lv signHow do you plan for expanded tourism growth at the rate of a 30% increase in a city that’s still recovering from the shell shock of the economic debacle of the past few years? Apparently, you create a plan to spend $2.5 billion on a complete convention center overhaul, even though you only have funding planned out to the tune of $150 million that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority(LVCVA) has on hand.

What’s another couple billion dollars after all? The rest of the project funding is not yet secured or even planned out.

Project Gets Green Light

The plan to essentially recreate the entire convention center got the go-ahead this week in front of a standing-room only crowd at the authority’s board meeting. Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the authority, referred to the referendum as a defining moment for Las Vegas’s future. “We are at a crossroads,” he told the board. “It’s not just about expanding and renovating this building.”

Ralenkotter went on to say that the highly competitive tourism, convention and gaming markets worldwide created the need for a major convention center overhaul. The LVCVA is tasked with the purpose to “fill rooms and puts heads in beds,” as Ralenkotter put it, and with tourism expected to pull in $41 billion for the Las Vegas economy this year, the need to bump it up a notch for continued growth over the next two decades and more has become evident.

Big Growth Goals

LVCVA is aiming for a 30% growth spike in tourism by 2022, a move that would take its current market share of 16% up another 14% in less than a decade. This year, they are hoping to attract some 40 million visitors to the gambling mecca.

Phase One, which is still being mapped out, might include land acquisitions as well as gathering contractor bids for future construction. In a city that’s had a few years of severely depressed economic growth and a nearly flat construction schedule, this can only be great news to builders and will obviously create possibly thousands of jobs for workers as well.  “This is the type of project that could turn us around completely,” said Darren Enns, secretary and treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council.

The project will move slowly- possibly taking as long as a decade to complete- as it will need to work around scheduled conventions; a reality that may have the opposite effect from what’s desired in the short-term if it creates any roadblocks and parking issues.

It’s been eight years since the last attempted convention center renovation, in 2005; those plans were tabled when the recession hit Las Vegas hard. Little by little, the economy is crawling back now; for the first half of 2013, LVCVA’s operating budget is up a minimal 1.8% over the same period last year, at $120.8 million.

The Future

Planned for the enormous undertaking are a “World Trade Center,” full-service restaurants as well as fast-food options, and of course, what Vegas is most famous for right after gambling: lots of shopping. Additionally, a wellness center with recreational options and open green space are anticipated.

We bet we’ll still see most of the conventioneers gambling in the casinos.