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$8.5 billion CityCenter kicks off with 16 days of grand galas

From left, Vdara General Manager Angela Lester, CityCenter President Bobby Baldwin, MGM Chairman Jim Murren, Infinity World Development President William Grounds and Aria President William McBeath cut the ribbon and officially open Vdara at CityCenter on Dec. 1, 2009.
Photo: Darrin Bush/Las Vegas News Bureau

CityCenter: Vdara Ribbon Cutting

Vdara @CityCenter

Aria at CityCenter

The $8.5 billion CityCenter.

The $8.5 billion CityCenter.

The brand new, 21st Century, multibillion-dollar CityCenter resort casino masterpiece is so large sprawled out over its nearly 70 acres at the heart of the Strip that the celebrations take up 16 days of grand gala openings, parties and festivities on the December calendar.

It was five years and $8.5 billion ago that the planning, development and construction got underway on what is America’s largest-ever private residential hotel gaming project. It has now forever changed the skyline of Las Vegas and wholly redefined our desert kingdom.

It all starts this morning with a red ribbon cutting at the nongaming, nonsmoking, 1,495 all-suites Vdara hotel. In total, CityCenter will include 6,000 rooms and 2,400 private condominium residences among its six buildings. Tonight, it kicks off with a Vanity Fair red carpet party with Orlando Bloom and Rosario Dawson honoring adventurer explorer Sebastian Copeland.

On Thursday, the massive 500,000 square-foot retail palatial promenade Crystals will open with Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria Parker hosting a party at her new Beso restaurant and Eve nightclub there. Crystals is spectacular and already hailed as the biggest and best anywhere in the world. Earlier in the day, it will be Breakfast at Tiffany in celebration of the first retail outlets opening.

On Friday, the luxurious Mandarin Oriental will open with a black-tie musical gala, and then on Dec. 16, the giant gaming resort Aria, home of Cirque du Soleil’s new show Viva Elvis, will open with the gala to beat them all. Estimates put the opening tab at $20 million for the festivities and opening launch campaign.

The Las Vegas News Bureau’s Glenn Pinkerton shot this photograph late last night just hours before this morning’s first gala celebration. Click HERE for our five-part series about the amazing architectural achievement that turned CityCenter into the newest wonder of the world.

Guests get the first tour of the suites and spa at Vdara this morning. My culinary genius friend Martin Heierling, innovator at the Bellagio’s Sensi, serves as executive chef for Vdara. He has created the stunning Silk Road restaurant inspired by the ancient trade route spanning from Venice to the Far East. He’s incorporating subtle spices and exotic ingredients to create modern, trans-ethnic cuisine. Silk Road transforms as the day ticks on from lively at daybreak to chic and sexy at nightfall.

The Vdara, with its 1,495 rooms, is physically connected to the adjoining Bellagio -- just a short 100 feet from the Bellagio’s south tower and directly adjacent Aria. Vdara, which also is part condo tower with two-bedroom residences and penthouses, has a distinctive crescent shape soaring 57 stories. Its unique skin of patterned glass creates one of the most striking design statements through its sleek, shimmering structure.

The Vdara Health & Beauty center is an 18,000-square-foot, two-level spa, salon and advanced fitness facility with a spotlight on holistic health and well-being. There are 11 treatment rooms and three relaxation lounges with signature treatments using ingredients derived from organic herbs, flowers, fruits, vegetables and essential oils. Vdara Health & Beauty is the first Las Vegas spa recognized by the Green Spa Network for its commitment to the environment.

Check back later here at Vegas DeLuxe for our photo coverage of the first opening ceremony and tonight’s premiere party.

Updated at 1:42 p.m.: Our contributing photographer Erik Kabik has sent us his photos from the Vdara ribbon cutting this morning, and we have posted them as quickly as humanly possible!

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground. Read more of Robin's stories at

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