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by Leo Jakobson | February 18, 2015

The board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority voted on Friday, Feb. 20, to approve a plan to greatly expand the Las Vegas Convention Center by purchasing the historic Riviera Hotel & Casino for $182.5 million dollars in order to tear it down. 

The board's agreement is the final step in closing the deal. The terms of the agreement call for the Riviera to be shut down within 180 days. 

The plan is the centerpiece of the LVCVA's plan to develop the Las Vegas Global Business District, expanding the convention center's footprint from 3.2 million square feet to nearly 5.7 million square feet and giving it a prominent, Strip-front location.

"Today marks an exciting new milestone in Las Vegas' long history of reinvention and evolution and ensures Las Vegas' meeting and convention industry remains the envy of the world for decades to come," said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA, after the vote. "The Las Vegas Global Business District is the single most important economic development project in the state. This strategic acquisition of land gives us the much-needed space for expansion while also providing a highly visible presence on one of the most famous streets in the world -- the Las Vegas Strip -- and is essential in helping us to reach our goal of 45 million visitors." The city attracted 41.1 million visitors in 2014, a new record.

Phase one will be a 1.8-million-square-foot expansion featuring 750,000 square feet of new exhibit space and 187,500 square feet of supporting meeting space. Phase two would begin at about the five-year mark and include a 650,000-square-foot expansion, including a 100,000-square-foot general session space and another 100,000 square feet of meeting space. 

Among other benefits, the LVCVA believes the plan will allow the expansion of some of its largest existing shows, such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and attract others, while bringing in an additional 480,000 attendees per year. 

The Global Business District will also include creating a major transportation hub, a new neighborhood around the newly expanded convention center, and a global business center using the World Trade Center designation to attract corporate tenants.

The Riviera, which opened in 1955, is on the northern end of the Strip, aka Las Vegas Boulevard. The Northern Strip is undergoing a renaissance with the opening of the SLS Las Vegas hotel in August, and the forthcoming Resorts World Las Vegas, which is now scheduled to break ground on the massive $4 billion sometime between April and June, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Riviera has more than 2,000 rooms and 140,000 square feet of meeting space. One of the most storied properties on the Strip, its owners over the years reportedly included the gangster Meyer Lansky as well as entertainers Harpo Marx and Dean Martin.

Updated 02/20/2015 to reflect the vote of the LVCVA board to approve the purchase of the Riviera.