Aria Opening Caps CityCenter Debut

Las Vegas, long the master of recreating the world’s finest architecture, finally has its own signature piece. The centerpiece Aria Resort & Casino capped two weeks of grand openings last night, completing the core of the one-of-a-kind $8.5-billion CityCenter. Last night’s opening was the grandest, capped by a invitation-only gala and fireworks display before Aria’s doors opened to the world just before midnight.

Aria, with 4,004 guestrooms, 150,000 square feet of gaming, 300,000 square feet of meeting space and approximately 10,000 employees, followed the openings of hotels Vdara and the Mandarin Oriental and Crystals, the entertainment and retail district, earlier this month. The 37-floor Veer Towers will open next month with 335 luxury condominium residences in each building and the Harmon Hotel is scheduled to open late next year.

“Today the landscape of Las Vegas changes forever as CityCenter sets a new benchmark for hospitality destinations worldwide,” said Bill Grounds, president and chief operating officer of Infinity World Development, at a press conference yesterday morning held outside Aria’s porte cochera. “I truly believe this magnificent project is destined to join the pantheon of urban icons that not only symbolizes a great metropolitan area, but also shapes its future.”

The project that now spans 18 million square feet has been five years in the making and is a joint venture between Infinity World Development, a subsidiary of Dubai World, and MGM Mirage. Aria, like Vdara, the Mandarin Oriental and Crystals, earned Gold LEED certification. Rick Fedrizzi, the founder and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, called the project transformative. ‘This is a collection of buildings that will change the way we think,” he said.

Aria’s exterior, like the rest of CityCenter, is stunning with its ripples of steel and glass. Inside, natural materials like plants, wood and stone are illuminated by plenty of natural light. Guestrooms feature one-touch control of the television, lighting, draperies, music and wakeup calls, all through what appears to be a simple TV remote. The casino also features an 80,000 square foot two-level spa and salon, a new cirque show called Viva Elvis, four pools and 13 food and beverage outlets.

“What I see is not just the glass and steel, but dreams made a reality,” said Cesar Pelli, of Pelli Clarke Pelli, the architectural firm that designed Aria.

The dream was the idea of Jim Murren, the chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage. Yesterday, standing out front of Aria on a bright and warm day, with the backdrop of a 270-foot curved water wall behind the porte cochera, Murren said it was a perfect time to open Aria. “After the year we’ve had with the economic and financial storm, it’s appropriate we’re having the nicest day of weather.

“We believe people from all over the world will come to see this. As the economy is healing, as our community is, people want to believe.”

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