The Colossus of CityCenter

CityCenter, despite its bravura architecture, is a bit of a mystery—a place that wants to impress you but stubbornly refuses to welcome you. Maybe it’s the oceans of glass, which look beautiful on the skyline but up close seem aloof. Or maybe it’s simply that designers chose not to sully the project’s lengthy front facade with a pylon sign. No big letters. No neon. No LED. And few clues as to what’s going on inside. The lack of a sign has rendered CityCenter somewhat mute.

That may be about to change. MGM Resorts International has submitted plans to the county for a new Las Vegas Boulevard marquee sign for the Aria hotel-casino. The renderings show a sign of staggering size. At 260 feet, it’s as tall as a 20-story building. It’s 65 feet wide—about as wide as the Cosmopolitan’s sign is tall. Its depth is a slim 15 feet. Think of the world’s largest chewing gum wrapper and you’d have the dimensions about right.

Framed in steel and capped by the Aria logo, the sign features digital LED displays on both sides, each more than 155 feet tall and containing as many as 3 million pixels. (Aria’s awkward rear sign, the one that faces Interstate 15 and always looked like Tina Turner’s costume in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, will be replaced by a pared down version of the new Strip sign.)

It’s unclear how much the signs will cost or when they will be completed. MGM declined to comment until the sign is approved—the use permit is up for approval with the Board of County Commissioners on Sept. 7.

The Strip sign promises to warm up CityCenter, to give a voice to a place that has not yet lived up to its name as Vegas’ urban centerpiece. This is a go-for-broke sign that will dwarf pedestrians and cars; it seems best scaled for the traffic helicopters that routinely patrol the resort corridor. Anywhere else such scale would be an abomination. But on the Strip, especially if the sign is well-programmed, it could make for riveting theater.