Vegas Hilton New Owner
John Locher/AP
Because it's so heavily dependent on domestic tourism, Las Vegas was one of the hardest-hit American cities during last decade's recession. So much so that five-plus years later, it has yet to fully recover, with numerous key economic indicators remaining stubbornly below their pre-slump levels.

However, two recently announced, large-scale renovation efforts on choice pieces of real estate -- along with other key projects soon coming onstream -- should help juice the economy of this glitziest of American cities.

Hail Caesar

Caesars Entertainment (CZR) announced in July it would spend nearly $250 million to spruce up The Quad, a 2,256-room hotel on the Strip (the stretch of South Las Vegas Boulevard home to most of the city's famous casinos and resorts) and north of Flamingo Road.

The facility will also get a name change come Oct. 30 of this year, to LINQ Hotel & Casino. This ties the hotel more strongly with the adjacent property Caesars owns, simply known as The LINQ. The oddly spelled complex is a popular shopping, dining and entertainment plaza, so it's probably a good marketing strategy for Caesars to rechristen the hotel after it.

The renovation should help breathe some life into The Quad and bring it up to the standards of some of its neighbors on The Strip. Or, in the words of Caesars' chief marketing officer, make it the venue of "a complete lifestyle experience at one of the best locations in Las Vegas."

Stay With the Ghost of Elvis

Renovations are also on the way at another massive Vegas property, the nearly 3,000-room hotel now known as the Westgate Las Vegas, on Paradise Road. It's named after its new owner, the privately owned timeshare operator Westgate Resorts.

The complex has a long and storied history. When opened in 1969 as The International Hotel, it was the largest hotel in the world. No less a personage than Elvis Presley resided in one of the International's penthouses; he also performed in the hotel's theater.

Since then, the structure has gone through several ownership changes. The record for longest tenure belongs to the company now known as Hilton Worldwide (HLT), which purchased the property in 1970 and held it for nearly 30 years.

Westgate Resorts bought the building from investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS) in a deal announced at the end of June. The price was not disclosed. Westgate promises to "renovate every square inch" of its new asset, spending around $250 million to do so. Some accommodations, unsurprisingly, will become time shares.

Vegas Rocks

These aren't the only projects that'll change the character of the Strip and its environs.

Later this month, a newcomer to the Vegas resort scene, privately held restaurant and nightclub concern SBE Entertainment, will open the doors of its sparkling 1,620-room SLS Las Vegas. This is a $415 million refurbishment of what was once the Sahara Hotel & Casino located just north of Westgate Las Vegas.

Just down the Strip, fists will pump and lighters will be waved at City of Rock. The 33-acre campus, which will have capacity for 80,000 or so people, is to be home to the U.S. version of the durable Rock in Rio festival. The initial extravaganza is scheduled for 2015, and the campus will be repurposed for other events when Rio's not in town.

A consortium of investors, including longtime Vegas high roller MGM Resorts International (MGM), is behind the $20 million project.

That isn't the only asset the company's paying for. September will see the official opening of its 1,100-room Delano Las Vegas, an $80 million repurposing of its existing THEhotel in the company's sprawling Mandalay Bay complex.

Rolling for Prosperity

Vegas needs an economic lift. Although the city has improved certain key financial metrics over the past few years, its annual gross domestic product (as of 2012) was hovering slightly below its pre-recession peak. Meanwhile, in terms of unemployment, Vegas' most recent monthly rate is 7.9 percent, well above the national rate of 6.1 percent.

On the plus side, more visitors are flowing in. In the first six months of the year, nearly 20.7 million of them arrived, an improvement of over 4 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Collectively, Vegas hopes for this momentum to keep rolling, like a hot pair of dice.

Motley Fool contributor Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Goldman Sachs. Try any Motley Fool newsletter service free for 30 days.

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8 Comments

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yamel86

Been to Vegas, been to Atlantic City. Vegas is where it's at. By far.

August 11 2014 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
teecee656

Lake Mead is currently 150' below it's capacity and another 30' will make it lower than the intake towers. No water column pressure, no pressure to turn Hoover Dam's turbines. No turbines, no lights or A/C in Vegas.

August 09 2014 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Big John

The casino's in Vegas have made their slots so tight they squeak when they run. You cannot win anything like you used to so why go. At least before the recession you could sometimes break even on the slots but not any more. Walk around the casino's and see if anyone is winning anything. Good luck.

August 08 2014 at 4:42 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
skicar1

I lived in Vegas for 4.5 yrs. I moved last fall. Between the high crime, drug trade, murders, drunk drivers, and trashy people I had enough. Every neighborhood is filled with low rent tenants that at once time only could afford the "bad neighborhoods." Due to the housing crash, investors bought homes in new nice areas for pennies on the dollar. They then rented them to anyone who had a bit of cash in hand. Rents in good areas have plummeted affording gang bangers, drug dealers, prostitutes etc to move in. Add in grow houses and meth cook houses the city is mess even in guard gated upscale communities. I had enough.

August 08 2014 at 1:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to skicar1's comment
Linda

Are you sure about this since I have a family member living on Sleepy Canyon Ave. in Vegas
Do you know that area of upscale homes? He paid over 500,000 for it when they had it built years ago. It is about 4,000 square feet. Is he not safe there now?

August 08 2014 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fred

Need to have the Pantsuit Pinocchio and Botox Pelosi kick all the festivities off with a PoleDancing '15 tour...........

August 08 2014 at 12:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
alfredschrader

The thing that made Vegas a hit wasn't Bugsy Seagal, it was gambling because Nevada was the only state with legal gambling.
But now you can buy lotto and scratch-off tickets almost anywhere and play for bigger jackpots.
Vegas still has the desert though and that is good for making dried fruits or Sun dried tomatoes.
Or for generating solar power or for fractionating sea water into fresh water. Or for growing dates.

August 08 2014 at 10:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jdykbpl45

Harry Reid's pork?

August 08 2014 at 9:02 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply