New events center coming to Las Vegas Strip

January 23, 2013 - 3:32 PM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Las Vegas Strip, home to themed casinos that mimic the canals of Venice and the skyscrapers of Manhattan, is getting a new events center modeled on an Eastern European glass factory.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is developing a 3,000-capacity theater that has sat empty since the hotel-casino opened in 2010.

The auditorium is expected to open by the end of the year and cater to conventioneers, boxing fans or concert-goers. By contrast, the Coliseum at Caesars Palace, where singer Celine Dion performed her long-running residency, seats 4,000.

CEO John Unwin told The Associated Press that the new events center will be called the Chelsea and will feature 18-foot ceilings, industrial-inspired light fixtures and a vintage wooden bar.

"Imagine a glass factory in Czechoslovakia, and then you drop into that a working theater set" he said, looking out onto the concrete and drywall box that will become a three-story theater. "It will make a statement; it's not just vanilla."

The last major Las Vegas resort approved before the Great Recession, the $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan was built by a German investment bank after its original developer defaulted. It has recovered from the brink of bankruptcy and established a hipster, boutique brand.

Unwin said the space will allow the hotel to book larger conventions. He said he hopes the industrial-chic design will encourage companies to choose the Cosmopolitan for product launches and other branding events.

"You'll be having the keynote speaker from Google or Apple addressing their group in here one day, and the next day maybe you'll have a general session in here for a convention, and then the next day you'll have a big concert or boxing," he said.

The 65,000 square-foot space was originally conceived as a theater, but sat empty while the rest of the casino sprung to life. Unwin said he has been trying to get the project off the ground since 2009.

The Cosmopolitan's existing venue, the Chelsea Ballroom, where Jay-Z and Coldplay played the New Year's Eve concert that marked the casino's opening, will be renamed.

Unwin said that Deutsche Bank's willingness to invest in the glass factory theater demonstrates commitment to what has been an expensive project.

"It's encouraging because they continue to invest money in delivering a better return," he said.

Asked about the project's price tag, Cosmopolitan spokeswoman Alyssa Anderson said the company does not disclose capital costs.

Construction is expected to begin in March. And because this is Las Vegas, designers already have demarcated a VIP seating area and lounge.

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Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier