MGM Resorts properties up and down the Strip are filled to capacity this week, as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Las Vegas’ largest annual convention, begins its four-day trade show.

MGM Resorts Las Vegas Convention Center

Government officials, including Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (center), broke ground this week on Phase Two of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s expansion, even as CES hit town for its annual gathering. The expansion is intended to draw more exhibit traffic. (Image: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority)

With 180,000 expected convention attendees and rooms in high demand, CES has prompted MGM to reopen sections of Mandalay Bay’s 32nd floor. Several floors had been closed at the resort after the October 1 terror that shooter Stephen Paddock perpetrated from one of the rooms on that floor.

MGM officials said the temporary floor closures were due to lack of “occupancy demand.” The company said there are no plans to rent the 32nd-floor suite where the gunman opened fire at this time.

MGM Resorts is the largest casino operator on the Strip, and this week is charging premium room rates at its properties. But Mandalay Bay remains cheaper than the MGM Grand, despite being a higher-end hotel. Hoping to draw visitors who may still be a bit wary to stay at the scene of the much-publicized crime likely forced the unusual decision to come in under what the market could technically bear.

Despite the shooting taking place just 100 days ago, the new year has ushered in a renewed sense of optimism for Las Vegas casinos and political leaders.

Rooms to Grow

November marked Las Vegas’ sixth straight monthly visitor decline compared to the previous year. However, hospitality experts say the fundamentals of the economy remain strong, and the dips are largely due to ongoing renovations at various Strip properties that have taken many rooms offline.

MGM, for example, is currently transforming Monte Carlo into two distinct hotel properties. The Palms, Harrah’s, Bally’s, and The Cosmopolitan also all recently underwent room renovations.

More rooms are on the way, and in key areas not far from the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Fontainebleau finally has a new owner, and the nearly finished property’s 3,815 rooms could begin taking reservations later this year. Wynn Resorts is also adding a third hotel tower in conjunction with Paradise Park that will offer up another 1,000 guest rooms.

Conventional Wisdom

On Monday, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) broke ground on phase two of the Convention Center’s three-part expansion. Phase Two is an $860 million project that will add 1.4 million square feet to the facility, with at least 600,000 square feet of new exhibit space.

Home to some 22,000 meetings, conventions, and trade shows a year, event organizers have long requested more space, rooms, internet, and technological capabilities, as well as dining areas. The goal of the LVCVA expansion is to satisfy those requests, and ideally continue to grow Las Vegas’ national convention industry dominance.

“I know that it’s going to allow Las Vegas to be even more competitive than we are right now,” LVCVA President Rossi Ralenkotter said at the groundbreaking. “This is our opportunity to brand us as what we are: the convention capital of North America.”

The third and final phase of the total $1.4 billion Convention Center overhaul will renovate the existing 3.2 million-square-foot exhibit space. In 2016, Las Vegas trade shows directly supported an estimated 54,000 jobs and $2.3 billion in wages.