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LAS VEGAS-Las Vegas Sands Corp. is planning to replace its 1.2 million-sf Sands Expo & Convention Center with a new $680-million development on an adjacent site. The move would create a state-of-the-art convention facility with improved access while freeing up the existing site abutting the back side of the company’s Venetian and Palazzo resorts for redevelopment.

Company executive Brad Stone revealed the plans at a recent investor conference, a transcript of which was provided to GlobeSt.com. Stone told investors the site could hold 10 to 14 million-sf of development. For comparison, the Venetian resort contains just less than 10 million-sf of built area, not including the newly completed and connected Palazzo resort.

“We could put between 4,000 and 7,000 keys on this piece of property, we could put condominiums [totaling] from 2 million to 3 million-sf of net leasable square footage, and we could generate roughly 500,000-sf of additional retail opportunities,” he said. “It’s something that we haven’t committed ourselves to yet; we’re simply exploring, going through the exercise, looking at land costs, construction costs, looking at the opportunities, again, to sell off core assets. As this slide illustrates, there’s 2 million to 3 million-sf of condos, and 500,000-sf of additional opportunities to sell down non-core assets and buy down the cost of this type of investment. Las Vegas is an expensive town to build in right now, but again, we have an infrastructure set up in place that we think we can build fairly cost effectively, and if we can bring down the cost of construction and investment by selling off non-core assets, it seems to be the right opportunity for us.”

The existing Sands Expo & Convention Center opened in 1990 and is located immediately behind the company’s Venetian and Palazzo Resorts, which front on the Las Vegas Strip. The property backs up to Koval Lane which is surrounded on three sides by Wynn Resorts Ltd., properties currently utilized for employee parking. Las Vegas Sands has submitted plans for the new convention center with Clark County and hopes to have it up and running in 2010. The new Sands Expo Center would have the same amount of exhibition space with higher ceilings (36 feet), elevated moving sidewalks connecting it to the Palazzo and The Venetian hotel-casinos, and 1,800 parking spaces.

The proposed convention center is one of several facility upgrades occurring in the local convention industry, which hosts 45 of America’s top 200 trade shows, more than the next two cities (Orlando, FL and Chicago) combined. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is spending $890 million to upgrade and expand the Las Vegas Convention Center and Boyd Gaming is planning will add about 650,000-sf of convention space in 2009, when it is scheduled to complete its Echelon resort development.

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