Riviera Presents $16 Billion Hurdle to Las Vegas Economy If Famed Venue Demolition Blocked

Posted on: May 11, 2016, 11:02h. 

Last updated on: May 11, 2016, 11:09h.

The Riviera closed its doors on May 4, 2015, bringing to end a sixty-year history. The famed icon of the Las Vegas Strip represented the glitz and glamour of Sin City during its storied run, but today the property presents an economic hurdle for local lawmakers.

Riviera demolition petition LVCVA
Prep work on demolishing the Riviera has already begun, but a petition filed in Clark County is seeking to halt the removal of the famed Strip casino icon. (Image: Jae C. Hong/AP)

Purchased for $191 million in February 2015 by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) and zoned to house the future expansion of the Convention Center, a local resident is seeking to block the Riv’s demolition through a petition titled “Save the Riviera.”

Filed in Clark County, a five-person panel has signed the petition. Kelden Engel, Hilary Engel, Aaron Engel, Austin Sessums, and Leslie Porter are seeking to institute an ordinance to “legally prevent the demolition of any structures that are currently or have ever been situated on land denoted by Clark County Assessor’s Parcel Number 162-09-703-001.”

The affidavit states, “The buildings that currently meet that description constitute the historic Riviera Hotel, a landmark that has stood in the Las Vegas valley for more than 60 years.”

Billions of Problems

The Convention and Visitors Authority is none too happy to be in receipt of the Riviera petition. Delaying the former casino’s demolition would bring serious economic harm to the area, according to the agency’s board of directors.

The LVCVA commissioned a financial impact analysis of allowing the Riv to remain vacated in its current state.

Should the ordinance be granted, the LVCVA claims $213,795,001 will be lost in Year One alone. That translates to a 30-year cumulative impact of $15.8 billion in missing economic output, per the Visitors Authority data.

“The property is a key component of the Las Vegas Convention Center District project and provides the footprint for the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center,” the LVCVA said in a press release. “[It] provides connectivity to the current LVCC campus and will allow Southern Nevada to materially grow existing tradeshows and conventions as well as attract new business to the destination.”

The Visitors Authority argues that during inspection of the Riviera, hazardous materials, including asbestos, were found and that significant renovation is required.

The board also states that “at this time there is no compelling evidence that a private firm has the interest or wherewithal to acquire this property” for hotel or casino purposes. That’s the LVCVA’s main argument in allowing it to move forward with demolition and make way for a building that can be used to improve the region’s economy.

Just Sign Here

The next step in the Riviera defense is to obtain the necessary signatures for the petition. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Richard Velotta, petitioners need 15 percent of the last general election vote, or about 51,000 signatures, to have their voices be heard.

The deadline for obtaining the required John Hancocks is July 1. It’s somewhat unclear what happens next if they can obtain the requisite signatures. Presumably it would go to a referendum vote of some kind, but we were unable to ascertain this specifically.

Work on bringing down the Riv has already commenced, but the venue’s two hotel towers are scheduled to be imploded sometime this summer. That might not happen if the Engels, Sessums, and Porter can manage to persuade locals that preserving the landmark is in the city’s best interest.