Riviera Implosion Is Big Step Towards North Las Vegas Strip Comeback

rivRiviera Las Vegas will close at noon on May 4. The resort celebrated its 60th birthday on April 20. It will soon be imploded to make room for a massive expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The north end of the Las Vegas Strip was the biggest loser during the recession. Stardust, New Frontier, and Westward Ho were razed during the economic boom of the mid 2000’s to make way for new projects.

The planned developments on these properties never materialized due to the recession. That left Riviera and neighboring Circus Circus surrounded by failed projects on this desolate part of the Las Vegas Strip.

In February, news broke that Riviera would be acquired by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). While nostalgic Las Vegas residents and visitors are sentimental over the demise of the 60-year old resort, it is likely to become a turning point in the recovery of that portion of the Strip.

The LVCVA will spend more than $2 billion on the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It already owns the adjoining land that once hosted the Landmark. The Riviera acquisition will give the Las Vegas Convention Center frontage on the Strip for the first time.

The investment will stimulate the stagnant Las Vegas construction industry. It also takes about 2,100 rooms out of the Las Vegas Strip’s hotel inventory.

Several Proposed Projects in the Area

Resorts World, a project that will be developed by Genting Group, plans to break ground on May 5. That is one day after Riviera closes its doors forever.

Crown Resorts acquired a controlling interest in the former New Frontier property in 2014. No plans have been announced for a groundbreaking at this point. Its close proximity to the massive convention center expansion can only be a positive for that site’s future development.

The former Clarion was imploded in February. Many observers watched it from two parking decks located on the Riviera property.  At the time, the demise of Riviera was just a rumor.

The new owner of the Clarion property told the Las Vegas Sun that he plans to build a resort that will rival neighboring Wynn and Encore. Its location is conducive to that type of development, even if it is a half-block east of Las Vegas Blvd. The former Clarion parcel is near the center of the future Las Vegas Convention Center footprint.

It is hard to imagine that Fontainebleau will stay mothballed forever. It is the second-tallest building in Las Vegas. Fontainebleau is a stalled construction project that was abandoned in 2008, a long-lasting reminder of the economic downturn that some thought would destroy the city.

The Las Vegas Convention Center’s Strip gateway will be immediately across Riviera Blvd from the abandoned project.  At the very least, the demand for Fontainebleau’s land will increase with the new development, even if the unfinished structure is not salvageable.

New Development Already Completed on North Las Vegas Strip

Regardless of what happens at abandoned properties along the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, Rock in Rio’s amphitheater is ready for its first show next weekend. This property, once proposed as CityCenter North, will host an annual music festival. It will also be available for other concerts throughout the year.

strat-427x321SLS Las Vegas reopened on the former property of Sahara in August 2014.  The resort is located one block north of Riviera and directly across Las Vegas Blvd from Rock in Rio.

The former Las Vegas Hilton property was acquired by Westgate in 2014.  It is located immediately across Paradise Road from Riviera.  Westgate is in the midst of a remodel that includes transforming rooms into timeshares and a complete renovation of its famed sportsbook.

Riviera Shareholders Rejected Better Offer

In 2006, Riviera shareholders rejected a $426 million offer for the property.  The LVCVA will pay less than half that amount for the 26-acre resort.

Riviera Holdings was a publicly traded company at the time of the rejected buyout offer.  The company eventually entered bankruptcy protection, wiping out shareholder’s equity before its owners could ever agree on a sale price.  Riviera’s lenders acquired the property through the bankruptcy process.

Las Vegas Closes One Door, While Another Opens

Las Vegas will lose a part of its history on May 4 when Riviera locks its doors forever. As our recent trip report demonstrates, the property is tired. While the retirement of Riviera is a sad moment for Las Vegas in the nostalgic sense, it is long overdue.

At nine stories, Riviera was the tallest building in Las Vegas when it opened on April 20, 1955.  Now it makes way for the next generation of Las Vegas, one that cares more about amenities and conventions, and less about gambling.

Riviera’s memory will live forever, but it is time for the relic to pass the torch to the next chapter of the Las Vegas economy.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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