Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

November 30, 2006

Bellagio & Wynn, November '06

Posted by detroit1051

I checked out of a Bellagio Suite in the main tower this morning and have just unpacked in a Wynn Parlor Suite. I tried to start a report early this morning, but Bellagio's internet service was down all night and still wasn't up at 9 AM. I'll offer a few opinions now and then add comments later. After all, I want to enjoy Wynn.

This will not be a trip report, but random thoughts start after the jump.

CityCenter's sales office off Bellagio's lobby is open to the public again without appointments. Opening weekend when I was there, they inexplicably closed the doors and required advance reservations. This week, they welcomed all lookers with open arms. The model is now on a revolving turntable which is a big improvement in seeing the proposed buildings. If there was a turntable in September, it wasn't working. Since I had registered with them before, I asked if I was still in the computer for notice of pricing. They said prices and complete details would be emailed at the same time the permanent sales office, near Monte Carlo, opens a few days after Christmas or the first week of January. There were brochures which described each property and its architect. The sales person encouraged me to sign a reservation now, giving a refundable deposit of $10,000. When the prices are available, a payment of 10% will be required and then an additional 10% sometime before closing. Buyers who don't sign a reservation now will be subject to a third 10% down. I'm not interested, but I wonder if the push to get deposits now is an indication of the market's strength/weakness, or whether it's normal for new developments. Regardless, the sales and reception staff was very organized and customer friendly. The information in the brochure can be found on the website at:
CityCenter Website

I run hot and cold on Bellagio. After this trip, I'm not sure I'll return. Entering into Wynn this morning was a much more pleasant experience. I have been told by a friend that I'd complain if I was hanged with a new rope, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

More later, but upon entering Wynn's Tower Suites lobby, I saw the carpet inserts have been replaced. Originally, they were muted grey and green which reminded me of the original carpets Steve Wynn used in Bellagio's elevator lobbies and VIP Lounge. Wynn' new carpeting has bold flowers in blacks and greens. It looks good.


Read archived comments (24 so far)
November 30, 2006 12:39 PM Posted by detroit1051

Hunter, was it you who wanted a copy of Wynn Magazine? The Fall issue has a feature on the Fairway Villas. I'll take it home and mail it to you if you want. The Winter issue will probably replace it very soon.

November 30, 2006 2:27 PM Posted by charlie

Sooner or later we all have to come to the realization that the Bellagio is just not the same place as it once was.

November 30, 2006 4:42 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah, that was me. That would be great if you don't mind.

November 30, 2006 6:06 PM Posted by mike_ch

Charlie: I'd suspect it has to do with the number of rooms they have now. Bellagio is a monster compared to what it used to be and that will effect service. Give it a chance, though, because it's still going through it's transition for the next ten years. The on-site facilities (casino, restaurants, etc) are operating better than they have in a while, maybe because MGM has realized they've let the place glide on it's name too long.

I wouldn't argue that Wynn is that much better though, at least to those of us who don't experience the Tower Suites side. Maybe Encore will be better. And though I don't find it aesthetically pleasing, I'm hoping CityCenter will knock both Da B and WLV down a notch.

November 30, 2006 6:39 PM Posted by charlie

10 years is a long time for turn-around...I was hoping for about 10 months. :)

I think part of the problem is that Bellagio is so wildly successful. The whole Bellagio experience is just too impersonnal; kind-of like I'm there to spend my couple of hours of alotted "Bellagio time" during my trip. Don't seem to put much of a sale on me (after they typically ask) that I should be staying at Bellagio, even when I was staying at Wynn.

Contrast that attidude to this one, back in '95 I was staying at MGM, but had dinner at the old Italian restaurant at the Mirage. Charlie Meyerson came by the table, introduced himself, and asked where I was staying. Told him MGM. Well old Charlie would have none of that. He gave me his card, told me that I shouldn't be staying at MGM and from now on I should stay at Mirage.

True Story.

Compare that to how they run the Bellagio.

November 30, 2006 7:57 PM Posted by Hunter

Wow, I haven't heard Meyerson's name in quite some time. Flashback.

November 30, 2006 10:35 PM Posted by detroit1051

Bellagio has almost finished renovating the casino. The area near the buffet, from the main walkway to the elevators down to the "O" shop, will be recarpeted and changed before the end of the year. The high limit slot room will be totally redone but not before January. The casino looks more up to date in the MGM corporate vein. The VIP Lounge has been redone in dark woods with leather walls and new carpeting. It looked much better. The look extends toward the back elevators to the suites and the limo garage. Those elevators are now identical to the Spa Tower elevators. Much less impressive looking. Bellagio just looks so much more commercial than when Wynn owned it. MGM knows how to make money, but money doesn't equate to taste. Bellagio is MGM Grand on steroids.

My beef with Bellagio is related to comps. I never know where I stand any more, from one trip to the next. I'm a casino's ideal customer because I primarily play high limit slots. They have total control over payback percentages and know exactly how much, overall, they'll make. My defection to Wynn has not gone unnoticed. My offers have dropped from full RFB to Limited Food, and the suite has changed from a Bellagio Suite to a Salone Suite. However, my host put me back in Bellagio Suite this trip. When I walked into the VIP Lounge to register, as I have since 1998, the representative looked at her computer and said, "I'm sorry, you cannot check in here; you must go to the Front Desk." This all sounds petty, but Bellagio doesn't seem to care that I'm giving more business to Wynn. Since there are always more customers, there's no need to try to keep existing ones. Bellagio will definitely drop a notch when the CityCenter Casino opens. The brochure says, "CityCenter's sophisticated, contemporary resort and casino will set a new global standard for gaming and leisure."
So, why did I go to Bellagio at all? I wanted to cash in my Holiday Gift Shoppe points to select the "free" gifts I've paid for many times over.

December 1, 2006 8:51 AM Posted by mike_ch

Well, you've obviously seen these places from a perspective I haven't, so just let me pick your brain a bit.

Just about everyone seems to be super-precise about comps now (watch, for example, how I can get 2 free buffets one month, 2-for-1 the next, and then 2 free again the month after.) However I'm surprised they'd treat a guy playing big slots like that.

Personally, we'll have to disagree on the Wynn casino because while I do know they send quite a bit of come-ons for a classy place (I've never gotten a single thing from Bellagio as I'm not worth their time or something) I just don't know how you can spend so much time there. I already ranted in another thread; it's nice place to drop in for a short spell, but I'd go nuts if I spent most of several days in there.

I will challenge you though on your comment about MGM being "so corporate." When has Bellagio not been the definition of corporate hospitality? It's always been somebody's flagship since it started out life and it shows. I'll admit, though, that the service is snobbier and bizarrely ineffective now than it was even just three years ago. I'm guessing that the amount of places opening up and that company's plan for CityCenter has depleted their best employees (and probably Mandalay Bay's too, since I get a lot more can't help ya/don't know sort of responses there, too.)

I think their facilities are beginning to finally reach a degree of just plain being nice that they haven't been at since 2000. My biggest problem is that I leave upset and muttering curses after a particularly bad service experience too often. The worst time I stood at the front desk area looking lost next to seven people in uniform and none of them wanted to help me. Wynn is, aside from the occasional doorman or front-line security, better than that.

December 1, 2006 7:05 PM Posted by detroit1051

Mike_ch, I don't spend all that much time at Wynn, but I like it. I'm with friends at Wynn this weekend, so I'll comment further on both Bellagio and Wynn next week.

December 5, 2006 7:26 PM Posted by detroit1051

Mike_ch commented, " I just don't know how you can spend so much time there. I already ranted in another thread; it's nice place to drop in for a short spell, but I'd go nuts if I spent most of several days in there."

Mike, Wynn was a thoroughly enjoyable place to meet up with local Vegas friends and friends from Michigan who were in town. A full week in Las Vegas is too long. I figured I'd combine my Bellagio and Wynn winter offers while using my MGM Mirage Holiday Gift Shop points. Burnout occurred on the fourth day. Here are a few comments on Wynn:
Wynn is superior to Bellagio in my opinion, and I didn't see the maintenance items others have commented on. However, everything isn't 5-Star with the property. Smoke in the casino seemed much more pervasive than at Bellagio. It may have been those expensive cigars like Mike E is fond of. I've noticed the smoke before and have wondered whether Steve skimped on the air handling systems. Related to that, on one day for six hours, my room smelled like stale cigarettes. There was no apparent reason for the way it started and then stopped later in the day. Another detraction from 5-Star status was the mess two falling-down drunks made in the Tower Suites lobby when they spilled their beers on a sofa and were obnoxious. A security guy used skill in keeping them from getting belligerent as he encouraged them to sleep it off in the their rooms. I talked with him later, and he said he hired on at Wynn after retiring from a Texas police department. He had a great personality for defusing potential troublemakers.
Tower Suite elevators were slow again this weekend. The three for floors 23-60 were all operating, but unlike Bellagio, they weren't synchronized. Several times, lines of waiting people extended out into the hallway by Tableau's entrance. The elevator shafts howled in the wind this week. I trust Encore won't have these issues.
Service was very good in the hotel and casino side but inconsistent in restaurants. In addition to the security guard's professional manner, Housekeeping and casino staff were very accommodating. I didn't spend much time at the tables, but dealers were professional and friendly with players. There is apprehension among all employees I talked with about dealer tips The most common sentiment was, "We like working at Wynn so much that we don't want there to be any labor problems." Some of the customer service training is overdone. On two occasions when I called the Operator to be connected to someone else, she thanked me and asked if there were anything else she could do for me. No, I just wanted to have my calls put through.
Service has slipped in some of the restaurants. We ate at Corsa Cucina the first night, and the two servers were excellent. They described menu items in great detail, and they were very knowledgeable and helpful about wine. The meal was great, and it was a good way to start the stay at Wynn. It was my first time in Corsa since it had been renovated. It is very comfortable, but it is designed to be a high energy room, so the noise level is high. We enjoyed it more than some of the meals to come in the next few days.
I expected Tableau to be as good for breakfast as it was when Mike E and I met there. This time, the food was fine, but service was indifferent and slow. Are they trying to conserve coffee? No one asked if we wanted more, and it was difficult to get anyone's attention to come to the table.
Red 8 is always good for lunch, but this was another case of the Disappearing Waiter. Once the meal was served, he was gone.
Country Club Grill is another good place for lunch with its view of the course and 18th hole waterfall. Service was indifferent here as well, and the room didn't seem especially clean.
Saturday, we tried Daniel Boulud. It was good, but service was just average. We were disappointed.
Four of us dined at SW Sunday evening. I hadn't been there since Walzog replaced Klein as chef. What an improvement! Meals and service were outstanding. I'm glad it was on the last night, so we left with a very positive experience. SW is great.
Service definitely needs some attention. Also, is there a limit to the cost of restaurants in Las Vegas before people rebel? It's not just Wynn; many restaurant checks average $100-150 per person plus tip.
Even with the negatives, Wynn is the property I like best.
A couple other restaurant comments. I joined a local friend at Sunset Station where we had dinner at Costa del Sol, the seafood room. It was very good and at a very reasonable price.
Another night, another local and I went to Red Rock's steakhouse, T-Bones. It was OK, but I prefer Hank's at Green Valley Ranch.
Back to Wynn, the casino had some very heavy players all weekend. The high limit tables were certainly busy, and for the first time, I saw someone playing the $5,000 Double Diamond slot machine. He was feeling no pain and on Saturday won $125,000 twice by getting Double Bars. When I walked by the machine on Sunday, no one was playing, but reels were lined up with a Double Diamond and two Double Bars for a $250,000 win. The guy on Saturday said he put back the first $125K he won, so I doubt he walked away a winner.
Finally, the Parlor Suite is much better than its counterpart, Bellagio Suite. The showerhead at Bellagio had been replaced with a water conserving one. Well, I used three times as much water trying to get the soap off as I used at Wynn with its better flowing shower.
A quick casino tour also took me to Tropicana, Aladdin and Palace Station. Columbia Sussex has its work cut out to make something out of the Trop's 35 acres. It has really fallen on hard times since I stayed there in the early 1990's. I wanted to see SHFL/Stargames' Rapid Roulette in action, so I played it there. Only two players.
Aladdin's changeover to Planet Hollywood is well underway, and all the comments here about it being similar to TheHotel are right on. The new circular bar/lounge near the front of the casino was almost done. I like the concept of PH, but it looks like the work has been done on a limited budget.
Palace Station was surprisingly large to me. STN sure has expanded the casino and hotel over the years. Palace has a lot of Asian players in addition to other locals and budget travelers. The property looked good.

That's it.

December 6, 2006 12:50 PM Posted by detroit1051

Here are some photos I took last week.

Landry's has done an excellent job with Golden Nugget. Other than the pool project being too large for the small footprint they had to work with, the entire property is clean and attractive. I was very impressed and hope it helps revitalize downtown.

Palazzo's retail buildings on the Strip are going to be magnificent. The European, stone block look is striking.

Bellagio's renovation of the VIP lounge and back elevator area has been completed. It follows the motif of the Spa Tower, and while nice, it doesn't have the luxury look of Wynn.

Las Vegas Photos: November 27-December 4, 2006

December 6, 2006 4:31 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

detroit: I actually agree with your comment that the podium + pedestrian level component of Palazzo will prove to be "second to none" and will likely set a new standard for all Strip frontage experiences, that is, until CityCenter is completed. I, among many others in the industry, did not really expect that it [Palazzo] would turn out to be this refined when compared to the original execution of the existing Venetian pedestrian-level design, which undoubtedly suffers from some major inadequicies. Clearly Adelson learned from his previous experience and advised his architects to take the necessary measures by making the appropriate changes that are clearly reflected in Palazzo's 'as-built' design. I do disagree, however, with your assessment of Landry's renovation plans + future tower expansion of the Golden Nugget, including the new GOLD reflective curtain wall cladding of the existing towers + the proposed new tower, also clad in GOLD REFLECTIVE glazing. Joel [Bergman/Walls], who designed the original Golden Nugget expansion for Steve as V.P of Design + Construction, really needs to seriously evaluate his continued overuse of this outdated glazing material, combined with the same overuse of snow-white precast concrete accents, and put an end to what appears to be an obvious "obsession" with his continued spec of GOLD reflective glazing in almost ALL of his most recent + future proposed projects. This glazing was popular in the late 1970's and 1980's and he [Bergman] first specified these materials back when he co-designed the original Mirage tower which was constructed back in the late 1980's. The three towers that are recently to be completed for Signature @ MGM Grand, the hideously uninspired boxy + massive "gold bullion-inspired plinth" form with the same 'tired' window wall treatment he has chosen for Trump International Hotel & Tower, + the unfortunate choice, once again, in his proposed design for Mandalay Bay's future condomimun expansion component (that being the use of the same archaic gold reflective glass) is indicative of why the major truly progressive gaming operators are now looking elsewhere and outside of Las Vegas for architectural talent. At least Klai-Juba, after completion of their very first really major project (Mandalay Bay and the subsequent THEhotel Tower expansion) has evolved into a more sophisticated use of today's available exterior window wall materials, curvilinear building footprint, etc. as evidenced in their design for all phases of the Panorama Towers among other prominent future and under-construction projects. Regardless of how successful TRUMP's sales nos. are, we can now look forward to yet a duplicate of this 64 storey matching tower in the very near future. OMG, between WLV, Encore, and the eventual two Trump Towers, Las Vegas is moving towards retrograde by at least twenty years in terms of its inability to offer cutting edge architecture which has already become a reality en masse in cities like Dubai, U.A.E. + Shanghai, China.

December 6, 2006 7:46 PM Posted by Aaron_B


Thanks for the report and pictures! It is interesting that MGM has made such drastic changes to the VIP lounge/elevators in their renovations. The changes sure make the area look pretty dark in the pictures. The old carpet that they had in the elevator lobby was looking pretty shabby when I was there last January & definitely need to be replaced. I had always thought those elevators were some of the nicest anywhere. I assume the inside of the elevator cars have been similarly updated? I guess it probably will not be long before they update the main elevator lobby as well. I look forward to seeing the changes first hand as I will be at Bellagio for a week over Christmas.

December 6, 2006 8:37 PM Posted by mike_ch

Oh come on, if Donald Trump is going to build a tower in his image, it WOULD be gold and a little gaudy. That's what he's all about.

And I'll just pretend that you didn't just praise that obvious Frank Gehry imitation that will be gracing Harmon Ave soon.

December 7, 2006 4:40 AM Posted by detroit1051

Aaron_B, the VIP area is darker, but it looks better than my dimly lighted photos portray. Regardless, if one likes MGM's approach to design, it's OK. To me, it's cheap looking. Yes, the elevator car interiors have been redone in grey, formica-like interiors.

December 12, 2006 9:26 AM Posted by detroit1051

I've gotten three calls from a sales guy at CityCenter. I had stopped at the condo display office in Bellagio a few weeks ago. Final prices will be announced when they open the permanent sales office on the Strip near Monte Carlo. When he called today, I asked for some price ranges.

Veer Towers (the two towers which lean toward each other) has pure condos. Studios are 500 sf and start at $493,000. 1-Bedrooms run from 650 sf-1,100 sf and start at $524K. 2-Br are 1,200-1,800 sf and start at $940K.

Vdara Condo Hotel start at $493K for a Studio apt. 1 BR is $760K.

Thes prices aren't as high as I had expected. The condo hotel prices are comparable to Residences at MGM Grand. They're all too much for me.

December 12, 2006 12:22 PM Posted by Mike P.


Do you know what the sizes of the Vdara units are? Any information on the other towers? I think both the Mandarin and the other boutique hotel are going to have some condo units.


I guess you haven't seen renderings of Trump's new tower in Chicago. This doesn't really do it justice -- skyscraperpage has a dedicated forum thread with lots of architectural renderings and construction photos. Even though construction has just reached the first setback the actual building is just stunning, and a perfect fit to its location which is right off Michigan Avenue on the north bank of the Chicago River.

Leonard is right - Vegas could stand to upgrade the quality of its architects.

Mike P.

December 12, 2006 2:20 PM Posted by detroit1051

Mike P, I didn't ask the sizes of Vdara units, but the website says 500 sq ft to 1,850 sq ft. There will be 1,540 units. The sales rep said they will be positioned a step up from the Residences at MGM Grand, more in keeping with the upscale Bellagio and new resort/casino.
Veer condos will have 352 condos between 500-2,600 sq ft.
Mandarin Oriental's 227 condos will be on the top third of the hotel tower at 1,000-4,100 sq ft. I didn't ask the prices, but they'll be out of my reach, but the Mandarin sounds ideal. They're private condos but with access to hotel facilities. It's not a condo hotel.
I find it interesting that the Light Group's Harmon won't go on sale until next summer, six months after the others. I wouldn't have confidence in Sasson's project, although I'm sure MGM Mirage wouldn't let it fail.

The sales guy wants to put me on the priority list with a $10,000 deposit, refundable in January after all details are released. The permanent sales office on the Strip will be worth seeing in January.
The prices on all these units would be much more aggressive had MGM Mirage paid today's prices on the 76 acres.

December 12, 2006 2:42 PM Posted by detroit1051

Gaming Today on CityCenter:

December 12, 2006 3:40 PM Posted by mike_ch

Mike P, that Trump tower looks nice.

In Chicago.

This is Las Vegas, where a design that could be considered appalling in any other city can be easily planted alongside a phony castle and an abbreviated New York skyline. This is the only city in the world where such outlandish architecture is considered to be 'at home.'

Let's use an architecture-as-paint analogy: When your canvas is as varied and unrestricted as the Las Vegas Strip, why build something that can look like a gem along the Chicago waterfront? Why build a little brother to Manhattan? Why not do something a little crazy? Goodness knows that it's not only accepted, it's nearly encouraged. I love the look of Trump Chicago, but I wouldn't want it here.

It's hard to say that sophisticated office and condo towers that the build everywhere else would 'ruin' the Strip, but I feel they won't contribute anything too positive.

If architecture was art, Manhattan island would be Joseph Stella's painting of the Brooklyn Bridge, and Chicago would be best represented by Joseph Hopper's 'Nighthawks.' However, Las Vegas would be that painting of the dogs at the table playing poker, and that's just the way I like it.

December 12, 2006 3:52 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Hey Mike P., I'm really pleased to hear that somebody here actually AGREES with me for a change! You are absolutely correct that Trump International Hotel + Tower CHICAGO will be an absolute masterpiece when completed, only because it was designed by the SOM/Chicago office and, with the exception of reduced total height adjustments post-9/11 and arguments over its "spire", the design has remained relatively unchanged from SOM's original design development proposal. Thank God, for once an architecturally significant Trump building is actually being built! This happens to be the ONLY Trump project, both existing + proposed, that will represent a landmark design for him [Trump]. I don't know how SOM managed to be able to convince The Donald to FINALLY build a building worthy of design excellence, but the architectural community is really glad that they were able to get Trump to modify his standard operating procedure of offering uninspired, box-like structures which he has unfortunately bestowed upon many of our skylines in the past, that incorporate nothing more than totally bland curtain wall exterior details, and his maximizing use of rectalinear floor plates, totally profit motivated. Perhaps it is because this building is being built in a city that has not only influenced but, arguably has become, America's sacred home of great ground breaking high rise architecture (from Sullivan to Mies), and another one of Trump's usual boxy, ugly monolithic buildings just wouldn't cut the mustard in Chicago. Whlie his properties have been widely successful as a result of brand recognition, none of his previous buildings represent cutting-edge architecture. Just compare Trump Chicago to Bergman's (Bergman/Walls') massive block and "exhausted" overuse of gold reflective window wall in his execution of Trump Las Vegas. One only needs to look at all of Trump's original New York properties, including Trump Tower, Trump International, etc. as examples.

December 12, 2006 4:32 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

mike_ch: With all due respect, your analogy/comments regarding the FUTURE direction in which Las Vegas architecture is currently headed towards, could not be more inacurate + off-base. You refer to the evolution of mega-resorts and hospitality design in Las Vegas that was appropriate to that which existed back in the nineties (i.e. themed resorts). That is so history today in 2006+ and not even worth mentioning at this juncture. The themed resorts of the past, as built in the 1990's, simply represented another phase of the ever changing growth cycles in the evolution of Las Vegas design, and is not remotely relevant to the future of the architecture that we will all fortunately be able to experience here on a go-forward basis.

December 12, 2006 5:20 PM Posted by mike_ch

Leonard, I'm not saying that there is no room for evolution. I am saying that I do not approve of something being positive because all other cities do it. As a resort city, our calling card if nothing else is being an escape unlike all other cities.

Lastly, I should remind you that "themed resorts" is not merely some blip of the 90s, Caesars Palace just celebrated their 40th anniversary. The whole concept has changed over the years, and while they may not be as vivid or as cohesive as they were 12 years ago, it matters not.

Something does not need to be a themed resort to be off the beaten path as far as design. Example: While I'm not wild about that Milam eyesore personally, I can see it being somebody's cup of tea and it certainly is pretty unusual. People I meet in other cities seem to lighten up when they find out I'm from Vegas, and it's probably a good deal because it's so off the mark from everybody else. Nobody else has a virtual funhouse of architecture sitting in the center of town.

Regardless of what the future holds, we can maintain our quirky unique identity. Even if it comes in the form of awkward looking 1500+ft structures. The only way you can destroy the appeal of Las Vegas is to hold up traditional population centers like Chicago and NYC as the ideal.

December 12, 2006 6:15 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

mike_ch, It isn't really a fair assumption to cite C.P. as the typical 'model' in this particular case. As you correctly noted, Caesars Palace began its long life exactly 40 years ago as Sarno's "dream" which indeed continues successfully to this day. That has ultimately, over time, resulted in the most recognized brand name in all of Las Vegas history, and NOT to continue with the "themed" concept unique to that property would be business suicide for Harrah's Entertainment, or for any of [C.P.'s] previous/future owners. The direction for all future development in the newer, proposed Las Vegas mega-properties will be to have no alternative but to advance the level of architectural design advancement as evidenced in CityCenter and even the (questionable viability in the probability of construction) in the design of SOM's Las Vegas Tower, which only serves to be a clear indication of what to expect as the next level in the city's evolution. Realizing that design is generally a result of 'subjective' interpretation, I don't believe that you will find anybody in the informed architectural community that would agree with your opinion that the Las Vegas (Milam) Tower, based on its current schematic design as executed by SOM/Chicago, be described as an "eyesore". You need to come to the realization that the "funhouse" architecture, as you appropriatley desecribe it, is definitely a thing of the past and will never, ever be revived again.