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Las Vegas-based restaurateur Elizabeth Blau has been mostly out of town for months now, launching a multitude of food and beverage outlets as part of the massive international entertainment destination Parq Vancouver, which houses a hotel and casino right next to BC Place Stadium in British Columbia, Canada.
Blau, her husband and business partner, Kim Canteenwalla, and their 13-year-old son Cole are a sports-loving family, so it's been difficult for Blau to miss out on the phenomenon of Las Vegas' first-year NHL team, the Golden Knights. She did catch a road game when the Knights played the Canucks in Vancouver.
"I can tell from my social media blowing up that they've taken over the city with their energy and spirit," she says. "I was home in Las Vegas on a recent Friday night and it was one of the quietest nights I can remember, because everyone was either at the hockey game or somewhere watching it."
Blau has a special proximity to the local sports boom. Her restaurant Andiron Steak & Sea is one of the most popular dining destinations at Downtown Summerlin, also the location of the Golden Knights' practice facility and headquarters, City National Arena. Her family lives in the area, too.
After the Feb. 23 groundbreaking for the 10,000-seat Las Vegas Ballpark hosted by the Howard Hughes Corp. and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, downtown Summerlin is also about to be the home of the Las Vegas 51s, the city's Pacific Coast League professional baseball team and Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets.
"I think baseball is kind of the icing on the cake," says Blau, who also missed out on the groundbreaking while in Canada. "It's another demand-generator for people to come to Downtown Summerlin. We've been huge fans of what the Howard Hughes Corp. has done here and we know they've had this master plan from the beginning to create this sense of community. Coming from the East Coast, this is something I've really missed in Las Vegas, and it's really nice to have it."
Most locals probably hear the words "Downtown Summerlin" and think of the master-planned community's centrally located outdoor mall that fits between Red Rock Resort on West Charleston Boulevard and Sahara Avenue to the south. With its many stores and restaurants, movie theaters and family-friendly programming, the shopping center is thriving.
Las Vegas Ballpark Groundbreaking
But it's just a part of Downtown Summerlin, a nearly 400-acre plot that also stretches from the Beltway in the west to Town Center Drive in the east and opened in 2014. The urban-style development also includes Red Rock Resort, the Lifetime Fitness center and City National Bank building, the new Constellation luxury apartment building and another office building currently under construction. More than 4,000 attached residences -- apartments, condos, lofts and brownstones with no traditional suburban single-family homes -- are planned to complete the high-density community.
"I think it will be quite evident when those additional residential projects come around, especially one at the corner of Sahara and Pavilion Center Drive, that all of a sudden, with the ballpark and stadium for hockey and new office building, that this area is taking on a life of its own," says Kevin Orrock, president of Summerlin. "It's always been about creating that live-work-play environment. Our goal is to create a high-density, high-energy urban center, and we're well on our way to doing that."
When you think of a true downtown area, there are certain elements that come to mind. Sports is one of those elements. The appearance of hockey and baseball in Downtown Summerlin seems sudden even though it wasn't, not unlike Las Vegas' greater professional sports surge that includes the Golden Knights, the NFL's Raiders, the WNBA's Aces and the United Soccer League's Lights FC.
"If 20 years ago someone would have told me we'd have baseball in the middle of Summerlin, I would have thought, 'How's that going to happen?' " Orrock says. "But then all of a sudden the Howard Hughes Corp. owns the baseball team. There had been discussions for quite some time, it was just a matter of getting all the stars to align."
City National Arena has become another popular family destination at Downtown Summerlin -- like the Regal Luxury movie theaters or the Dave & Buster's arcade and restaurant -- with youth and adult hockey leagues and other skating activities. Las Vegas 51s games will be another affordable family activity just a few steps away.
"Hockey in Las Vegas has been special because the Vegas Golden Knights have done a spectacular job of ingratiating themselves into the fabric of the community," Orrock says. "I think we'll see the same thing with baseball and even the Raiders. Sports tend to drive further development, and the ballpark will accelerate that."
There was already an assortment of restaurants inside Red Rock Resort (and movie theaters, too) before that first retail-oriented phase of Downtown Summerlin opened. But business at the casino is better than ever as the resort and the mall create some synergy.
"We were already fans of residing in Summerlin since opening Red Rock Resort's doors in 2006, but it's just getting better every year," says Lori Nelson, vice president of corporate communications for Station Casinos. "While Red Rock Resort offers a full array of entertainment and dining offerings, we are equally thrilled to offer our hotel guests additional, not to mention walkable, amenities such as shopping at Downtown Summerlin, City National Arena and soon a world-class baseball stadium."
Nelson says the benefits of Downtown Summerlin's expansion extend beyond the hotel guest base. New venues are also enjoyed by team members from Red Rock Resort and Station Casinos' adjacent corporate office.
Initial developments at Downtown Summerlin have attracted locals from all over the Las Vegas Valley, not just neighbors, and the sports facilities mark the culmination of creating that kind of exciting destination. The future is focused more on providing services and a specific lifestyle for those who want to live at Downtown Summerlin or near the urban center.
"We are starting to draw other types of commercial operations," Orrock says. "We are under construction at Hualapai and Flamingo on a large build-to-suit complex for Aristocrat Technologies, and we're pleased to see them coming into Summerlin.
"In the next several years, we have a lot going on, more job-creating projects that will ultimately help create that environment so people can live close to where they work. That's everybody's goal at this point."
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