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Vegas Convention Center to Purchase Riviera Casino for Expansion

By SEMA Editors

Chris Kersting, SEMA’s CEO, told board members last week that SEMA endorses the Las Vegas Convention Center’s expansion effort because it will enable the SEMA Show to grow.

Big news for Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) Board of Directors voted to approve a contract for the purchase of the historic Riviera Hotel & Casino's 26-acre site as the cornerstone for its planned Las Vegas Global Business District.    

Under the agreement, the LVCVA will purchase the site for a total of $182.5 million.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the closure of the 60-year-old Riviera will take place May 4, just days after the property reaches its 60th anniversary. The hotel-casino is owned by Starwood Capital Group and is managed by Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming. Paragon will be responsible for closing the property and turning it over to the LVCVA for demolition. Paragon CEO Scott Menke said that the company is working with various Nevada agencies to assist in the transition.

In a statement, LVCVA President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter said that the Global Business District is “the single most important economic development project in the state.” The acquisition, she continued, gives the LVCVA “the much-needed space for expansion while also providing a highly visible presence on one of the most famous streets in the world—the Las Vegas Strip—and is essential in helping us to reach our goal of 45 million visitors.”

The $2.3 billion expansion project is the largest economic development initiative the LVCVA has undertaken since the Las Vegas Convention Center was originally built in the late 1950s.

Chris Kersting, SEMA’s CEO, told board members last week that SEMA endorses the expansion effort because it will enable the SEMA Show to grow. “For Las Vegas to be No. 1, it has to continue to modernize and expand,” he said.

The Riviera site is a key component of the LVCVA's land acquisition strategy, providing an entrance to the Global Business District on the Strip. Envisioned to be completed in two phases, the first phase focuses on the Riviera site and includes 750,000 sq. ft. of new exhibit space and 187,500 sq. ft. of supporting meeting space as part of the new 1.8-million-sq.-ft. expansion. Phase Two focuses on renovating the existing convention center and includes a 100,000-sq.-ft. general session space and another 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Including public areas and service areas, the expansion and renovation increase the facility from its current total footprint of 3.2 million sq. ft. to nearly 5.7 million sq. ft. Once construction begins, the entire project is expected to take five to eight years to complete.

For more information on the Las Vegas Global Business District, visit

Las Vegas Convention Center Expansion

The authority has made several land acquisitions for the planned $2.3-billion Las Vegas Global Business District, but most of that property has been south of the existing Las Vegas Convention Center campus off Sierra Vista Drive.

The Global Business District proposal, a plan to refurbish the 3.2 million sq. ft. of convention halls to maintain the city’s lead as the nation’s top trade show destination, includes a transportation component that community leaders have been discussing for nearly a year.

Authority officials have said that about 20 major trade shows have expressed interest in Las Vegas, but couldn’t come because the calendar was full and there wasn’t enough room to accommodate them. They believe the planned 750,000-sq.-ft. expansion and the renovated facilities would help them land those shows and bolster the city’s position as the nation’s leading trade show host.

The announcement was hailed as good news for the Las Vegas resort market, if the end of an era for a venerable Strip hotel. MGM Resorts International Chairman Jim Murren said he supports the transaction because it allows the convention authority to have a presence on the Strip. The Global Business District, he said, will give Las Vegas another boost in its competition for convention business with Chicago, Orlando and other cities.

“This is really going to be bad news for other convention markets,” Murren said. “I love this deal because it will create an attractive corridor from the Strip to the Convention Center. It’s going to help bring people down to that end of the Strip.”