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Plan to demolish historic Riviera Hotel & Casino approved by Las Vegas tourism board

The project is the first step toward a $2.3 billion expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

August 19, 2015 |
Plan to demolish historic Riviera Hotel & Casino approved by Las Vegas tourism board

Photo: Alex Proimos/Wikimedia Commons

A contractor has told the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority that demolishing the vacant Riviera Hotel & Casino and paving over that 26-acre site could cost up to $42 million.

Last February, the Authority purchased the Riviera for $182.5 million, plus $8.5 million in transaction costs. The Authority intends to use this space to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center out to the Las Vegas Strip, according to the Associated Press.

On August 11, the Authority’s board of directors unanimously approved a plan to demolish the Riviera and pave over the land rather than let the building sit vacant while the Authority finds the $2.3 billion needed to increase the size of the convention center to 5 million sf, from its current 3.1 million sf.

The contractor, Terry Miller of Cordell Corp., which is managing the Las Vegas Convention Center District project, told the board he expects the demolition would require an implosion as well as a teardown. However, the precise cost of that razing won’t be known until the Authority officially bids out the job.

The board had already rejected an alternative proposal that called for maintaining the vacant historic building—Las Vegas’s first high-rise resort when it opened on April 20, 1955—while demolition financing was sought. Miller estimated that option would have cost between $5 million and $10 million per year.

The 60-year-old Riviera, which closed on May 4, would be inventoried for hazardous materials before it is demolished.

Perhaps coincidentally, a week after the Authority’s board made its decision, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, at the far end of the Strip, opened a 350,000-sf expansion of its convention center that now exceeds 2 million total sf, and over 900,000 sf of contiguous exhibit space.

Rossi Ralenkotter, the Authority’s president and CEO, said that expanding the Las Vegas Convention Center is among the efforts needed to avoid lose ground to other destinations interested in peeling away some of Vegas’ convention business. “The fact is, there’s a destination arms race all around us,” he told AP.

Through June, Las Vegas’s visitor volume was up 1.5% over the same period last year to 21,008,251, according to the Authority’s estimates. But gaming revenue was flat at $4.824 billion. Gaming revenue from casinos on the Strip was off 1.4% to $3.16 billion of that total.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval recently convened a new tourism committee, whose goals include examining Southern Nevada convention facilities and making recommendations about new space.

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