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Resorts World is a rare finished project on north Strip

Updated June 20, 2021 - 3:15 pm

Las Vegas may be known for its boulevard of massive casinos, but it also boasts a long history of developers drawing up grandiose plans and never following through.

And in the past several years, one spot in particular has seen a parade of big plans come and go or just stall: the north Strip.

Coming out of the Great Recession, various plans to build huge hotels, complete an unfinished skyscraper, and construct an arena have produced hardly any visible results. But in a break from the north Strip’s seemingly cursed past, a newly built hotel-casino is about to open.

Resorts World Las Vegas, a $4.3 billion project by Malaysia’s Genting Group, is set to debut next Thursday. It will feature 3,500 rooms, more than 40 food and beverage spots, and plenty of star power, with a lineup of scheduled shows from the likes of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Celine Dion.

Resorts World was initially supposed to debut five years ago, and it’s unclear how, or if, its long-planned entry will influence neighboring developers. But its opening could spark a boost of foot traffic to a stretch of the Strip that has long needed it and more tourism overall to Las Vegas, something new resorts have done in the past.

Genting bought the abandoned Echelon resort site in March 2013 with plans for its own lavish project. The economy was in rough shape, though it wasn’t long before other big proposals or deals came about, sparking hopes for a turnaround in the area.

Ex-NBA player Jackie Robinson announced plans in late 2013 to build an arena and a luxury hotel on the former Wet ’n’ Wild water park site. In 2014, Australian billionaire James Packer acquired the vacant former New Frontier site, and in 2017, developer Steve Witkoff acquired the long-stalled Fontainebleau tower.

Robinson started excavating his site in 2017 and received approvals that year for a major expansion of his plans. But the $3 billion venture hasn’t shown progress beyond the initial construction work, leaving a giant hole in the ground.

In April, after a Clark County Commission vote kept his long-stalled plans alive, he said he was looking to resume excavating the site in late summer.

Packer’s group set out to build the 1,100-room Alon Las Vegas, but he reportedly had trouble raising project funds, and the land went up for sale. Wynn Resorts reached a deal in late 2017 to buy the site.

Wynn founder Steve Wynn told analysts in early 2018 that he wanted to move quickly on a project there, with talk of building 2,000 to 3,000 rooms.

Days later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wynn had a decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct. Wynn, who called the allegations “preposterous,” soon resigned as chairman and CEO of his casino company, citing “an avalanche of negative publicity.”

Its land remains empty.

Wynn Resorts spokesman Michael Weaver said Friday that projects such as Resorts World “benefit all current and future resorts” on the north Strip and that his company has “not announced a development timeline” for its land.

Meanwhile, Witkoff renamed his property Drew Las Vegas and set out to finish the 60-plus-story megaresort. But he shelved construction after the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the Fontainebleau’s original developer, Jeffrey Soffer, reacquired the property early this year through a process that lets people avoid foreclosure, with no word on when construction would resume.

In a statement last week that did not provide any updates on the tower’s timeline, Brett Mufson, president of Soffer’s firm, Fontainebleau Development, said that Resorts World’s opening, and the Las Vegas Convention Center’s recently finished $1 billion expansion just off the north Strip, help further “solidify the location of our property as the future epicenter of Las Vegas.”

To be sure, other projects have opened in the area. After a major renovation, the former Sahara reopened in 2014 as the SLS Las Vegas. But its performance quickly spiraled downward, and the resort traded hands in 2018. The new owner launched a $150 million overhaul and renamed the property Sahara Las Vegas.

Also, the Las Vegas Convention Center this month hosted the first major trade show in the U.S. since the pandemic hit, World of Concrete, in its new West Hall.

The north Strip still faces plenty of questions, but Resorts World’s debut is a long-awaited win for the area. But how will it perform, and what will it do for that part of the boulevard?

Sit tight.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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