Wednesday, May 14, 2008 | 2:12 a.m.
MGM Mirage officials topped off the first of six high-rise towers on its CityCenter development Wednesday, and a senior company official said it was pushing ahead despite nervousness across the casino industry because of the uneasy U.S. economy.
Bobby Baldwin, chief design and construction officer for MGM Mirage Inc., said the structural work on the 57-story Vdara condominium hotel was finished, and workers would shift their focus to finishing the shells of CityCenter's other buildings.
CityCenter, a partnership with Dubai's government investment fund, Dubai World, is being built on a 76-acre site on the south end of the Strip between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo hotel-casinos.
MGM Mirage, which last week reported a 30 percent profit drop in its first quarter profit, has emphasized the project to investors and others as a sign that the company is not pulling back on the massive casino complex even as some other companies' projects have been shelved or delayed.
The Cosmopolitan, a casino resort under construction on the Strip, defaulted on a $760 million construction loan from Deutsche Bank, and Donald Trump has delayed the start of his second tower project. Questions also have been raised about the future of The Plaza, a 3,500-room resort modeled on The Plaza Hotel in New York.
"We end up in full blown development and construction at a period of time where the economy is slow," said Baldwin.
"That's obviously good for us because by happenstance we can match up the delivery of the product into a stronger economy," he said.
Some industry analysts have said casino companies are more susceptible to the consumer economy's swings because the industry is moving away from gambling as its main source of revenue. People are visiting less often, and spending less time and money when they do come.
Baldwin said MGM Mirage was spending about $180 million per month in construction costs, and that was expected to rise to about $225 million in August. The total cost of the project is estimated at $8.1 billion to $8.4 billion.
That includes plans for 4,400 hotel rooms in three buildings and nearly 2,700 condo units in three others. Some of the condo units could be rented out like hotel rooms by their owners.
MGM Mirage chief executive Terry Lanni said last week that the company has to be ready for better times ahead, which is why plans for CityCenter haven't changed.
CityCenter is scheduled to open in November 2009.
On the Net:
CityCenter Las Vegas: http://www.citycenter.com