Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

Several long-awaited projects are scheduled to open in Las Vegas in 2020, making it one of the most highly anticipated years in recent memory for tourism in the city.

By far the most visible is Allegiant Stadium, the $1.8 billion, 65,000-seat stadium on the west side of Interstate 15 across from Mandalay Bay. It will become the home of the NFL's Raiders; University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) football; and many other high-profile events, including -- city and state officials hope -- the Super Bowl.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell toured the construction site earlier this month, already calling Las Vegas a "Super Bowl city," according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (The league will be holding its 2020 draft of collegiate players on the Las Vegas Strip from April 23 to 25.)

Allegiant Stadium will host the Pac-12 Conference Football Championship Game next December and will also host the annual Las Vegas Bowl, which will pit a Pac-12 school against a representative of either the Big Ten or Southeastern Conference.

The stadium, with $750 million publicly funded through a hotel room tax, will be ready by midyear, but that's only one project that makes 2020 one to watch in Vegas. A few of the other projects:

• The Circa Resort and Casino, a 44-story, 777-room downtown, is expected to open in December 2020.

• The Downtown Grand's new tower is set to finish midyear, almost doubling the resort's room count to 1,124.

• The $55 million, six-story Hampton Inn & Suites and Home2 Suites hotel plans to open in May just south of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The project will include 150 Hampton Inn & Suites rooms and 100 Home2 Suites rooms under one roof.

• The $375 million, 550,000-square-foot Caesars Forum conference center is set to open in March near the Linq Promenade.

• The $90 million, 315,000-square-foot Downtown Las Vegas Expo Center is scheduled to open in July and will provide exhibit space for the semiannual Las Vegas Market, a showcase of furniture, home decor and gifts for industry professionals that takes place at the World Market Center, as well as trade shows and community events.

• The 400,000-square-foot Wynn Convention Center plans to open in March. The complex will double the convention space at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. The space will include a 20,000-square-foot outdoor events pavilion, an 83,000-square-foot ballroom and a 2,500-square-foot hospitality lounge with a 72-foot video wall.

• The 1.4-million-square foot Las Vegas Convention Center expansion is expected to be ready to host the CES in January 2021. A $52.5 million underground people-mover designed and built by Elon Musk's Boring Company is under construction and will include three passenger stations that will transport passengers over a stretch of a little less than a mile below the sprawling convention facility.

But will they come?

Among those intently watching the growth is Stephen Miller, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at UNLV.

"There's a lot of action going on in town. We're growing again," Miller said. "The recession hit us probably more severely than most metro areas. Our decline was probably bigger, and the duration was probably longer than most metro areas. Although we've come back a long way, we're still catching up."

More than 12,000 hotel rooms are expected to come online in the next five years or so, according to Miller. Resorts World, with 3,500 guestrooms and luxury suites, was set to open in 2020, but that has been pushed back to 2021. Drew Las Vegas, with 3,719 rooms, is now looking at a 2022 opening.

"This is the first big push to expand the supply of rooms, and the question is, are they going to fill them up easily, or how is it going work out? Is it going to boost visitor volume? I don't know the answer to those questions," he said.

Although McCarran Airport is setting records for passengers, overall visitation numbers have been flat to down, Miller said. "That's sort of a conundrum, and I think what may be going on there is we're losing drive-ins from California, some 500 cars a day less from California.

Miller said traffic woes on Interstate 15 between Southern California and Las Vegas may have something to do with visitors thinking twice about visiting.

"People may be saying, 'I just can't take I-15 anymore.' But that may not be it. It may be when they arrive, they pull into the parking garage and say, 'What? A parking fee?' And then they check in and say, 'What? A resort fee?' The cost of the parking fee and the resort fee may not be prohibitive, but it's in your face, and some visitors may say they're nickel-and-diming me to death. Maybe I won't come."

Fees for parking have become more common at MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment hotel-casinos the last few years. Wynn and Encore charged for a time but went back to free parking. Other large resorts such as the Venetian, Palazzo, Sahara, Strat, Treasure Island and Tropicana have never charged for parking.

Miller said he is wary of national and global economic conditions and their effect on Las Vegas tourism.

"I'm not predicting a recession, I don't see a recession in the next two years, but things could go badly," Miller said, who referred to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement that was signed by the leaders of the three countries in November but awaits ratification by each country's legislature. "That's a good thing if [it's ratified]. Things are so volatile in Washington, tomorrow morning that could all be put asunder.

"So world events could affect us here locally because the European community is slowing down, and China is slowing. When China slows, that affects the emerging market economies. And then the trade negotiations with China are on again/off again, and [that] is making a lot of people nervous about making investments in the future."


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