MGM plans ‘CityCenter East’

October 09, 2007 3:48 AM
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Gaming giant MGM Mirage plans to develop a "smaller" version of its $7.4 billion Project CityCenter in Las Vegas on 70 acres next to the Borgata in Atlantic City.

The estimated $4.5 billion to $5.5 billion project would mimic the MGM’s sprawling CityCenter project under construction on the Las Vegas Strip, although on a smaller scale, according to people familiar with the plans.

MGM envisions a casino complex featuring three hotel towers of 1,000 rooms each and high-end retail on par with the upscale Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. In addition to its mammoth size, what would distinguish the MGM project from other Atlantic City casinos are plans for posh condos that would start at $1 million and top out between $5 million and $6 million, officials said.

MGM’s board of directors may give the development the green light when it holds its next meeting this week. In February, the board approved $20 million to design a project that would rise on 70 acres next to the Borgata in Atlantic City’s Marina District.

MGM is a 50-50 owner of Borgata with Boyd Gaming Corp., but the company has been tantalizing Atlantic City for the past decade with plans for a separate megacasino that would rival anything on its home turf of Las Vegas.

In addition to operating posh resorts such as Bellagio, The Mirage, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, MGM’s masterpiece is the CityCenter project — billed as a gambling megalopolis or "a city within a city." It will include a casino hotel of 4,000 rooms, two non-gaming boutique hotels, 470,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space and nearly 2,700 upscale condo units. Completion is targeted for late 2009.

MGM would like to use the Las Vegas development as a model for a "CityCenter East" project in Atlantic City. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in fall 2008 and take about three and a half years to complete, according to people briefed on the plans.

In Atlantic City, the three proposed hotel towers would each serve a distinct market, from mid-tier customers all the way up to the creme de la creme of high rollers. The condos have been discussed as a possible second phase. A 20,000-seat entertainment arena also was considered but has since been struck from the development.

Gordon Absher, MGM Mirage vice president of public affairs, declined to discuss details of the project or even confirm that the board of directors would be meeting this week.

"We’re very excited about the possibilities in Atlantic City and to continue along the vein of what Borgata has started and proved to be successful in that market," Absher said.

If built, the MGM project would roughly coincide with the arrival of two other proposed casinos. Revel Entertainment Group has started preliminary construction on an estimated $2 billion gaming resort scheduled to open in 2011 next to Showboat Casino Hotel. Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. is redeveloping the site of the old Sands Casino Hotel for a $1.5 billion to $2 billion casino that may open in 2011 or 2012.