LV Convention Center’s futuristic Loop transportation system is ‘distinctly Las Vegas’

April 12, 2021 1:23 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
April 12, 2021 1:23 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

A concept for resolving conjected traffic within the Las Vegas resort corridor is getting a test drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Loop, a mile-and-a-half-long underground transportation system utilizing Tesla vehicles and developed by billionaire Elon Musk, shuttles conference and tradeshow attendees through the Convention Center’s 200-acre campus in less than two minutes – a task that on foot would normally take up to 25 minutes.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill said the system, which runs 40 feet beneath the ground and was constructed by Musk’s The Boring Co. for $52.5 million, is envisioned as playing a much larger role for the Las Vegas tourism industry.

“For a while, we’re the only place in the world that has this. That’s going to attract a lot of interest,” Hill said during an event that previewed the Loop to the Las Vegas media last week.

“Sooner or later, this will be more common,” Hill said. “But certainly, this is something that is distinctly Las Vegas right now.”

Last year, the LVCVA and Boring said it wanted to expand the system throughout the resort corridor along a 20-mile “Vegas Loop” route with stops at most of the major Strip hotels, downtown, Allegiant Stadium – home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders – and potentially, McCarran International Airport.

Leaders of the under-construction Resorts World Las Vegas, which is expected to open this summer, and Wynn Resorts’ Encore have said they want their properties to be connected to the Convention Center through the Loop.

For now, however, Hill said, the Loop will focus on transporting up to 4,400 passengers a day between the Convention Center’s South Hall, North Hall, and the $989 million West Hall, a 1.4 million-square-foot expansion that was completed in January.

“It will be a learning experience. It’s the first of its kind,” Hill said.

The Loop is fully operational and will be tested on some small meetings and conferences in the coming weeks.

A Las Vegas attraction

Hill who brought the idea to the agency’s board less than two years ago, admitted the system will “absolutely” be a Las Vegas attraction, similar to unique amenities offered by resorts throughout the Strip.

The Loop utilizes electric Tesla Model X and Model 3 vehicles that run silently on paved surfaces below the ground along lighted one-way tunnels, each of which is roughly .8 miles in length and is 13.5 feet in diameter.

The system has three passenger stations – two that are above ground – and will eventually have a fleet of more than 60 vehicles. For now, the vehicles are operated by drivers, but plans call for the vehicles to operate autonomously.

The first substantive use of the system takes place June 8-10 when the Convention Center hosts the World of Concrete. The tradeshow and conference is Las Vegas’ first large-scale event in more than a year after COVID-19 sent the gaming and tourism market to record-setting lows in 2020.

Hill said Musk created Boring to solve the problem of traffic gridlock throughout the U.S. The company said the underground tunnels it creates are structurally safe, weatherproof, and noise-free.

The Las Vegas Convention Center became the perfect place for a pilot test program.

“They hadn’t built a system like this before, and the idea moving from, ‘hey, this has never been done at all to let’s put it under some of the most valuable real estate in the country,’ didn’t make sense,” Hill said. “This was a great project for our visitors and attendees here at the Convention Center, but it also does conveniently serve as a test case for moving on to the Strip, now that it’s up and running.”

Work on the tunnels began in November 2019 and the first tunnel was completed three months later. The second tunnel was completed last May. The track does not require an electrified “third rail,” such as subways since each vehicle is electric. A command center monitors the system.

“You can see what it is and it’s pretty straightforward,” Hill said. “The idea is innovative and the technology of the system itself is really not all that complex.”

Convention Center customers can ride the Loop free of charge. The “Vegas Loop” along the resort corridor will have a yet-to-be-determined fee.

Convention industry rebound

Last year, the LVCVA acquired the Las Vegas Monorail out of bankruptcy for $24.26 million. The 3.9-mile elevated system runs along the east side of the Las Vegas Strip from the Sahara at the north end to the MGM Grand at the south with stops along the way, including the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The LVCVA considers the monorail as an important transportation option for when the market is at full strength.

Large-scale conferences, trade shows, and corporate meetings are a key market for the Strip’s midweek occupancy rates, which fell to 37% in 2020. Convention and meeting attendance was annihilated by the pandemic, with the number of delegates collapsing to a little more than 1.7 million, a decline of 74% from the more than 6.6 million meeting attendees in 2019.

Over the last nine months of 2020, Las Vegas recorded zero in the number of convention delegates.

The LVCVA and Informa Markets, which produces World of Concrete, have announced dates for 10 other trade shows the company plans to produce at the Convention Center between June and November.

Informa Markets is Las Vegas’ largest trade show organizer.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgaming.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.