Vdara Hotel & Spa opens as MGM Mirage officials hope CityCenter brings a rebound in the Strip’s luxury trade

Declaring the start of a “new era” in Las Vegas, MGM Mirage officials on Tuesday unveiled Vdara Hotel & Spa, the first installment of its $8.5 billion CityCenter megaresort complex.

The 1,495-suite, 57-story hotel stands next to ARIA Resort & Casino, which is scheduled to open December 16 as the centerpiece of the 67-acre complex, and is connected to the company’s Bellagio resort via pedestrian walkway.

Designed by acclaimed international architect Rafael Viñoly, LEED Gold certified, non-gaming and entirely non-smoking, Vdara is billed as CityCenter’s “hidden gem,” representing the “quiet side of Las Vegas”.

There’s a Frank Stella original behind the front desk and a massive Nancy Rubins sculpture out in the porte cochere. Inside there is a full-service spa, salon and fitness center, a gourmet restaurant, a lobby bar and lounge, 10,000 square feet of meeting space, a business center and an array of other services. Outdoors on the second floor is a 40,000-square-foot pool and deck area.

Suites range from 560 square feet to two-story penthouses, all with state-of-the-art media and entertainment and all sporting fully equipped kitchens. Rates officially range from $149 to $2,000 a night.

And for those who can swing the $500 greens fee there is transportation to and from the city’s exclusive Shadow Creek golf course in the world’s first fleet of stretch limousines powered by compressed natural gas.

“We are incredibly proud to offer the world this first taste of all that CityCenter will bring to the Las Vegas Strip,” said Jim Murren, chief executive of MGM Mirage.

Above all, MGM Mirage and development partner Dubai World, each billions of dollars in debt, are hoping CityCenter will herald a rebound in the Strip’s luxury trade, which has been battered by the global recession, the credit crunch and the collapse in real estate values.

Envisioned five years ago as an enclave of high rises consisting mainly of luxury residences, CityCenter instead is bringing well more than 6,000 hotel rooms and condos - 4,004 at ARIA and some 2,400 at Vdara, Veer Towers and Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, not to mention another 400 rooms at The Harmon, downsized and delayed as a result of construction issues - onto a soft resort market plagued by a fall-off in visitation, a dearth of conventions, decreased hotel occupancy and room rates that are down 25 percent from last year. The ripples have been felt throughout Nevada, which has an unemployment rate over 13 percent and the highest rate of home foreclosures in the nation.

On the occasion of the approval of ARIA’s gaming license, Nevada Gaming Commissioner Tony Alamo said, “We’re putting all our eggs in the ‘grow-the-market’ basket. I would by lying to you if I wasn’t concerned. This is not just the company, it’s the state.”

“It’s going to be bloody out there,” Phil Ruffin told The Associated Press. The Kansas billionaire, who bought Treasure Island from MGM Mirage last year, said, “We wish them all the success in the world because it would help the whole city, but I can’t think of a worse time to open up 7,000 rooms.”

Murren struck a confident tone at Vdara’s Tuesday ribbon-cutting.

“I believe strongly that we’re at a crossroads in our community. We’re still on our feet. We’ve withstood the blows and we’re still standing. I’m convinced we will look back at this and say this was the time when Las Vegas came back.” Casinos reap $4.1B. in Macau’s best quarter ever Judging by the amount Macau’s casinos are winning, it appears the economic downturn largely was erased in the Chinese gambling enclave in the third quarter.

With gaming gross revenues surging by 22.3 percent year over year, the peninsula saw its gross domestic product expand by 8.2 percent in the 12 weeks through September 30, according to a report by China’s Xinhua news agency.

Macau’s casinos reaped 31.8 billion patacas (US$4.1 billion) in gross revenues in the quarter, their highest 12-week total ever, and 83.2 billion patacas (US$10.8 billion) to date, according to the local government’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.

Aside from gaming revenues, though, Macau’s other major GDP components registered mixed results in the third quarter.

Private consumption expenditure dropped by 1.2 percent, up from the 2.1 percent decrease in the previous quarter, and household consumption expenditure in the domestic market fell marginally by 0.1 percent, according to figures released by the government’s Statistics and Census Bureau. Decline in total visitor spending, a statistic which excludes gambling spend, tapered significantly from 20.6 percent in the second quarter to 10.2 percent.

In October, visitor arrivals increased by 5.2 percent year over year to over 1.9 million, of which 54.1 percent came from the Chinese mainland.