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Old Posted Nov 28, 2009, 10:16 PM
dragonsky dragonsky is offline
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Las Vegas Metro Development News


Las Vegas' new CityCenter, a big gamble, prepares to open
By Kitty Bean Yancey, USA TODAY

LAS VEGAS — Some of the world's top architects and designers have taken a fresh deck of cards and created a Xanadu on the Las Vegas Strip.

CityCenter's half-dozen glass-and-steel towers – including two condo high-rises that lean 5 degrees instead of standing upright – add a futuristic look to this desert destination.

Inside, it resembles a modern art gallery and mind-boggling design showcase more than themed Vegas resorts. Pieces include an 84-foot silver serpentine sculpture depicting the course of the Colorado River, designed by Maya Lin of Vietnam Veterans Memorial fame. That hangs above the front desk of the Aria Resort & Casino.

The $8.5 billion hotel/living/dining/entertainment/shopping destination is billed as the largest privately funded construction project in the USA and is considered Vegas' big gamble. Its lack of emphasis on gaming (only Aria has a casino), edgy style and city-within-a-city layout are "the next step in the evolution of Vegas," says CityCenter CEO Bobby Baldwin– unlike anything yet seen in the USA's adult Disneyland.

PHOTO GALLERY: First look at Las Vegas CityCenter

CityCenter is due to open in stages on 67 acres, starting Dec. 1 with the Vdara resort/condo, Dec. 3with the Crystals retail/dining/entertainment complex, and Dec. 4 with the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas hotel and residences. This joint venture between the MGM Mirage casino-resort giant and Dubai World – a United Arab Emirates firm that invests in various properties – is premiering during one of the less-stellar years in Vegas history. It's $1.2 billion over budget, causing analysts to speculate whether the big bet will pay off.

"Clearly, the timing couldn't be much worse, though it's slightly better than a year ago," says Robert LaFleur, gaming analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group. (The Group owns a less-than-5% share of MGM Mirage, LaFleur says; the exact share is not disclosed.) "The Las Vegas market is a tough place" at the moment, he says.

Visitor numbers were down 4.7% January through September vs. 2008, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reports. Convention attendance dropped 27.1% during that period. Hotel discounting is the norm now, leaving luxe Aria and Vdara little choice but to open at official rates under $200 – from $179 on slow days for Aria; $149 for Vdara. That's at least 20% off what they originally expected, guesses Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and an expert on local deals. He found a $129 offer at Vdara in December

Mandarin Oriental is banking on high rollers, with 392 rooms and suites that start at $545, with a second night free.

READ MORE: Vegas tempts travelers with jaw-dropping deals

Baldwin, a poker-faced former World Series of Poker champ, is used to taking risks. He sees CityCenter, designed for the high-end visitor, as bringing more culture to Vegas and serving as "a huge economic spark plug" for the struggling destination. It will provide 12,000 jobs, he says.

However, MGM Mirage had to seek outside financing from various banks to complete CityCenter. What will happen to the 10,000 construction workers who have been toiling around the clock remains to be seen.

What isn't a matter of speculation is that an early tour of CityCenter reveals that renowned architects and designers including Argentina-born Ce'sar Pelli and New York's Rockwell Group have created a new look for Vegas between MGM Mirage's Bellagio and Monte Carlo resorts. A tram is due to connect the three starting Dec. 1.

Flashy neon signs and glitter are out. Natural materials such as recycled wood, stone and concrete are in. Six buildings in the complex already have gold status in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. That's based on a third-party rating for eco-correctness; CityCenter's status is a record in energy-squandering Vegas. (The 400-room Harmon boutique hotel, not due till late next year, isn't LEED-certified yet.)

Yes, there is a lavish Cirque du Soleil Elvis tribute in Aria's showroom, but there are no lava-spewing volcanoes or pirate-ship battles on manmade lagoons – just art installations by the likes of Frank Stella and Claes Oldenburg and multihued arcs of water that will collide and explode in a pool outside Aria. They're from designers of the dancing-to-music Bellagio fountains but are on a micro scale.

"The idea was to be different and leading-edge," says Baldwin, sitting in his office next to the construction site off Frank Sinatra Drive, which still is swarming with workers. The CityCenter team traveled the world seeking design inspiration. "If I had seen it (in Vegas), I didn't want it," Baldwin says. He chose multiple architects to avoid a single look.

Focal points

CityCenter, with its intricate details, can take days to take in.

Its centerpiece resort is 61-story Aria (so named because arias are focal points in operas), due to open Dec. 16. It has 4,004 rooms and suites accessed via smart keycards – wave them in front of doors to open. A cutting-edge system lets guests set everything from lighting levels to temperature to drapes, alarms and "do not disturb" signs via the TV or bedside panel. A downside: Standard rooms are small, so spring for larger quarters if you can.

Aria's casino looks like no other in Vegas, incorporating earthy colors and a forest theme. You'd never guess the faux tree trunks in an adjacent bar are carved out of foam. Gamers who hate the smell of cigarettes will find a system new to Vegas that sucks smoke up and away, says Aria and Vdara President Bill McBeath, giving a tour as hard-hats hammer and rush to finish.

As at other casino resorts, there's a separate entrance, check-in and quarters for VIPs, plus private gaming areas. One has $2,000-a-pull slot machines.

Some walls in Aria's upscale Chinese restaurant are made of jade-colored silk, ripped out and redone when McBeath didn't like the original craftsmanship.

The masses can sip and chew at Aria's coffee shop, shaped like a Mayan pyramid and made of reclaimed river rocks. (No Starbucks here or elsewhere in CityCenter. "Everyone has a Starbucks," McBeath sniffs.) Aria's spa with 62 treatment rooms has something new for been-there-done-that hedonists: a sauna-like salt-block room from Japan and a relaxation area with heated-stone chaise longues.

With big-spending and superstitious Chinese gamblers in mind, Aria lacks floors 40-49. "The number four in Chinese when said sounds like the word for death," MGM Mirage spokeswoman Jenn Michaels explains. "The superstition is strongest in a gaming environment."

Next tour stop is Vdara, the hotel/condo that's the first to open and that Michaels calls the "sleeper" of CityCenter. Just steps from Aria, it should play well with visitors who seek serenity as well as access to the action, and it's the best value in CityCenter. All accommodations are non-smoking suites with kitchens and floor-to-ceiling glass windows (request one with views of the Bellagio fountains). A rooftop pool and spa with Champagne bar add to its appeal.

The Mandarin Oriental is all muted elegance, including an Asian-style welcome in the intimate 23rd-floor lobby with polished black-granite reception desk, adjoining a tea lounge and bar. The bar offers amazing views of the Strip through 20-foot picture windows.

The three-story Crystals retail/entertainment center aims to entice with ice-crystal sculptures, a carpet of flowers that changes seasonally and the most futuristic-looking shops in Vegas. The 750,000-square-foot complex has the largest Louis Vuitton and Prada stores in the USA. Not one luxury retailer pulled out, even in these tough times, says Crystals general manager Farid Matraki.

The shopping/dining/partying district looks like a design showplace. It also offers Vegas' most velvet-rope shopping experience, with a separate entrance accessible only to those bearing invitation-only cards. "God only knows Las Vegas doesn't need another mall," says Matraki. "We're trying to create an experience. Everyone is using their best and newest concepts here."

CityCenter's 2,400 condos, at every lodging property but Aria and Harmon and in the two leaning Veer Towers, are downplayed on the tour, perhaps because that market in Vegas – as elsewhere – is dismal. MGM Mirage announced a 30% price reduction in October after some buyers threatened lawsuits because of the drop in value. Lower-end studios that once were $500,000 now are about $350,000, Michaels says, adding that about half the condos are sold.

Tempting offers

CityCenter's opening comes on the heels of MGM's reported third-quarter net loss of $750.4 million, in part because of falling room revenue at its nine other Vegas casino resorts and because it wrote down the value of CityCenter. Until Dubai World came aboard, there was doubt CityCenter would be finished.

Now that it's about to open, MGM Mirage is offering the under-$200 come-ons and wooing guests who've visited its other Vegas properties with free-night offers with a paid stay. Another way to get deals is to sign the guest books on CityCenter hotel websites, Michaels says.

MGM also is encouraging everyone to take a gander at CityCenter. "Hopefully, they'll see this as the next evolution of Vegas," says CityCenter chief Baldwin, who doesn't blink when asked whether the project is too ambitious for the times or suited to the Vegas crowd. "We believe we know what the customer wants. ... If I'm accused of anything, it's of being different."

Even those going after the same deep-pocketed guests, such as Strip kingpin Steve Wynn, wish CityCenter well – at least publicly.

"We've got our fingers crossed that it's a success and that it grows the market," says Wynn, whose nearly year-old Encore has started discounting rooms as low as $109. He adds, enigmatically, "It's certainly different than anything we've seen before, and the fellows who run it are almost as mystified as we are."

Vegas does have a track record of "new hotels creating new demand," analyst LaFleur notes. CityCenter hopes to attract sophisticates who wouldn't normally consider a Vegas vacation.

A just-released report by CB Richard Ellis, which analyzes real estate and Vegas, says that "10% to 30% of CityCenter's revenue will be incremental revenue for the market," but the "balance is expected to come at the expense of existing Strip casinos."

Says Las Vegas Advisor's Curtis, "Short term, there's lots of skepticism and even worry that it may hurt a little more than it helps. I think it will have its glow time early, then tread water waiting for the economy to return. But if things get back to normal, it will be a big winner."

If it's a visitor magnet, "It could be a turnaround point for the city," says Brent Pirosch, a CB Richard Ellis analyst.

Still, CityCenter creators "are clearly opening with a 2007 business mode – high-end rooms and restaurants, less emphasis on gaming," LaFleur says. "The question is, in a post-prosperity society, has something changed in people's spending habits?

"Are there enough people to support four high-end (hotels) and go out and spend (on celebrity chefs and luxury goods)? In my opinion, the jury is still out."


A look at Vegas' most ambitious project:

‧67 acres on the Vegas Strip

‧Four hotels with 6,300 hotel rooms, two with condos; one mega casino resort with 4,004 rooms

‧Two condo towers, contributing to a total of 2,400 CityCenter condos

‧A 750,000-square-foot retail/entertainment complex with the USA's largest Louis Vuitton and Prada stores, plus Tiffany, Versace and Cartier, to name a few.

‧More than a dozen restaurants from name chefs and stars including Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Todd English, Michael Mina, Eva Longoria Parker and more.

‧About $40 million in art, including an eye-catching piece composed of about 250 small boats, including rowboats, canoes and kayaks, by Nancy Rubins.

‧Three spas, including an 80,000-square-foot spa with 62 treatment rooms at Aria.

‧300,000 square feet of meeting space at Aria; more at the other hotels.

‧CityCenter's own energy-generating plant and fire station.

‧The first fleet of stretch limos powered by clean-burning compressed natural gas.

‧Slot-machine bases that serve as floor air-conditioning units, cooling guests from the ground, rather than wasting energy by chilling from the ceiling .

‧For more information, visit citycenter.com
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Old Posted Nov 28, 2009, 10:29 PM
jamesinclair jamesinclair is offline
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Does it have a supermarket for the condos?
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Old Posted Nov 30, 2009, 6:22 PM
NorthScottsdale NorthScottsdale is offline
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Jesus Christ....! And we can't even get a 12 story hotel for CityScape..
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Old Posted Dec 2, 2009, 12:29 AM
SunDevil SunDevil is offline
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I need to get back to Vegas, it's been a couple years, of course these years have been rife with broke-i-itis but, things are looking up.

I figure sometime this summer, get away from the heat
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Old Posted Dec 2, 2009, 3:58 PM
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TAZ4ate0 TAZ4ate0 is offline
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Originally Posted by SunDevil View Post
I need to get back to Vegas, it's been a couple years, of course these years have been rife with broke-i-itis but, things are looking up.

I figure sometime this summer, get away from the heat
ummm....isn't Las Vegas nearly as hot as Phoenix in the summer at times?

(but I guess you are talking about spending lots and lots of time in the casinos)
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Old Posted Dec 2, 2009, 9:40 PM
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combusean combusean is online now
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This thread is stickied now. Hopefully somebody keeps it up.
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Old Posted Dec 3, 2009, 8:01 AM
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TonyAnderson TonyAnderson is offline
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Originally Posted by TAZ4ate0 View Post
ummm....isn't Las Vegas nearly as hot as Phoenix in the summer at times?

(but I guess you are talking about spending lots and lots of time in the casinos)
I think Vegas is about 5 degrees cooler on average than Phoenix, in general. So I'm sure at times it could be as hot as Phoenix, but not usually.
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Old Posted Dec 3, 2009, 5:50 PM
Vicelord John Vicelord John is offline
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thats like someone from Wennipeg going to Moscow to get out of the snow.

That boggles my mind they didn't scale that thing back.... or is that the scaled back version?
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Old Posted Dec 4, 2009, 4:38 PM
Leo the Dog Leo the Dog is offline
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When its 110 in Phx its 105 in Vegas. When the dewpoint in Phx is 60 the dewpoint in Vegas is in the 40's. Not nearly as humid during the monsoon season. Vegas has a drier/cooler climate than Phx, therefore, a little more pleasant than here in the summer.
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Old Posted Dec 13, 2009, 4:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Vicelord John View Post
thats like someone from Wennipeg going to Moscow to get out of the snow.

That boggles my mind they didn't scale that thing back.... or is that the scaled back version?
It's actually WINNIPEG
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Old Posted Dec 13, 2009, 7:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Vicelord John View Post
thats like someone from Wennipeg going to Moscow to get out of the snow.

That boggles my mind they didn't scale that thing back.... or is that the scaled back version?
The only thing that got scaled back was Foster's hotel tower, which was supposed to be 47 stories on the NE corner but was shortened down to 29 stories and won't be finished till late next year. A development of staggering size. They should just call it the 'uber architects casino'.
Even if you are 1 in a million, there are still 7,000 people just like you...
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Old Posted Dec 14, 2009, 7:31 PM
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Originally Posted by plinko View Post
The only thing that got scaled back was Foster's hotel tower, which was supposed to be 47 stories on the NE corner but was shortened down to 29 stories and won't be finished till late next year.
The Harmon tower; it wasn't actually scaled back either, the construction company made a huge error.
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2009, 4:41 AM
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Cirque du Soleil's 'Viva Elvis' serves the king
The show has a VIP opening tonight. 'It's not a show about Elvis, it's a show with Elvis,' the producer says.
By Reed Johnson
The Los Angeles Times
December 15, 2009

Forget the iconic white jumpsuit, the caricature of gilded celebrity and the gossipy whispers that attended a dispirited legend's final bow.

Forget -- heaven help us -- the peanut butter and fried banana sandwiches.

That's not what “Viva Elvis,” Cirque du Soleil's latest acrobatic-musical extravaganza, is about.

Rather, Gilles Ste-Croix and Ste'phane Mongeau were saying the other day, it's about evoking an extraordinary man and his shape-shifting times. It's about honoring a musician who unified the once-segregated genres of pop, gospel, country and blues into the mongrel art form known as rock 'n' roll, and ushered American pop culture into the frenetic, youth-centric Atomic Age.

It's about celebrating a prodigiously charismatic performer whose insistence on pleasing his audience helped resurrect a culturally moribund desert metropolis founded on sand and mob money. It's about conveying the genius of a crooning, gyrating entertainment genius of the 1950s and '60s to a generation that wasn't even born when Elvis Aaron Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, age 42, leaving rock temporarily monarch-less and much of the planet in mourning.

In short, it's about addressing a great epistemological conundrum of our times: What would Elvis do?

"Everything we did, we [thought] if Elvis lived today . . . then how would he do it, in the context of Las Vegas today?" said Ste-Croix, Cirque's senior vice president of creative content and new projects development, during an interview in Que'be'cois-infused English with Mongeau last week. "That was the direction of the creators."

Ste-Croix and Mongeau, the show's executive producer, describe the new production not as a musical bio-drama, but as a "retro-contemporized" tribute that unfolds like a live concert. Although Cirque's production will reference certain key episodes of Presley's life and career, such as his service in the U.S. Army and his acting career, "it's not a historic show," Mongeau stressed.

"It's a show about a man, his emotion, what he brought," Mongeau continued. "And it's not a show about Elvis, it's a show with Elvis."

In keeping with that concept, none of the show's 75 artists -- including 26 dancers, 26 acrobats, four featured female singers and a live band -- actually will portray or otherwise represent Presley on stage. The king will be glimpsed in vintage film clips, graphic imagery and scenic and abstract props, such as a gigantic pompadour. But as far as impersonations, the Cirque creative team is leaving those to the legions of side-burned, rhinestone-studded guys who pop up in beery nightclub acts around town.

"It would not be fair for Elvis" to portray him, Mongeau said, "because Elvis is greater than what we could imagine."

In exploring Presley's musical legacy, "Viva Elvis" will highlight the singer's recorded voice on many of his signature tunes. But those unmistakable purrs and growls will be set to punchy new musical arrangements in a mode that Ste-Croix characterized as "Black Eyed Peas meet Elvis."

As the men spoke, a few feet away on a sprawling stage book-ended by two new monumental gold Elvis statues, a troupe of young dancers warmed up for the show's concluding number, “Viva Las Vegas,” inspired by the song and movie, in which Presley starred with Swedish sex kitten Ann-Margret, of the same name.

The venue, a custom-built 2,000-seat theater with every imaginable backstage technology and enough fly space to land a UFO, is among the prime attractions of the new ultra-upscale Aria Resort & Casino, the centerpiece of the massive new CityCenter urban complex on the Las Vegas Strip. "Viva Elvis" will christen the space with tonight's VIP opening performance; the first public previews will begin on Friday and the official premiere will be Feb. 19.

Back together

In a city where nuptial arrangements can be dicey affairs at best, the marriage (or menage) of Elvis, Vegas and Cirque seems almost celestially ordained, as did Presley's real-life gig there four decades ago.

With the demise of the Rat Pack and the emergence of the counterculture, Sin City by the late 1960s had degenerated into Squaresville, USA. Woodstock and the Haight, not Fremont Street, were where all the cool stuff was happening, and cruddy jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts, not seersucker jackets and beehive 'do's, were the ne plus ultra of youthful fashion.

When Presley was lured to Las Vegas in 1969 by entertainment mogul Kirk Kerkorian to perform at his International Hotel (now the Las Vegas Hilton), he reclaimed it for the rock 'n' roll generation. (His peer, Barbra Streisand, achieved much the same thing for pop music when she began performing there at the same time.)

His concerts not only packed in the crowds but were proclaimed by the music press to be proof of Presley's comeback, following a string of musical disappointments and the bottoming out of an acting career that rapidly turned the king of rock into a self-parodying crown prince of kitsch.

It is Elvis the dynamic stage performer, and particularly the Las Vegas performer, that Cirque's show seeks to evoke and invoke.

"Really, overall that's all he wanted," Ste-Croix said. "He was a great performer and he wanted to entertain the crowd. And that's what he did at the Hilton, that's what he did in the movies and that's what he did all his life."

Today, Cirque du Soleil, which already has six Las Vegas-based shows including "O," "Zumanity" and the Beatles homage "Love," is a brand name that defines Las Vegas much as Presley did in his day.

The Montreal-based company is partnered in its latest enterprise with CKX Inc., a mega-manager-owner of entertainment-related content and intellectual properties, and its subsidiary Elvis Presley Enterprises, the corporate entity created by Presley's trust to manage its assets.

Return of the king

Among those attending tonight's VIP performance will be the best-known guardian of that trust, the king's ex-wife Priscilla Presley. Speaking by phone, Priscilla Presley acknowledged she was feeling a bit, uh, all shook up about the opening, albeit in a positive way.

"I feel like it's the first time that Elvis went on stage," she said. "It's just nerve-racking."

In that regard, Presley could be channeling her ex, who when he performed in Las Vegas grew antsier by the minute as an opening-night audience that included Pat Boone, Cary Grant and Fats Domino filed into the Showroom Internationale. "He didn't want to know who was out there in the crowd," Priscilla Presley said.

Yet his show was an immediate success, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the gambling mecca. According to Ste-Croix, at one point during Presley's appearances, one out of every two Las Vegas tourists was coming to town specifically to attend his concerts.

"I think he put Vegas on the map in a way that it hadn't been," Priscilla Presley said. Las Vegas returned the favor, she added, by giving her ex-husband a way to relaunch his career as a live performer after a 10-year absence from big stages.

"It brought him back to the forefront and it brought him back to what he loved most. It brought him back in contact with the audience and with his fans," she said.

Given its show's unabashedly celebratory spirit, it's not surprising that Cirque isn't touching those aspects of Elvis' life that have kept conspiracy theorists, tabloid journalists, assistant professors of American studies and schadenfreude mongers in clover for 32 years.

Priscilla Presley said that no preconditions or restrictions were set on what could, or could not, be included in "Viva Elvis." But she clearly seems pleased with Cirque's artistic focus, and suggests that a show about Elvis is better off without scholarly footnotes.

"I think he's been over-analyzed," she said. "I think if he ever heard the stuff, he'd be shaking in his boots. It was all about entertaining, it was all about rapport with your audience and giving them their money's worth."

Her hope, she said, is that "Viva Elvis" could do for Las Vegas today what Elvis' appearances did in a previous era beset by economic hard times.

"I'm hoping this'll renew Vegas again and get people back to work," Priscilla Presley said, adding that in the '70s everyone from waiters to blackjack dealers and limousine drivers felt the impact of the king's return to his court.

"Everybody was happy when Elvis Presley came to town."
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Old Posted Dec 19, 2009, 2:04 AM
RTD RTD is offline
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Hey there Las Vegasians (sp?)

I will be heading down to Vegas in about a months time, and this will be my first time there. Can anyone recommend things to do, besides the obvious, in town? Any help would be appreciated!

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Old Posted Dec 31, 2009, 3:13 AM
dragonsky dragonsky is offline
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Priceline.com Releases Its Annual List of Top New Year's Party Spots
NORWALK, Conn., Dec 28, 2009 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ --

Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) today released its 6th annual list of top 50 destinations for ringing in the New Year. For the 5th year in a row, Las Vegas is the #1 destination for New Year's revelers.

Priceline.com also reported today that the average published rate for a 3-star or higher hotel in the U.S. for New Year's 2009 is $129, which is slightly less than last year's average published rate of $132. "With room rates in many cities still under pressure, a New Year's getaway is an exceptional value," said priceline.com's in-house travel expert Brian Ek.

For those in search of even deeper savings, there's priceline.com's Name Your Own Price(R) hotel service that can save up to 50% over published hotel prices. With Priceline's Name Your Own Price(R) hotel service, customers pick the dates, part of town, hotel star level and price they want to pay for their room. If that price is accepted by a priceline.com partner hotel, the booking is completed and customers receive their hotel details.

Priceline.com's Top 50 Destinations list is the definitive guide for those who want to find the crowds - or stay away from them on the New Year. To compile the list, priceline.com looked at a sampling of more than 30,000 Name Your Own Price(R) hotel room booking requests made by priceline.com customers for the New Year's holiday. Because the survey is based on actual booking requests, and not on consumer preference polls or votes, priceline.com believes its annual survey is one of the more accurate predictors of New Year's travel trends. Also, by focusing on hotels instead of airline tickets, the priceline.com survey is able to include the travel intentions of consumers who will drive to their destination.

"This year, a handful of cities and destinations were the big winners in the sweepstakes for New Year's revelers," said Ek. "The Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area captured 7 spots on the list, while New York City and Los Angeles/Orange County each took 6 spots, and Las Vegas was named 4 times. The growing strength of New Orleans as a tourist destination was also evident by being named to the #5 and #8 spots on the list."

Priceline.com's Top 50 New Year's Destinations

1. Las Vegas, Strip Vicinity South
2. New York City, Chelsea Area
3. New York City, Times Square/Theater District
4. Miami, South Beach/Ocean Drive
5. New Orleans, Downtown
6. New York City, Empire State Building Area
7. Atlanta, Downtown
8. New Orleans, French Quarter
9. Orlando, Sea World/International Drive/Convention Center
10. Fort Lauderdale, Beach Area
11. Las Vegas, Strip Vicinity North
12. Orlando, Disney Maingate
13. Key West
14. Orlando, Lake Buena Vista/Downtown Disney
15. Maui, Wailea/Makena
16. Oahu, Waikiki Beach
17. San Francisco, Union Square West/Nob Hill
18. New York City, Madison Square Garden/Convention Area
19. Fort Lauderdale, Downtown
20. Puerto Rico, San Juan
21. Chicago, Millennium Park/Loop/Grant Park Area
22. Las Vegas, Near Las Vegas Strip East
23. Chicago, North Michigan Ave./River North Area
24. Oahu, Waikiki Marina Area
25. San Antonio, Riverwalk Area
26. Fort Lauderdale, Ft. Lauderdale/Airport North
27. Miami, South Beach/Collins Ave. Oceanfront
28. Toronto, Downtown Toronto South
29. Newark, Meadowlands/Jersey City
30. Sydney, City Centre
31. Boston, Harbor Front/Aquarium
32. New York City, Midtown East
33. Los Angeles, Central L.A./Hollywood
34. Atlanta, Midtown
35. Miami, Miami Beach
36. Los Angeles, Central L.A./Beverly Hills/West Hollywood
37. San Diego, Downtown & Harbor Island
38. Paris, Eiffel Tower/Port de Versailles/Montparnasse
39. Seattle, Downtown/Pike Place
40. Rome, Central City
41. Los Angeles, San Gabriel Valley/Pasadena
42. Boston, Copley Square/Theater District
43. New York City, Downtown/SoHo/Financial District
44. Las Vegas, Convention Center
45. Miami, Coral Gables/Coconut Grove
46. Los Angeles, Central L.A./Airport
47. Amsterdam, City Centre & Museum Quarter
48. Miami, Downtown
49. Orange County, Disneyland/Orange/Garden Grove
50. Orange County, Disneyland/Anaheim

SOURCE Priceline.com



Last edited by dragonsky; Dec 31, 2009 at 8:20 AM.
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Old Posted Feb 5, 2010, 5:41 AM
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Possible loan from China bank keeps high-speed rail plan alive
Feb. 02, 2010

Backers of a proposed magnetic levitation train that would ferry passengers between the Los Angeles area and Las Vegas announced Monday that a $7 billion loan from China hinges on the U.S. government's support for the project.

The announcement comes on the heels of maglev officials learning they were deemed ineligible for any of the $8 billion doled out Thursday for high-speed rail systems across the country.

Although maglev officials strongly disagree with the government's decision, spokesman Mark Fierro said that at this point, the government's hard cash is not as crucial as its support.

The Export-Import Bank of China is willing to lend the money with the knowledge that if the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission is unable to pay it back, federal officials will.

"This funding from the bank in China was never contingent on this round of federal funding," said Fierro, adding that the agreement was sealed in November. "They're willing to put up $7 billion, and that is a game changer. This is absolutely enormous."

The Chinese bank is familiar with the high-speed train technology and its potential, Fierro said. It is estimated that the train would carry 43 million passengers by 2025.

Fierro said the government backing is "good common sense," noting that the high-speed rail line is equivalent to an eight-lane freeway with traffic moving constantly at 60 mph, or to 55 fully loaded 747s landing in Las Vegas every day. Fierro said the project would also create about 90,000 jobs.

"We want people to know there is help on the way; the jobs are an enormous part of this," he said. "The future of Las Vegas looks completely different. This makes Las Vegas a suburb of Los Angeles."

Fierro said the project would take about five years to build and would be started at each end to trigger ridership and raise revenues.

Members of the speed train commission still plan on protesting the denial of federal monies, saying they followed all the rules and were never informed they did not meet the funding criteria.

In a Jan. 29 letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Bruce Aguilera, chairman of the maglev project, asked for the opportunity to further discuss the federal government's reasons for denying Nevada a piece of the high-speed train funding doled out last week.

Aguilera requested a meeting "as a means of possibly curing these concerns in the event that some part of the $8 billion is reallocated or made available in the future, and make certain that this project is 'in the pipeline' of projects for future funding."

In explaining the reasons Nevada did not receive a grant, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said the commission is not a state agency and added that he never received an application for the funding.

"Nevada did not submit any paperwork, any proposal for any high-speed rail money," LaHood told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a one-on-one meeting.

Aguilera rebutted that in his memo, saying that after the maglev commission submitted its application, a Federal Railroad Administration attorney sent a letter outlining his concerns about whether the commission was a state agency. A month later, in September, Aguilera and Gov. Jim Gibbons responded that the application was submitted on behalf of the state by the commission, which they asserted is a state agency, and the Nevada Department of Transportation.

"Neither Governor Gibbons nor myself received any response from the FRA to these letters of clarification," Aguilera wrote to Joseph Szabo, administrator for the railroad agency. "If there were a continuing question relating to eligibility we would think that the courtesy of a response from the FRA would have been extended."

Aguilera also noted that for a decade, the administration has recognized the commission as a state agency eligible for federal grants.

Kent Dagnall said Monday that the maglev organizers were stunned to learn they did not meet the criteria for the funding.

"The first they heard they missed a deadline or weren't eligible was when they announced it," Dagnall said.

The denial of funds has sparked suspicions that Reid, who withdrew his support from maglev citing the lagging progress, might have interfered with the grant process.

Reid now supports the rival DesertXpress, an electricity propelled high-speed train that would initially run between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif., and eventually connect to a rail system in Palmdale, Calif. The train tops out at 150 miles an hour, transporting passengers to Victorville in an estimated 84 minutes.

The maglev reaches speeds of up to 300 mph and would deliver passengers to Anaheim, Calif., in 86 minutes. The maglev commission requested $83 million in grants from the federal government.

During his discussion with LaHood, Reid reiterated that Nevada never submitted an application for high-speed rail money and noted the "good news for Nevada" is the $2 billion in funding that California received for its rail system, including a high-speed link from San Francisco and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego. Once California's system is built, Reid said, only 50 additional miles of rail will be needed to connect California's web of rails to the DesertXpress project.

LaHood agreed.

"Nevada certainly can be a partner in this with DesertXpress and what California will do," he said. "There obviously is a connection as a part of a regional high-speed rail opportunities for the citizens not only of Nevada but of California."

But maglev officials said the lost funding could have devastating effects on Las Vegas in the struggle to lure conventions, especially because Florida secured $1.3 million for a high-speed train linking Orlando to Tampa and Miami.

"In a huge setback to the Las Vegas business community, the funding that was announced for Florida ... places Las Vegas in an enormous competitive disadvantage," according to a statement released by Dagnall. "Orlando is among Las Vegas' strongest competition for convention business."

Maglev officials are still banking on $45 million Reid set aside for the high-speed project in 2005, Dagnall said, and have secured private money to match that. Reid has said that since the maglev project is going so slowly, he plans to reallocate the money. Dagnall, like other maglev proponents, claims Reid's grant was written into law and cannot be changed without a congressional vote.

"We're very much in this fight and we're going to continue; the only thing standing in our way is the train to nowhere," Fierro said, referencing the DesertXpress proposal.
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Old Posted Feb 5, 2010, 1:33 PM
Don B. Don B. is offline
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^ Interesting.

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Old Posted Feb 17, 2010, 2:53 AM
dragonsky dragonsky is offline
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Celine Dion coming back to Vegas for 3-year stint
By OSKAR GARCIA (AP) – 5 days ago
The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Celine Dion is returning to the Las Vegas Strip in 2011 to begin a three-year run at Caesars Palace.

The Grammy award-winning singer announced Wednesday she'll return to the 4,300-seat Colosseum, home of her previous show, "A New Day." It grossed more than $400 million and was seen by nearly 3 million fans over five years before closing in December 2007.

The new show begins March 15, 2011, with tickets for the first 54 performances going on sale Friday. Officials say ticket prices will range from $55 to $250 before taxes and fees.

Dion says the new show will feature songs ranging from timeless classics to fan favorites, with a concept incorporating the romance of classic movies.

"It's going to be a very beautiful show, and I think we'll be raising the bar higher than we've ever done before," Dion said in a statement. "There'll be some truly wonderful moments."

The 41-year-old Canadian singer spent a year on an international tour after her previous Las Vegas show ended, and plans to spend the year before her Sin City return with her family.

Dion is the youngest of 14 children in a musical family. She sang publicly for the first time at age 5, and released her first two albums simultaneously when she was 13.

Dion has since sold more than 200 million albums worldwide and won five Grammy awards.

Two songs recorded by Dion have won Academy Awards for best original song, including the title song of "Beauty and the Beast" and "My Heart Will Go On" from "Titanic."
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Old Posted Mar 11, 2010, 4:13 AM
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The best tastes of CityCenter in Las Vegas
French, Spanish, Thai, Japanese, American fare — haute cuisine has a new home on the Strip.
By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times restaurant critic
The Los Angeles Times
March 11, 2010

How many high-end restaurants can Vegas support, particularly in this economy? Easily a dozen more just opened in the new $11-billion CityCenter complex on the Strip and a number of them definitely have enough wow factor to pull in the hungry tourists.

Admittedly, the planning for CityCenter began long before the slump, still, here comes Michelin three-star Paris chef Pierre Gagnaire joining his illustrious (and extravagantly starred) colleagues Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy in a gamblers' paradise.

Ten years ago, the idea of such world-renowned chefs deigning to grace Vegas with their cooking seemed preposterous. Today, though, Gagnaire's debut at the Mandarin Oriental with his first American restaurant seems almost ho-hum.

Yet I can't help but think that this new group of restaurants from Masa Takayama (Masa in New York), Shawn McClain (Spring in Chicago) and Julian Serrano (Picasso in Vegas' Bellagio), among others, may be the last such extravagant wave of restaurants for quite awhile.

They're sophisticated and glam, reflecting the thrilling architecture of the complex designed by some of the world's most lauded architects. But what a disappointment inside the Aria casino: Instead of taking the opportunity to redefine the genre, MGM Mirage has gone with the same-old same-old and scribbled over the space inside with busy ornamentation as if the beautiful plain spaces made the bosses nervous.

Here then, for your dining explorations, is my pick of the CityCenter crop.

With Twist at the top of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Michelin three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire has opened a quietly confident restaurant. It's certainly not over-the-top luxurious, but more like a smart restaurant in Paris' chic 16th arrondissement. It has just 60-some seats, a view of the Strip's tangled neon (yes, that's Mickey D's down there on the left) and a flight of glowing glass balls overhead. Service is more relaxed than it would be in Paris, making everyone comfortable.

The great thing here is that whether you order a la carte, or go for the six-course $185 tasting menu, you get all the three-star bells and whistles. First come the canapes — and more and more canapes until the entire top of the table is covered with dainty bites of this and that. My favorite? The salmon chantilly to spread on crisp, bubbly house-made rice crackers. The tasting menu runs six courses without being as overwhelming as his menu in Paris, where each course bristles with five or six side dishes. This food is much less elaborate, much more approachable and is built on impeccable technique and arresting flavors. Scallops with rare squab breast, foie gras and black olive gelée is brilliant. I also loved the John Dory fillet poached in Malabar black pepper-citrus butter and served with cannellini beans and a seafood velouté. His signature dish is langoustine five ways, each served on its own small plate and each as different as can be, a tour de force. At the end, a flurry of mignardises arrives. You'll want to linger over these delicate sweet bites, basking in the crazy quilt of neon lights and the desert night.

As someone who very much misses Ginza Sushiko, the legendary sushi bar in Beverly Hills, I was thrilled that Masa Takayama was opening Bar Masa at CityCenter. In a soaring space the size of an airplane hangar, Takayama presents sublime sushi, and in the adjacent Shaboo, set-price shabu-shabu meals at $500 per person. For me, Masa is one of the country's greatest chefs. But Bar Masa is by no means Ginza Sushiko, and it isn't supposed to be. The a la carte menu is pretty standard sushi fare, albeit with seafood flown in daily from Tokyo's Tsukiji market.

To understand why Masa is so revered, order omakase, or chef's choice. Since someone I know had recently spent more than $400 per person here, I told the waiter we didn't need any of the pricier items like Kobe beef or caviar. You set the price: The minimum is $100 per person, but we upped it to $150 per person. It wasn't much food, basically four modestly sized dishes for two of us to share, plus three pieces of exquisite sushi and three pieces of sashimi each. In the end, we went away a little hungry and disappointed. To get the real experience, you'd need to spend at least $300 per person. And if you're going that deep into your pockets, why not just go full pop for the $500 shabu-shabu? But reserve ahead of time. That night a party of 26 had booked the room, and the kitchen had run out of uni, hamachi and kampachi. And I thought we were in a recession.

One of the things I remember with, well, longing from this trip is the paella at Julian Serrano, the Spanish restaurant from Madrid native (and Picasso chef) Julian Serrano. At lunch, I shared a paella for two, the Valenciana, sitting on a high stool at the bar of this bright, inviting restaurant just off Aria's lobby. The paella is the most authentic I've had in this country. Cooked in the typical shallow metal pan, the rice layer is just an inch thick, each grain separate and suffused with the taste of high-quality saffron and tomato and larded with chunks of moist rabbit, chicken and chorizo sausage. I found myself scraping off every bit of rice from the edge of the pan where it gets a little crunchy. If I'd had the time, I would have come back to taste the seafood version too, or the fideua (made with noodles instead of rice).

Since it takes the kitchen 35 minutes to cook the paella, order a few of the generously sized tapas to eat while you're waiting. Escalivada — grilled eggplant, sweet peppers and sweet onions, drizzled with good olive oil and sea salt, is perfect. They've also got padrones, stubby green peppers from Galicia simply seared on the griddle and sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil. There are fine chicken croquetas and lipstick-red piquillo peppers stuffed with molten goat cheese too. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of Serrano having lunch by himself at the bar. Finally, a restaurant with real Spanish food.

The new American restaurant from Chicago chef Shawn McClain is called Sage. The cozy bar up front staffed by expert mixologists gets a local crowd for the dashing bar menu (oxtail and beef marrow crostini, crispy sweetbreads and Wagyu beef tartare). The spacious and rather austere dining room is tucked away from view at the very back. McClain's food is deeply delicious and satisfying. He owns a steakhouse in Chicago, so it's no surprise that the menu is meat-driven. Start with his brilliant kushi oysters with a dab of Tabasco sorbet and tequila mignonette. Or his charred baby octopus caponata, a vivid bouquet of Mediterranean flavors. Sheep's milk ricotta gnocchi are tender and sweet; his slow-poached organic egg with a velvety smoked potato puree and shaved black truffles outstanding. As for that meat: Check out the Belgian ale-braised short ribs with the taste of hops and a tang of orange or the sumptuous melt-in-your-mouth braised veal cheeks with Picholine olives and shaved fennel. You may have to waddle back to the baccarat table, but who cares?

I could fit in only lunch at Lemongrass, a contemporary Thai restaurant from Bangkok chef Krairit Krairavee. Though the crowd was almost entirely Asian, I'd been cautioned that it sometimes tend to be on the mild side and to ask for my food Thai-style. Our Thai waiter took me at my word, suggesting dishes and asking how spicy we could take it. Seven was water-gulping hot, just how I like it. Grilled beef salad, thick fingers of rare beef with shallots, lime and chile could wake up any sleepy-headed gambler. Softshell crab salad weaves the flavors of crab, celery, lime, lemongrass garlic and chile into a beautiful composition. Rice noodles with squid, shrimp and scallops is less compelling. I loved that I felt so far away, eating such distinctive Thai food in such a smart setting. To cool down, have some young coconut juice from the shell or one of the shaved ices in exotic flavors.

Jean-Georges Steakhouse from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of New York's most lauded chefs, has a low-key glamour, with an open floor plan, caramel leather banquettes and a wall motif based on the shape of a cow's nose, of all things. The sophisticated take on a steakhouse has a menu strong in first courses and sides: terrific roasted sweetbreads with the rich floury taste of chestnuts or wonderful crab beignets with a blast of black pepper. Like Cut, Jean-Georges offers an array of Wagyu steaks from Japan at elevated prices — our waiter recommended the Wagyu tasting, a sampling of Wagyu steaks at $240 per person. I didn't win that big that night, so I went for the special Australian Angus 300 New York strip instead, which was truly impressive, not only for being cooked perfectly but also for its marvelous flavor. Yellow-gold fries were memorable, as were the lamb chops in chile-caramel sauce. For dessert, the tall fragrant passion fruit souffle had the texture of a cloud.

Design-conscious friends who live in Vegas suggested Silk Road in the Vdara Hotel at CityCenter for breakfast for its sweeping views of CityCenter's architecture. The LEED-certified design by Karim Rashid is kind of fun, futuristic swirls in the colors of the spice road. Chef Martin Heierling (who created Sensi in the Bellagio) is one of the best in Vegas. What he's doing at this below-the-radar spot, which now only serves breakfast and lunch, I don't know. But do try his Turkish eggs, poached and layered with free-range turkey hash and topped with fiery kirmizi (a Turkish red pepper) butter.

Then after breakfast, drive 17 miles west to the stunning Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and its stunning landscape for a post-prandial hike. That should set you right after a couple of days' indulgent eating at CityCenter.

In the Aria casino, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas; restaurant reservations, (877) 230-2742; http://www.arialasvegas.com.

Bar Masa, (877) 230-2742. Chilled dishes, $26 to $89; salads, $15 to $18; braised dishes, $34 to $68; hibachi grilled items, $18 to $120; sushi items, $18 to $240; seasonal sushi or sashimi tasting, $98; omakase, $100 per person and up. Shaboo (the adjoining shabu-shabu restaurant), $500 per person. Open 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday to Monday.

Jean-Georges Steakhouse, (877) 230-2742. Appetizers, $13 to $32; entrees, $26 to $39; grilled prime beef, $35 to $78; sides, $8 to $16; four-course tasting menu, $85 per person. Open 5 to 10:30 p.m. daily.

Julian Serrano, (877) 230-2742. Dinner ceviches and seafood, $10 to $30; tapas, $8 to $14; cheese and charcuterie, $12 to $30; paellas, $40 to $50. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Lemongrass, (877) 230-2742. Dinner appetizers, $8 to $15; curries, $15 to $20; other entrees, $12 to $28. Open daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Sage Restaurant, (877) 230-2742. Appetizers, $12 to $25; entrees, $33 to $49. Bar items, $16 to $19. Open daily 5 to 11 p.m.

In Vdara Hotel and Spa at CityCenter, 2600 W. Harmon Ave., Las Vegas; (866) 745-7111; http://www.vdara.com.

Silk Road Restaurant, (866) 745-7111. Breakfast items, $15 to $20; lunch items, $17 to $20. Open daily for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, 3752 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas; (702) 590-8888; http://www.mandarinoriental.com.

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, (888) 881-9367. Appetizers, $19 to $39; main courses, $42 to $56; desserts, $16. Six-course tasting menu, $185 per person. Open 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.
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Old Posted Apr 2, 2010, 6:45 AM
dragonsky dragonsky is offline
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Work on high-speed rail set to begin this year
By Richard N. Velotta
Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, March 25, 2010 | 6:03 p.m.

Environmental approvals for the proposed $4 billion DesertXpress high-speed rail project between Las Vegas and Southern California are taking longer than expected, but executives with the project said Thursday they expect construction to begin this year.

"It's all just process and working through the details," DesertXpress Enterprises President Tom Stone said in a media briefing on the project. "No environmental showstoppers have been identified."

Last year, developers of the 185-mile rail line that would link Las Vegas with Victorville, Calif., said they hoped they would get final environmental approvals by the end of the first quarter of 2010 and that they would be able to break ground by summer. But Stone said the process is running three to four months behind what they had hoped, although they still expect a groundbreaking before the end of the year.

Construction is expected to take four years, meaning that revenue service for the train could begin by late 2014.

The project includes the construction of two parallel grade-level tracks across the Mohave Desert, mostly along the I-15 corridor and the accompanying electrical catenary.

Stone explained that five federal agencies are a part of the process that eventually would lead to the issuance of a Record of Decision that would give developers of DesertXpress the green light to begin construction.

The Federal Railroad Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is the lead agency on the adoption process. Cooperating agencies that are participating include the Federal Highway Administration (another Transportation Department agency), the Bureau of Land Management, the Surface Transportation Board (formerly the Interstate Commerce Commission) and the National Park Service.

The FHA is involved because much of the route is within the right-of-way of Interstate 15 while the BLM controls most of the other land through which the line would pass. The Park Service is involved because one of the alignment alternatives could pass through a small portion of the Mohave National Preserve in California, just south of the Nevada border.

The route between Las Vegas and Victorville includes several alignment alternatives and there are four potential sites for a station in Las Vegas and three in Victorville that must be resolved. Stone said the agencies need to determine which alternatives present the least environmental impact.

While the federal agencies work on the Record of Decision, DesertXpress Enterprises is narrowing the field to select its implementation team partner -- a process that began last August. The implementation team will be responsible for the final engineering, construction, operations and maintenance of the train system as well as participate as a financial partner for the project.

Stone said DesertXpress received 12 proposals from prospective partners. Executives cut the field to six and there are now three finalists. He did not identify what companies are in the running.

Architectural and engineering firms that have worked on the project so far include Korve

Engineering, EarthTech, AECom, EDAW, URS, Stantec and Marnell Consulting.

Private investors have paid for DesertXpress' costs to date and construction will be financed with private equity combined with long-term public- and private-sourced debt with the repayment coming from private sources. No taxpayer money has been used, although executives say they are considering federal loans.

Indirectly, stimulus funds appropriated to California's rail system could benefit DesertXpress if they are used in the High Desert Corridor highway project, which includes the development of the right-of-way to include the rail line. DesertXpress officials have agreed to provide technical support, engineering, right-of-way width documentation and noise-abatement specifications to California transportation planners.

When construction begins, Stone said he expects there would be multiple construction sites throughout the rail corridor at any one time. One of those sites would be a train station in Victorville. Three prospective sites are under consideration, all within close proximity of I-15.

A model of the Victorville station was unveiled at the briefing and Stone noted that it is being designed to allow trains to pass through the structure in anticipation of the line extending west to Palmdale, where it would connect with the proposed California high-speed rail line and a route between Sylmar and Bakersfield.

While work hasn't begun on the 50-mile line between Victorville and Palmdale, Stone said he has received assurances from transportation planners in Southern California that the link would be fast-tracked to enable a direct line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Because the California system and DesertXpress would be compatible, Stone said it would be possible for riders to board in Los Angeles and travel without changing trains all the way to Las Vegas. The trip would take between two and 2 1/2 hours, he said.

Ideally, Stone said, the environmental approvals would be completed as construction winds down on the Las Vegas-Victorville route so that workers could move to the next building phase.

But for now, the focus is on Victorville.

Andrew Mack, chief operating officer of DesertXpress Enterprises, stands behind a model of a proposed Victorville station during a news conference for the DesertXpress high-speed rail project Thursday, March 25, 2010.

The model of the Victorville train station includes a 15,000-space parking area, some of it surface parking and some of it within a parking garage. It's 1 1/2 times larger than Disneyland's parking lot.

Despite mountains of public criticism, Victorville was chosen as DesertXpress' southern terminus -- until the connection to the California line is completed -- because most Southern California highway traffic must pass through Victorville to get to Las Vegas.

DesertXpress Vice President Andrew Mack said the company is placing an emphasis on the Las Vegas experience starting in Victorville, so parking at the station would be free, just as it would be in Las Vegas, and passengers will be able to check their bags all the way through to their Las Vegas hotels at no additional cost.

Stone and Mack have not wavered from earlier estimates that the average ticket cost for a trip from Victorville to Las Vegas would be between $50 and $55. The executives stressed that the figure is an average and that during peak operational periods the price could be higher. There also will be higher-priced first-class seating on the trains.

"Basically, where we are is that the project has made great progress," Stone said. "We are close to conclusion of this entire environmental process and we are looking forward to getting started by the end of the year."
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