Vegas has a lot riding on Aria
LAS VEGAS - Visitors by the thousands streamed into the newest casino-resort on the Las Vegas strip yesterday, an influx that casino officials hope will help yank Sin City from its two-year economic funk.
Fireworks and fanfare inaugurated the official launch of the Aria Resort & Casino, the 4,000-room, 61-story centerpiece of the $8.5 billion CityCenter complex. Crowds began swarming through the doors around midnight, welcomed with cheers and dozens of photographers snapping pictures.
Models stood in the aisles, casino executives greeted guests, and hundreds got a preview of an Elvis-themed Cirque du Soleil show to debut in February.
“It’s beautiful,’’ said 73-year-old retiree Bernard Bouley of Saint Jerome, Canada, about 30 miles from Montreal.
Bouley waited for the opening with a friend in a small park outside the Crystals mall, peering inside the doors to Aria’s lobby and glancing at the colorful fountains outside the resort’s main valet.
MGM Mirage chief executive Jim Murren said that while many analysts thought CityCenter would never open, its employees drove the company to make sure it carried through on grand design. CityCenter is being built by Tutor Perini Corp., which relocated from Framingham, Mass., to the West Coast recently.
“It was because of [the employees] that we got here, and the promise of 12,000 people that wanted to work hard to provide for their families,’’ Murren said. “It was that promise - that we didn’t want to let them down - that got us here.’’
About 5,000 VIPs began entering Aria after 6 p.m. for a gala, greeted by smiling cocktail servers with trays of Dom Perignon champagne and displays of hors d’oeuvres of caviar, seafood, and other savory treats.
“This is really 21st century Las Vegas,’’ said architect Cesar Pelli, whose team designed the Aria complex.
On Wednesday, CityCenter owners MGM Mirage and Dubai World thanked architects, employees and each other at a morning ceremony.
Murren, flanked by executives and employees of the Las Vegas-based company, later rang a bell used for prizefights at the MGM Grand to remotely close the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of MGM Mirage were unchanged at $10.35 Wednesday.
“I think clearly that that was the seventh-round bell. Our foe is weakening,’’ Murren said after hammering the bell 56 times. “Our foe - the economy, the recession, the financial crisis - our opponent is now the one that’s close to its knees, and we’re just gaining momentum and gaining strength.’’