Looking ahead: See what lies in store for the Las Vegas Strip in 2016

Spencer Burton

Work continues on the Las Vegas Arena on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015.

A big wave of growth is expected to crest on Las Vegas Boulevard South in 2016.

While the physical dynamic of the Strip did not change too dramatically this year, it nonetheless proved to be an important development period as a few key projects made significant progress toward completion. In 2016, several of those will open their doors — and more visible advancement should be seen in other places as well.

As in previous years, the Strip’s focus will remain on nongambling attractions and environments in 2016. Two prominent resort developments should take big steps forward, too.

Brent Pirosch, director of gaming consulting for CBRE’s Global Gaming Group, said the 20,000-seat Las Vegas Arena being developed by MGM Resorts International and AEG promised to be the biggest change on the Strip next year.

“The arena will be a telling point for 2016 and the future,” Pirosch said. “Can we logistically figure out the parking? Is that going to change if they start charging for parking on the Strip? From an infrastructure standpoint, can the Strip handle an arena of this size?”

Most indicators suggest that the Strip can handle what’s in store, Pirosch said, but Las Vegas will find out for sure once the facility opens in the new year.

That said, here’s a look at how the biggest Strip projects are poised to advance in 2016.

Las Vegas Arena & the Park

MGM Resorts will transform a major chunk of the boulevard with the opening of its highly anticipated arena and the Park, an outdoor dining and entertainment district, near New York-New York and Monte Carlo.

Native Las Vegas band The Killers is scheduled to break in the arena with an April 6 concert featuring Wayne Newton as a special guest.

Las Vegas Arena Construction

Work continues on the Las Vegas Arena on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Launch slideshow »

MGM Resorts executive Rick Arpin said in a statement when the Killers date was announced that “it always made sense” to celebrate the “homegrown talent” of Las Vegas.

“We want Las Vegas to know this is ‘your house’ and we look forward to making The Killers feel right at home,” Arpin said.

There's been no official word on whether the arena will get to house a major league hockey team, as well, as the NHL has yet to reveal whether it will award a franchise to Las Vegas.

Taken together, the arena and Park are comparable to the Linq promenade and High Roller observation wheel controlled by Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Monte Carlo theater

MGM Resorts’ construction plans do not end with the big arena. The company announced in July it would also build a new 5,000-seat theater nearby at the Monte Carlo resort. Set to open at the end of the year, the Monte Carlo theater will include flexible seating arrangements that can be reconfigured for different types of events.

To make way for the theater and its related entertainment offerings, Blue Man Group moved from the Monte Carlo to Luxor earlier this year.

And the theater may not be the only big change coming to the Monte Carlo in 2016 as the arena and entertainment district open. MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren told VEGAS INC in August that a name change there is “almost a certainty.”

Topgolf at MGM Grand

Topgolf International Inc. broke ground on a huge golf entertainment complex at the MGM Grand earlier this year. Located off Koval Lane, the Topgolf area will feature a 105,000-square-foot facility that overlooks a 215-yard outfield. The four-story facility will include 102 hitting bays as well as kitchens and bars, pools, a stage for live acts and space for private events. Work is expected to be completed in spring 2016.

Riviera demolition

The Riviera should finally come down next year.

The defunct resort has been shuttered since May, following its sale to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Eventually, the authority plans to replace the hotel with a convention center expansion, but that’s years away at this point.

Riviera: The Last 24 Hours

7:45 p.m. - Lights are shown at the Riviera facade Sunday, May 3, 2015.  STEVE MARCUS Launch slideshow »

In the meantime, the authority plans to take down the Riviera structures, clean up the site and use it for outdoor exhibit space. The site must be ready by early 2017 for use by a major trade show, meaning the demolition should happen sometime next year.

Caesars Palace renovation

The next year is a big one for the iconic Strip resort: It’s turning 50. To mark the occasion, Caesars Palace said in October that it would give its original Roman Tower a $75 million makeover and rebrand it the Julius Tower. The resort said when the changes were announced that it would overhaul the hotel rooms in the tower and be ready to welcome guests there Jan. 1.

The investment comes despite the complicated bankruptcy case of the resort’s owner, a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment Corp, that has been ongoing for almost a year.

W Las Vegas at SLS

One of the towers at the financially struggling SLS Las Vegas will be run under a new brand managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. in the third quarter next year. The resort said in November that the deal would turn its Lux tower into a W Hotel and make the SLS part of Starwood’s Tribute Portfolio, as well as connect the resort to the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program. Observers will no doubt be waiting to see if the deal improves the finances of the SLS, which reported a $122.7 million loss over the first nine months of 2015.

Grand Opening of SLS Las Vegas

Philippe Starck, Sam Nazarian, Lenny Kravitz and Jose Andres at the grand opening of SLS Las Vegas on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, on the Strip. Launch slideshow »

Transformers, Avengers at Treasure Island

In November, the Associated Press reported that Treasure Island would bring immersive displays dedicated to the Avengers and Transformers brands. They’ll be installed in a 28,000-square-foot space above a CVS drugstore that Treasure Island leased to Victory Hill Exhibitions. The project should open by March or April.

North Strip: Resorts World Las Vegas & Alon Las Vegas

The north Strip, currently pocked with a lot of empty land and unfinished or closed developments, is set for a big overhaul when two planned resorts eventually open. Both have been in the works for a while, but neither has made a tremendous amount of visible progress yet. Expect that to change next year.

One of the projects, Resorts World Las Vegas, is planned for the site of Boyd Gaming Corp.’s abandoned Echelon development, which was being built where the Stardust once stood. Malaysia-based Genting Group held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $4 billion project in May.

Groundbreaking of Resorts World

The Malaysia-based Genting Group breaks ground on the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas joined by Gov. Brian Sandoval and Clark County officials on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. Launch slideshow »

Six months later, work on a parking garage in one corner of the 87-acre site remained the most visible sign that anything was getting done at Resorts World. A Genting spokesman gave assurances at the time that the project was on track for a 2018 opening.

The other resort project, Alon Las Vegas, remains more under the radar. It’s being developed by Australia’s Crown Resorts Ltd. and Andrew Pascal, a former executive at Wynn Resorts Ltd., on the site formerly home to the New Frontier. Documents filed with the county laid out a vision of a two-tower resort with 1,100 rooms, a nightclub, a pool and other features.

Workers were seen moving earth at the property in November. Other than that, the developers haven’t been very detailed about their construction plans, though they said when they announced the project that they planned to finish construction in 2018.