Image: Vdara hotel
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Vdara, a hotel with nearly 1,500 rooms, was unveiled to the public on Tuesday, and is the first property of the $8.5 billion CityCenter project to open.
updated 12/3/2009 11:30:14 AM ET 2009-12-03T16:30:14

Owners of the CityCenter casino complex unveiled its first hotel Tuesday, opening the first 1,500 rooms available at the $8.5 billion development and hoping it will be a catalyst to boost Las Vegas tourism after two years of decline.

"I will promise you that next year will be better than this year," said MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren.

Murren said during a short ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Vdara Hotel & Spa that after five years developing the CityCenter complex, it's time to celebrate what more than 10,000 construction workers built and what 12,000 employees will run.

"It's going to be party central around here for a few weeks," he said.

CityCenter is co-owned by the Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage and Dubai World, the investment arm of the Persian Gulf state.

Most of the 67-acre project on the Las Vegas Strip is being opened in phases this month. The Crystals retail shopping mall and the 392-room Mandarin Oriental open this week, while the centerpiece Aria Resort & Casino opens Dec. 16, adding 4,004 hotel rooms to the saturated Las Vegas market. Two condominium towers will open in January, and a 400-room boutique hotel has been delayed until at least late next year.

Competitors worry the added rooms could depress rates further in a market where many hotel-casinos have had to slash prices to keep their beds filled.

The Vdara is a 57-story, nongambling and nonsmoking condominium hotel connected with other CityCenter features and the plush Bellagio hotel next door. Its features include a large Nancy Rubins canoe-starburst sculpture outside its front doors, and a boutique spa and salon inside with 11 treatment rooms.

Murren acknowledged board members and billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, who was not present. Murren said Kerkorian and others' ability to envision a project beyond what already existed in Las Vegas made CityCenter possible.

Kerkorian, 92, has longtime ties to Las Vegas and twice built the largest hotels in the city, but said in a statement that CityCenter may be the best project he's been a part of.

"Of all the wonderful Las Vegas properties with which I've been associated, CityCenter is simply the most amazing," said Kerkorian, who owns a 37 percent stake in MGM. "I'm extremely excited to see the public's reaction and look forward to seeing how it changes Las Vegas."

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