|By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 24, 2010--Las Vegas Sands Corp. said Tuesday it will open a portion of the $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on April 27.
The project's nearly 3-acre SkyPark, which sits atop the hotel-casino's three 55-story hotel towers, will open June 23 as part of the overall grand opening celebration.
The Marina Bay Sands, which will house 2,500 hotel rooms, a casino, restaurants, convention and meeting space, and a shopping mall, will be Singapore's second gaming resort following the opening earlier this month of the $4.7 billion Resorts World Sentosa.
Singapore's government granted approval for two casino projects on the island-nation in 2005 as a way to boost tourism. Gaming was required to be just one component, but not a major feature, of a development.
Singapore mandated that Resorts World charge local residents a $70-per-person entry fee for the casino as part of a government campaign to warn against dangers of gambling addiction. The same casino entry fee is expected to be placed on local customers at Marina Bay Sands.
While Resorts World includes a Universal Studios theme park, Las Vegas Sands is counting on its conventions and meetings business model to boost occupancy at the Marina Bay Sands.
The hotel will open with 963 hotel rooms and in time to host the Inter-Pacific Bar Association's annual conference.
But the Marina Bay Sands' most noticeable feature will be the SkyPark, which company officials say is large enough to park four A380 jumbo jets. The cantilevered platform will offer 360-degree views of the Singapore skyline through a public observatory, rooftop restaurants, nightclubs, gardens and a swimming pool.
It took construction crews three months to lift the 13 pieces of the 7,000-ton SkyPark into place.
"Nearly four years ago, we embarked on a journey we believed would define the future of our company and at the same time change the face of tourism in Singapore and the South Asian region for decades to come," Las Vegas Sands Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson said in a statement. "It seems both of those ambitions are about to come true."
At $5.5 billion, Marina Bay Sands is the most expensive single-resort hotel-casino ever built. MGM Mirage's $8.5 billion CityCenter includes nongaming hotels and high-rise residential, as well as the 4,004-room Aria hotel-casino.
Las Vegas Sands continued forward with Marina Bay Sands despite the company's financial restructuring in November 2008, which halted construction on several developments on Macau's Cotai Strip and a high-rise condominium project on the Strip.
The company expects to restart development of a four-hotel Cotai Strip site this year.
"Despite the challenging, and at times unprecedented, economic conditions companies like ours recently faced, our dedication to completing this development never wavered, not even for a second," Adelson said.
Las Vegas Sands President Michael Leven said the Marina Bay Sands further establishes the company's base in Asia.
"It will also make us less dependent on our operations in locations where the economy is still working to recover," Leven said.
Subject to regulatory approval, Marina Bay Sands will open with part of the shopping mall and convention center, several restaurants and the casino.
The second phase, which includes the SkyPark, additional shops and restaurants and an event plaza, will open June 23.
A theater to house a production of "The Lion King" will open in October.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871.
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