LAS VEGAS » The aging Riviera hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip won’t be long for this world now that a plan from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to buy it, demolish it and make way for a growing convention center got the go-ahead Friday morning.
The public agency charged with promoting the Las Vegas area will spend up to $191 million to buy the 2,075-room casino hotel that first opened in 1955 with Liberace headlining.
It plans to close the Riviera and raze it for what it’s calling the Las Vegas Global Business District.
Riviera Holdings Corp., the casino-hotel’s owner, is led by principals and affiliates of Starwood Capital Group.
The agency’s board of directors voted at 9 a.m. Friday on the purchase, which earmarks up to $182.5 million for the price of the 26-acre property and up to $8.5 million for related costs.
The casino-hotel will close within six months, according to the purchase agreement.
Tourism agency spokeswoman Heidi Hayes confirmed the casino-hotel will be demolished.
The agency’s Las Vegas Convention Center has 2.18 million square feet of exhibit space now, less than Chicago’s McCormick Place, which has plans for an expansion of its own, but a little more than the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., which is undergoing capital improvements.
The $2.3 billion Las Vegas Global Business District plan would add another 1.8 million square feet.
Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts, said he had been talking with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently. Emanuel told Murren he wanted his city to be No. 1 for the amount of convention business it brings in.
"Well, we’re No. 1, and we don’t want him to be No. 1," Murren said. The planned expansion would help Las Vegas fend off competitors and bring more business for every casino-hotel, including his own, even though the district will compete with his expanding convention space at Mandalay Bay, he said.
"To have a Strip presence for the first time is also really important. That conventiongoer gets that sense of arrival," Murren said. As it is now, the convention center sits a long block behind the Strip. "It would be a vast improvement over what we have today," he said.
The Riviera isn’t the Strip’s oldest remaining casino-hotel — Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo is — but it’s close.
The hotel-casino was built by Miami investors with ties to the mob, and at one point Rat Pack member Dean Martin owned a 10 percent stake in the hotel, according to research by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Sitting on the north end of the Strip, the Riviera has struggled in recent years, and two towering vacant casino-hotel developments nearby haven’t helped, diminishing walk-up visits.
The not-so-glitzy property has promised $1 blackjack — a rare bargain on the Strip — and featured buns of bronze near the outside entrance with a sculpture of several statuesque showgirls from its Crazy Girls show, with an emphasis on their posteriors.
It filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010, re-emerging a year later. But the losses persisted.
Kimberly Pierceall, Associated Press