Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

February 15, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - February 15, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

CityCenter: Selling A Dream
"The overall experience is sensually sensational, even elating -- you've clearly reached the aspirational apex of luxury and achievement. It's stimulating and soothing; you feel like you belong. For the moment.
But the view from this summit has a swift kickback, a shadow side. It might leave you feeling curiously deflated -- like maybe you've been living your life wrong all these years. Left out. A loser."
Behold, the tiny, beguiling future


Read archived comments (48 so far)
February 15, 2008 9:58 AM Posted by Mike P.

Not much seething resentment in Joe Brown (whoever he is), is there?

The one positive thing I'll say about the LV Sun turning itself into a glorified blog is that it's liberated them to stop pretending to report news.

February 15, 2008 10:37 AM Posted by detroit1051

"Joe Brown (whoever he is)"
Hey, they named a street for him behind the Las Vegas Hilton. :-)

February 15, 2008 2:49 PM Posted by Dave

It was more of an essay than straight reportage. If you've already seen this week's episode of The Wire, that might be funny for you.

It was kind of a strange piece--the City Center sales push has been going on for quite some time now, and displaying architectural models of buildings under construction is hardly a novelty. So I'm not sure exactly what the purpose of the story was.

February 17, 2008 10:43 AM Posted by MGK

I noticed yesterday that The Mirage's volcano and lagoon has been emptied and fenced. Does anyone know if they are just cleaning the lagoon, or if they're actually giving the volcano that update we've been hearing about for a while now?

February 17, 2008 11:57 AM Posted by Mike P.

MGK: I think the volcano is getting its makeover, courtesy of Wet Design group.

Since the lead-in to this week's open topic dealt with CityCenter I thought I'd mention the web site has a "press room" area with links to newspaper and magazine articles that aren't always available online. Every time I check CityCenter's web site it's been redesigned, but right now this link works:

There was article in the November '07 LV Life magazine that I thought was especially interesting:

Fans of Bobby Baldwin should definitely check it out.

February 17, 2008 12:43 PM Posted by BrianFey

From what I heard, they are indeed finally redoing the volcano.

February 17, 2008 3:19 PM Posted by detroit1051

"Openings and Closings
The volcano in front of the Mirage is officially dormant for only the second time in the 19 years since it began erupting on Nov. 22, 1989. The attraction, the first major free outside attraction, will undergo major renovations that will keep the volcano quiet for most of 2008. The attraction was briefly shut down in 1996 for an upgrade."

February 17, 2008 6:45 PM Posted by detroit1051

I went to Fontainebleau Miami Beach's website to check the renovation/expansion status. While there, I noticed a link to Fontainebleau Las Vegas. I don't know whether it's new or not, but I was surprised at some of the information. It says the average hotel room size will be 465 sq ft. That seems very small for a new property. It also says there will be 19 restaurants and 20 bars. That is either wrong or overkill, imo. Meeting space is 400,000 sq ft which is more than most hotels. I had thought Fontainebleau was being planned as a 5-Star property, comparable to Bellagio or Wynn. Is it going to be another convention hotel instead? Any information appreciated.

February 18, 2008 6:59 AM Posted by Brian Fey

I don't know why, but I just can't get to excited about this, or the cosmo project. I guess maybe since both of these developers are new to the area, I just have not seen things from them in the past to get excited about? I know with Cosomo, they are just trying to cram way too much stuff in to small of an area. I've never seen a major hotel in Vegas having all their common area spread across 5 floors.

February 18, 2008 7:02 AM Posted by Joey from Boston

I won't be in a hurry to stay at Fontainebleau being that is north of the Riviera and across the street from Circus Circus. Not exactly an exciting location if you plan on walking around to other cool hotels.

February 18, 2008 7:58 AM Posted by detroit1051

Joey, your comment is another reason I believe Fontainebleau will be primarily a convention hotel. In fact, the home page of Fontainebleau's site promotes the fact that it will be within walking distance of the LV Convention Center. Of course, times will change within five years when Echelon, CityCenter North and other North Strip properties become reality.

February 18, 2008 11:21 AM Posted by hail2skins

Brian, I thought Fountainebleau was being developed by Glenn Schaeffer, former president of the Mandalay Resort Group before the merger with MGM.

Detroit, you're right, I was also surprised by the square footage of the rooms cited by the website. But it isn't that much smaller than the rooms at Bellagio (I think 510 sf), so who knows?

February 18, 2008 5:17 PM Posted by BrianFey

Hail - He is the running the company, but I don't know how much he had to do with designing the place though. For that matter, I don't how much of an active roll he took in designing Mandalay Bay either. And maybe he is the one who had the vision and designed Mandalay Bay, and maybe he is the man behind FB, I just don't know. But I kind of think he is not. I think someone else is behind this company, and he was just hired to run the company. Time will tell how this property does, but I can't say they are off to a great start. The project has been subject to many accidents. They are in a court battle with the towers behind them, and I just can't see a place bringing top dollar in that location. Not now at least. Wynn's location wasn't great, but it was still connected to the action, it was just at the extreme end of it. This place is surrounded by total crap, nothing. And it will be that way for the next 5 years. I really don't see them being a major player in this market. Their rooms will not bring top dollar, not from what I see at least.

February 18, 2008 6:34 PM Posted by jshane

Reply to :

"Of course, times will change within five years when Echelon, CityCenter North and other North Strip properties become reality."

Posted by: detroit1051 on February 18, 2008 7:58 AM

Don't forget to mention (by name) the next major expansion of the Venetian/Palazzo/Sands Expo (Megacenter).

February 18, 2008 8:10 PM Posted by detroit1051

Fontainebleau Resorts was created as a subsidiary of the privately held Turnberry Associates which is owned by the Soffer family. Until they built Turnberry Place in Vegas in the 1990's, almost all of their developments have been in South Florida, primarily Aventura and North Miami Beach. They're also building Turnberry Towers just east of Turnberry Place and Town Square at the South Strip and 215. They also built the three Residences at MGM Grand towers with MGM Mirage.
Schaefer was hired as president and CEO of Fontainebleau Resorts and is responsible for both the renovated/expanded Fontainebleau on Miami Beach and the Vegas Fontainebleau. Turnberry has done extremely well in the high-end market, but with both South Florida and Las Vegas being among the hardest hit real estate markets, I don't know how they're doing now. One of the reasons they hired Schaefer was to expand the Fontainebleau Resorts brand in other cities and countries.
If I remember correctly, James Packer's PBL bought 20% of Fontainebleau Resorts last year.
Here's more than you want to know about Turnberry:

February 18, 2008 8:11 PM Posted by mike_ch

When Schaeffer was on KNPR's "State of Nevada" last year, he fairly actively talked about the design of FB.

I've said for a while that the Riviera/FB/Hilton triangle is going to become heavy with convention-oriented hotels, but I don't see where convention-oriented means they're not good. Bellagio also has a lot of meeting room space, has even held a few events now and then.

I think the reason people (myself included) are excited about FB is because Schaeffer had some pretty interesting ideas (though tight pursestrings) at the CC properties. The guy pretty much created the modern themed megaresort (Caesars wouldn't really be modern, and Mirage's theme was more of a subtle combination of theme and general luxury resort.) The time of that type of hotel has gone now, so it's interesting to see what he comes up with this time.

Every healthy industry has that mad scientist type who comes up with new ideas that eventually get accepted and integrated by the others, so who knows. FB would probably see more buzz if there was more information about it.

February 18, 2008 9:38 PM Posted by Hunter

Actually, Schaeffer did have a fairly active role in developing aspects of Mandalay Bay, Luxor AND FB. Not as hands on as a Steve Wynn perhaps but certainly involved.

Perhaps the biggest indication of his design sensibility is THEHotel - that was his pet project and shows his interest in history (the rocks and other ancient stuff) as well as Mondrian-meets-Las Vegas design.

Fontainebleau can be a resort property and still be nice but if that's the primary aim it will likely not be Bellagio/WLV nice - probably more 'Palazzo Nice', a grade or two below. Nice enough is probably how I would describe it.

You guys have looked at all the plans, right? I think I posted them at one point - someone sent them to me like a year ago. The whole 'zen garden' thing is borderline pandering - the kind of thing that gets magazine articles written but thats about it. We'll see how it ends up looking.

As for restaurants/bars and the quantity on the Web site - typically I see some pretty liberal counting when it comes to this stuff. Often times they include bars in restaurants, walk ups, etc... That inflates the number quite a bit.

Still, I *like* casino bars and I think there should be more bars, lounges and small piano bars that don't have a cover, a huge line or a scene - little hideaways used to be prevalent and they have been going away recently. People miss them. I get questions all the time on the main site - people 35+ have no place to go and hang out unless they want to brave the nightclub scene and many don't. I recommend Fontana at Bellagio till the cows come home but why aren't there more places like this?

Wynn has nothing. The Mirage used to have the elevated Baccarat Bar w/ the piano player. No more. Hell, we almost lost Fontana.

This is a missing amenity and we need more of them.

February 18, 2008 9:55 PM Posted by John

Well, Wynn has Parasol Up and Down, but they don't really have that hideaway feel. When I think about that, I really get surprised when I think that at Bellagio Wynn had Petrossian, Fontana, Baccarat, and, for a time, Allegro!/Nectar (later, Carmel), but at Wynn (at opening) he only had three similar bars (B Bar, Parasol Up and Down). I don't know, but it seems like there is really a need for these relaxing spots that are both in the middle of the action and separated from it at the same time. And I would have to agree with you, Hunter, that these places are sorely lacking in town.

February 19, 2008 12:30 AM Posted by Mark D

There are eight massive elevator cores surrounding the casino area at Fontainebleau. I've never seen that before on any other project, so they are planning something major above the casino, possibly unlike anything else in Vegas.

The synergy on the Strip will continue moving north for the foreseeable future. A 3,000 room Marriott Marquis is going to be built across from the convention center and south of Riv. The new owners of the Sahara just submitted plans to the county for a new 500 foot tower. Allure is proposing a 795 foot hotel tower with a casino. And also they've already started soil testing for the Plaza. In an interview in the RJ, a day or so ago, the president of Perini said they are getting ready to start construction on two new megaresorts up there, but he wouldn't say which ones.

February 19, 2008 5:18 AM Posted by detroit1051

I believe we discussed Fontainebleau Miami Beach about a year ago when Leonard Stern was talking about Morris Lapidus' original design of the property. I'll be driving down there within the next week and will take some photos. It should be almost ready for its summer grand re-opening. I still believe South Florida will go for full gaming in the next few years, and that will put both Fontainableau's in a great position of synergy.

February 19, 2008 6:53 AM Posted by Brian Fey

Mark - If you run across that link to the Perini interview, I'd love to see it. I did a search on RJ but didn't see it at first glance. It would be great to see them get the Plaza project.

February 19, 2008 7:42 AM Posted by detroit1051

Perini and Cosmo are in a related story in the LV Business Press:

February 19, 2008 12:06 PM Posted by Mark D

Here you go Brian, it's part of this article about the economy.

February 19, 2008 12:25 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Thanks, that's a great read. I agree with their thinking. I personally don't see this down trend lasting long either. Between all the aggressive rate cutes, and stimulas package, and a change of presidents, I think this "recession" will be short lived. I do think we might see some deals for Vegas this summer though, which is fine by me! :) This wave of resorts, will definitly generate a great deal of demand for Vegas, as many people will flock to see the new places.

February 19, 2008 10:06 PM Posted by mike_ch

I think gaming well fare well, what with it's expansions into Macau and beyond. Adelson and Wynn are well comforted there.

Las Vegas itself is barreling to the wall pretty quickly, though. And the barons have expanded out far enough that they don't really have to care about the future of the town now.

February 19, 2008 10:23 PM Posted by John

I don't know. I think Vegas will always remain the mecca of gaming. I mean, look at the 80s, when AC legalized gambling. Yes, it took a small amount of market share from Vegas and tried to become a resort town. However, it is still nothing but a day trippers market. And, honestly, this is they way I really feel about Macau. Yes, it will attract a large amount of VIP business, but it will not become the mecca of entertainment and gaming in the near future. In all honesty, I still see it as a very profitable market that will allow the gaming companies to draw their large Macau customers into the high limit rooms in Vegas, as has always been the plan.

However, I don't think this means that Vegas won't be heading for a correction. And, honestly, it really is necessary. $360 per night at Caesars (Augustus or Palace) is an inconceivable amount of money to charge for a hotel room mid-week in March. As a matter of fact, though, that seems like the base rate for a fairly regular room and, honestly, that needs to change...quickly.

February 20, 2008 7:35 AM Posted by detroit1051

Packer's Crown Limited announced it has bought 2.5% of Harrah's and 4.9% of Station Casinos. Crown already owns 20% of Fontainebleau as we talked about the other day and is buying Cannery.
The big news is the likely delay of the Wet-n-Wild property development.

February 20, 2008 11:12 AM Posted by Mark D

Yeah, in Crown's half year results they say "LVTI is currently undertaking a strategic review of its development options in the light of recent upheavals in capital markets".

February 20, 2008 11:24 AM Posted by mike_ch

John, just because I think the town is heading for a crunch doesn't mean it's doomed forever. There have been times when new forces come in and reshape the town.

You are right that things are due for a major re correction, prices have staggered out of control for a while now, nobody can see past the "five-star luxury hotel" market as everyone from Wynn to Lanni to Schaeffer tells anyone who is concerned to go to Circus Circus, and games are getting tighter even in places that can't afford to lose business like downtown.

Like how Howard Hughes bought up a lot of the town and set the stage for most of the current players, I expect a lot of "luxury resorts" to be sold at blue-light bargain prices to new firms who hope to turn them around. Sort of like the Stratosphere's journey to the brink of shutting down and back, but this time happening to hotels on par with Bellagio (but maybe not Bellagio itself.)

Once a few of these expensive palaces being built right now are sold for less than it cost to build them, the owners could sell other holdings to stay afloat after this debacle, and that could mean a return to a checkerboard strip instead of the two-headed beast of Harrah's and MGM that center and south presently look like.

The question really is who is going to fall victim to all of this, and who is going to survive? As unbelievable as it may sound considering how poorly Mirage Resorts was run, Wynn seems to be grounded in reality judging by his recent comments. MGM has ignored a lot of opportunities to focus on Vegas, and so they have a lot to lose but CityCenter is considered by many to be a sure bet. Obviously, if CityCenter doesn't succeed the company will have problems but for now it seems like they have a willing buyer/investor in Dubai if things get hairy.

Harrah's, Station, and Boyd seem like the balloons that could quickly pop under the crunch, as well as boutique projects like New Plaza.

February 21, 2008 5:28 AM Posted by detroit1051

This adds to my question on how well Turnberry/Fontainebleau is weathering the current credit/economic downturn.

"If LVTI does not move forward with the land purchase, we believe Crown Ltd. could provide more equity support for Fontainebleau," wrote Wachovia Capital Markets bond analyst Dennis Farrell Jr. in a note to investors."

February 21, 2008 6:45 AM Posted by Mark D

Light Group has sold a 50% stake in the company to an investment house of the Dubai government.

February 22, 2008 11:27 AM Posted by detroit1051

The RJ's restaurant review today of Social House at TI is interesting because it shows the challenges of appealing to older and younger clientele at the same time. It looks like MGM hasn't mastered this as well as Maloof has at the Palms.

February 22, 2008 1:06 PM Posted by mike_ch

Curious to know how much money you need to buy a villa at Bellagio? The NY Times reports that the Clinton campaign spend $25,000 on rooms at Bellagio, and RJ Norm mentioned earlier they were staying in a villa.

And before anyone asks, no, they didn't buy rooms there for anyone other than Mr. & Mrs. Clinton (which I presume they shared with the secret service since it's enormous enough.) All the workers and out-of-state volunteers and such with the campaign were across the street at Planet Ho.

February 22, 2008 4:49 PM Posted by Hunter


When they are available, the rack rate is usually between $7,000 and $10,000/night for villas at Bellagio.


February 23, 2008 5:49 AM Posted by detroit1051

Who needs the LV Sun? We get our breaking news from mike_ch.

February 23, 2008 6:58 AM Posted by Jason Robar

The Stratosphere was sold to a Goldman Sachs affiliate:

February 24, 2008 8:33 AM Posted by socalduck

Detroit, you made an interesting statement earlier regarding the expansion of full gaming to the Miami area. Is this something being actively considered now, or is this your prediction? It makes sense, but this is the first time I've heard it.

Of course, with the change of leadership in Cuba, it's not inconceivable that we could see casinos reappear in Havana within the next five years, or sooner if trade ties were reestablished with the US.

February 24, 2008 1:01 PM Posted by detroit1051

Socalduck, my comment about full gaming in South Florida may be more wishful thinking than a prediction. However, there is more conversation than in the past about whether there should be fully licensed casinos. A big reason is the strength of the Seminole tribe. They operate seven casinos in Florida and became an even larger player when Florida's governor recently entered into a compact with the Seminoles to get some revenue for the state. Even though it's before the state supreme court, the Seminoles wasted no time changing over from Class II to Class III slots at the Hollywood Hard Rock and will do the same at the other casinos as soon as Bally and IGT have the inventory. Next, they will install blackjack and baccarat within the next month or two. No one believes the supreme court can/will stop it. The Hollywood Hard Rock is a first class property. The tribe is talking about doubling the size of the 600 room hotel and enlarging the casino. They also operate Coconut Creek in Broward County which is a slot house, but it's on a large piece of property, and the Seminoles' plans include building the largest hotel in Florida with 1,500 rooms and an entertainment and retail complex. Similar expansion plans are being developed for Immokalee which is near the Naples/Ft Myers area on the Gulf coast and another expansion at the Tampa Hard Rock.
Florida's real estate and economic woes are adding to the speculation that the state should get some benefit from gaming in addition to the money guaranteed by the compact with the Seminoles. Florida is almost two states; the north is very conservative and South Florida is very liberal. Until now, Jeb Bush and the conservatives have prevailed. Governor Crist, although Republican, is much more moderate. The Speaker of the House in the state legislature, Marco Rubio, is very anti-gaming. However, this is his last year in office due to term limits. Things may change.
Finally, it's interesting you mentioned Havana. That's playing into the speculation as well. Some here are saying if we delay gaming any longer, we'll lose any opportunity whenever the Castro regime is gone if Cuba decides to become a tourist mecca again.
The bottom line is, I don't know what's going to happen.

February 24, 2008 10:27 PM Posted by Hunter

Photos of the volcano project at The Mirage:

You can see, they are basically tearing out the existing volcano entirely and replacing it - it's going down to the structural steel and based on what I saw, they're replacing a lot of the fake rocks in the lagoon as well.

February 25, 2008 4:16 AM Posted by BrianFey

That's pretty exciting about the Volcano. It was a very cool feature in its day. If they are going this far, I'm curious to see what Wet Design can do with it.

I love the sign by the tiger habitat. "We are creating something new and exciting" Shouldn't the sign read, we are adding yet another revenue producting area, so that we can make even more money from our property. We are tearing our more of Steve Wynn's freebie stuff, cause if MGM can't make money off of an area, then we don't want it. We look forward to charging to view our new volcano, so that you will help pay for us remaking it. We are also devising a plan, so that we just charge a cover charge at the door of the casino, so that away you can't just come in and check out the property for free. Stay tuned, as we are find more, new and improved ways to make a few cents more from our customers. Thank you, The Money Hungury Management.

February 25, 2008 12:56 PM Posted by Mike E

Brian, you know Wynn himself was nonchalant about the removal of the tigers. While technically a free attraction, wasn't its whole purpose to encourage ticket sales for Sigfried and Roy's show? White tigers have no place at The Mirage anymore and until MGM Mirage can legally figure out a way to cage and make an attraction out of Yoko Ono, a burger joint will do.

February 25, 2008 6:12 PM Posted by BrianFey

I know there arn't many fans of themed hotels here, and I realize they are going away from that more and more. I have to wonder if Vegas would have gotten as popular as it has, if it wern't for the 90's themed phase. But I read about some big changes going on at NY NY, and I really think this is going a bit far. I guess NY has removed the stream and bridge, its also removing all the interior trees. Maybe its just me, but its NYNY for god sakes. I realize what they are doing might be really cool, and I have not seen the final product, but it just seems like they are taking this a bit too far. I mean Wynn does not have a theme, and it works. The place is so amazingly nice, it does not need a theme. But how many hotels can we have without a theme of some kind. I can gamble anywhere, and not all these new places are going to be as nice as Wynn, where they can carry on their own just off of being super nice. So this brings me back to the start. What's going to keep people coming to Vegas? I know most of you don't care for the Plaza, but I am ready for a few themed hotel again.

February 26, 2008 12:17 AM Posted by Mike E

Does anyone think NYNY will dismantle the roller coaster? That would be the final blow signifying the end of the family era.

February 26, 2008 3:04 AM Posted by BrianFey

Mike - I agree, the tigers were due to go, but this isn't about the tigers. Its about a trend we've been seeing all over town, especially with MGM. MGM removed half the rainforest at Mirage, to reconfigure a new bar by the check-in desk. They removed a beautiful waterfall, that looked so peaceful, and sounded wonderful. I just think as some point, they are going to take away so many of the things we all go to vegas for, that someday, we might lose our desire to even go.

February 26, 2008 8:13 AM Posted by Brian Fey

I don't see the coaster coming down, but its possible. For one, I'm sure its profitable. I just can't see de-theming a hotel like NYNY, it can be down with some properties, but are they going to take down the Statue of Liberty, and remove the Brooklyn Bridge outside next?

February 26, 2008 11:26 AM Posted by Brian Fey

Well boys! Encore is opening this year, looks like we'll be having a meet at Vegas in December!

February 26, 2008 12:20 PM Posted by Andy S

I agree with you 100% Brian about this trend to "de theme" everything. I first went to Vegas because I wanted to visit the amazing theme hotels. On my last visit I didn't go to as many hotels because they are losing their own individual identity and becoming characterless clones of each other.

I had hoped they would leave NYNY because they cant really change the outside, will see what horrors they come up with.

Alot of these new places like the Cosmopolition and City Center dont appeal to me at all, I'm sure they will be nice, but I dont see what will encourage people to visit them? Wynn may not have a theme, but it has style and character and does not look like an office block!

Cheers, Andrew

February 26, 2008 8:28 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

I've never to NYC, but I've stayed at New York-New York a couple times. I found the trees and stream in the casino floor annoying, and think removing them is a good idea. Sometimes things change. If they didn't, we'd still have the Sands with 200 rooms.