the Red Lotus Asian Kitchen serves soups and noodle dishes with roots in the cuisine of China, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea. And last year, the Tropicana debuted the Trago Lounge, a high-end, redo of the former Tropicana Lounge, specializing in craft cocktails, bourbons and scotch whiskeys.
Last summer, the main tower pool deck at the The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino was redesigned, creating a Mediterranean oasis in the city. Taking design cues from the Italian Riviera, with sculptural art pieces and quaint gardens — the five pools provide the look and feel of a European escape. The addition of 10, well-appointed premium poolside cabanas provide over-the-top amenities, some of which feature private plunge pools — reflecting the needs of the resort’s most discerning guests.
The Venetian was home to the annual user’s conference for San Francisco-based software company Splunk Inc. The conference drew 11,000 Splunk Enthusiasts for 400 education sessions held at the Venetian and adjacent Sands Expo & Convention Center. Leslie Hasvold, Splunk’s director of Corporate Event Marketing, says the conference will be returning to the Venetian this year.
“Our customers’ and partners’ experience across the Venetian and the Sands is seamless, providing them with the right space and journey for a conference of our size,” Hasvold says. “For planners, the teams at the properties are great partners, and the suite room concept at the hotels is a huge plus.”
Hasvold was impressed with how The Venetian handled one particular aspect of Splunk’s list of priorities.
“As a company and a conference, we take our diversity and inclusion efforts very seriously,” Hasvold says. “The Venetian jumped in with both feet and supported our efforts in creating gender-neutral restrooms, a multifaith room complete with a qibla, mothers’ rooms, and a wellness and relaxation space.”
The Venetian and Palazzo resort complex includes more than 7,000 rooms, with 2.25 million sf of meeting space spread between the hotels and the adjacent Sands, allowing the integrated property to cater events of almost any size under one roof. This is helpful, as keeping attentions focused can be a struggle in a glittery location such as Las Vegas.
“One challenge of the city as a whole is the sheer quantity of distractions our attendees face,” Hasvold says. “It is especially important in Las Vegas to make sure our content and activities are compelling enough to hold our attendees’ interest.” The city’s ability to handle large groups with ease tops the list of advantages for meeting planners like Hasvold. “Beyond that, the large meeting and convention hotels, the reasonable sleeping room pricing, the airlift, and the city’s constant improvements for planners and travelers” all help make Las Vegas a good fit for Splunk.
Stephanie Hannah agrees. The vice president of Field Marketing for Irvine, California-based IT company Trace3 says: “Las Vegas has been the perfect destination for the Evolve Leadership and Technology Conference for 10 years. Whether it’s a hotel, a dining experience or entertainment, the advantage of working with this city is that there are so many great options to choose from. The entertainment and dining is unparalleled. I produce an award event, and work with Fernando Quevado and Kelly Hamilton from Q Productions to help me produce an Oscar-worthy show every year. Kelly also does a laser show that opens my events — it is incredible. And, a dining event that we have repeated several times is the Lip-Smacking Foodie Tour. My guests get to embark on a five-star dining experience around Las Vegas and end the evening with Champagne and a helicopter ride down the Las Vegas Strip.”
The Evolve conference draws 1,500 attendees to the city annually, and the event is scheduled again in June at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The 3,042-room hotel occupies a prime location near the center of the Strip, and features more than 240,000 sf of meeting space.
“I chose the Cosmopolitan Hotel because the location is great, the meeting space fits all my needs, and the food choices are the highest quality,” Hannah says. “The hotel itself is modern, and continuously updated, and the room product is one of the best — it has just been refreshed and the rooms look fantastic.”
Hannah also lauds the hotel’s staff. “The sales manager was great to work with during the contracting process,” she adds.
One of the Cosmopolitan’s unique venues is The Chelsea, a working, transformable theater inspired by an abandoned glass factory. The 40,000-sf concert hall, split over two levels, offers an avant-garde approach to meetings and entertainment, with cast glass chandeliers, a vintage lobby bar, private VIP opera boxes, and a decorative grand staircase.
“The Chelsea has amazing sound and visuals,” Hannah says. But, she cautions: “It’s extremely costly — make sure you negotiate a set load-in and load-out and daily usage fee.”
One option for trimming distractions is moving to a hotel off the Strip. Although the M Resort Spa Casino is on Las Vegas Boulevard, it’s also about 9 miles south of the airport, well away from the usual bustle and traffic of the Strip.
Debbie Welder, GLP, GTP, global corporate travel manager for Rimini Street, says M Resort was a great fit for her company, a third-party software support company, in part due to Rimini Street being based in Las Vegas. “But, we find that our employees enjoy after-hours leisure activities as well as dining options,” she says. “The hotel is only 15 minutes from the airport, so it is easily accessible, and we don’t deal with most of the traffic around the Strip.”
It is also still relatively accessible to most of the off-site activities Las Vegas visitors count on. For a 90-person, new-hire training event in the summer, Rimini Street held one off-site event at Topgolf Las Vegas.
“It is the No. 1 request from our staff and always highly rated on surveys,” Welder says. “Topgolf is for players of all skill levels, and offers an all-inclusive package which makes planning easy. We’re holding another large event in February, and will be offering Hoover Dam Tours, exotic car rides, a Cirque show, Topgolf and the Mob Museum.”
M Resort is one example of how planners may be able to tap into the city’s growing sports focus. The hotel sits in close proximity to the Raiders practice facility, which is expected to yield opportunities for corporate planners and casino players alike. Starting in the summer, M Resort will be designated the ‘Official Raiders Team Headquarters Hotel,’ and exclusive access to experiences with the Raiders organization are in the works. An official Raiders Bar & Grill will open at M Resort this summer, complimenting the hotel’s popular 16 Rooftop Bar, which opened last year.
The 390-room M Resort offers more than 92,000 sf of meeting space, including a 25,000-sf pavilion, grand ballroom, outdoor terraces and multiple reception areas.
“The resort has any size meeting room you could need, from the large pavilion to the board room,” Welder says. “They also have solid relationships with third-party vendors if extra décor or entertainment is needed. Rimini Street likes to brand heavily at events and the M Resort had great suggestions as well as an on-site vendor who could assist with printing and installation.”
Welder found the resort’s catering staff to be quite flexible, and the food outstanding. “We are putting together an ‘Around the World’ dinner for our global employees, and the catering staff has been instrumental in presenting menus that incorporate dishes from our office locations.”
Welder adds, “The meetings and events staff is extremely helpful, professional and flexible, as well. We have many changes to our meetings, and the hotel responded quickly. Nothing is off limits — public spaces can be closed off, custom menus or drinks can be created, and unusual event set up is possible. All you have to do is ask, and the hotel staff can give you great advice on how other companies have used the space.”
Formerly the SLS Las Vegas, the new SAHARA Las Vegas officially took on its original name last year, and is undergoing a $150 million refreshing. It spreads its 1,600 guest rooms among the Blanca Tower, Marra Tower, or AAA Four Diamond Alexandria Tower, each offering a distinct attendee experience. For foodies, SAHARA has a variety of restaurants sure to satiate any appetite, including the award-winning Bazaar Meat by José Andrés, which has a room to accommodate groups of 12 or more for private dining; Beers and Bets; Northside Café & Chinese Kitchen; Uno Más Street Tacos + Spirits; and Bella Bistro. Bars include Paradise Lounge and CASBAR Lounge, which offers live entertainment Thursday through Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
As for meetings and events, SAHARA offers more than 80,000 sf of indoor-outdoor event space, including a 9,000-sf ballroom, and 30,000 sf of dedicated meeting space. There are also two pools; the Amina Spa, with 10 treatment rooms; and a 1,600-sf Fitness Studio open around the clock.
For planners and attendees seeking more than gaming and nightlife, Wynn Las Vegas recently resurrected the Wynn Golf Club and its new Tom Fazio golf course. The 18-hole championship course includes reimagined topography throughout.
“Tom Fazio has outdone himself designing a beautiful and unique new course that is even better than the one before,” says Marilyn Spiegel, president of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. “We look forward to welcoming players back with a world-class golf experience that captures both the luxury of our resort and the excitement of Las Vegas.”
The course sits on 129 acres of the resort’s private backyard, with eight all-new holes and 10 revamped holes. Completing the experience is a professional caddie program staffed with several PGA members, a new on-course culinary program, lithium-powered golf carts, expansive pro shop, and luxury clubhouse.
As for the resort, Wynn and Encore Las Vegas consist of two hotel towers with a total of 4,748 guest rooms, suites and villas. It offers about 192,000 sf of casino space, 22 signature dining experiences, 11 bars, two award-winning spas, about 290,000 sf of meeting and convention space, about 160,000 sf of retail space as well as two theaters, two nightclubs, a beach club and recreation and leisure facilities. .
Wynn Las Vegas has also embraced the environmental movement, last year the resort opened the Wynn Solar Field, which offsets up to 75% of the resort’s peak energy needs. The solar facility will eventually be used to power the resort’s new meetings and conventions space expansion, set to open in the spring, with 100% renewable energy.
A popular Reno destination, Peppermill Resort Spa Casino recently renovated the guest rooms and lobbies of Peppermill North and West wings; the Florence and Pisa hospitality suites; there is now a new, private dining room that can accommodate up to 50 guests at Café Milano; and the two-story, 17th-floor suites were redone to include luxurious amenities, custom décor and exceptional views.
The resort, which sprawls over 45 acres, offers 82,000 sf of gaming action, 106,000 sf of meeting and entertainment space, which features its newly renovated Sorrento, Naples and Capri ballrooms. In addition to offering one of Nevada’s largest clear-span meeting spaces, Peppermill also boasts a two-story executive boardroom, two resort pools, 10 award-winning restaurants, 15 themed bars and lounges, the world-class, 33,000-sf Spa Toscana and a fitness center.
The 1,900-room Grand Sierra Resort and Casino is Reno’s largest property, with 200,000 sf of meeting space. The resort’s Grand Theatre can hold up to 4,000 attendees. It also offers 45 breakout rooms for smaller groups, but can handle groups ranging from 10 to 4,000 people.
Grand Sierra also offers 11 food-and-beverage options, from a fine-dining steakhouse to casual eateries, including a Round Table Pizza Italian restaurant that features gourmet pizzas.
A self-contained Nevada Conference & Exhibition Center features 44,115 sf of meeting and exhibit space, including 12 breakout rooms. The resort complex also features a state-of-the-art spa, as well as a bowling complex, a cinema, indoor golf and a driving range.
For Elemental LED Inc., an engineering and technology company that produces linear lighting, Reno offered the solution for monthly training events for groups of 30 to 50 dealers representing Elemental products. The Reno-based company holds the two-day events at the 824-room Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.
“The service provided by the Atlantis matches that of Elemental LED’s mission statement: ‘Make it easy for customers to do business with us,’” says James Chau, senior technical training manager. “The Atlantis is classic Reno in physical form. The appeal is fun and cheesy, and modern enough for comfort.”
Adds Chau: “The Atlantis gave us a full coordination team which made communications really simple and direct — no need to send to a generic inbox for answers. There’s one person for initial contact, one for coordination, and one for billing. In addition, the SMERF sales manager has introduced additional items to make the stay for our guests more personal, such as a welcome letter upon checking in, and gift baskets or goodies waiting in each of their hotel rooms — small gestures, big impact. The sales manager continued to provide constant communication when details, forms, or other items are missing. All of this is ingrained with her team. Not once were these team members unavailable to be contacted if anything went wrong or if additional assistance was needed.”
When it comes to rooms, Chau advises being specific in communicating requests to your coordinator. “They will absolutely be accommodating in every way possible. For example, I had one guest who was afraid of elevators and required a room that was on a floor accessible by stairs. With less than one day notice they were able to handle it quickly.” Chau adds that the entire Atlantis facility is always clean throughout, and he lauds the hotel’s spa. “Hands down, it’s the best massage you’ll find in Reno. Many of my guests rave about it during a survey recap following each of the events.”
Although Chau says Reno is a very active town, he cites its “limited cultural expanse” as a shortcoming for the city. “Though slowly growing, there is little to offer for those of other ethnic decent,” Chau says. “What is currently present is non-authentic and mostly used as a tourist gimmick. This becomes a challenge when we host our international VIPs who are craving a bit of home during long stints.”
While Nevada’s second-largest city may not have quite the flash of the Las Vegas Strip, the destination still provides unexpected activities like tackling the world’s tallest outdoor rock-climbing wall at Whitney Peak Hotel or a beer tasting at Great Basin Brewing Co., the oldest brewery in Nevada.
“Reno is full of events every day,” Chau adds. “Contacting local coordinators early will give you the best bang for your dollar, but also grant you and your guests the best experience possible. No hiccups, no incidents — just pure comfort.” C&IT