On Monday night we had a little informal get-together - blog readers that were in town to see Encore debut. It was great - the conversation, the common interests and sense of community.
I wanted to say thank you to everyone that helped make 2008 the blog's most successful year yet - more posts and more comments. This wasn't the easiest year for me personally but I always have a good time doing this.
I hope that everyone out there has a great holiday.
Get ready for 2009. We'll have more on Encore as it develops, continue to follow the economy and City Center debuts, which I assume will be the year's biggest story.
Update: Just bumping this since it is New Years Eve and it seems like a fitting way to end the year. Thanks guys.
Vegas Gang #24 is online.
This week on the show:
Leave any comments below.
Mike is back with the final Strip Walk of 2008.
Yes, there's some more Encore stuff in here but most of the column is dedicated to the rest of The Strip - do not fear, Encore haters!
Enjoy. Main text and photo links after the jump.
Thousands of pieces - furniture, hand-woven carpets, wall coverings, chandeliers and everything else that makes up a Las Vegas resort - were all custom-picked and either built or acquired for Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, the latest creation from a team that's been working with Steve Wynn for almost three decades.
Keep reading after the jump for more.
Here's my full review of Encore including four restaurants, the spa, and other notes from my December trip. Enjoy!
The Las Vegas Sun has a story about the deteriorating financial condition of Station Casinos, the large Las Vegas locals market operator.
The company is facing $5 billion in debt that needs to be refinanced or restructured.
Many of my colleagues have also been writing about Encore and the opening festivities.
Here are some links not to miss:
I'm sure there's more good stuff - feel free to add to the comments.
If you didn't catch them last night, I posted more photos on Flickr - these will also be moving to a gallery on RateVegas.com shortly.
This will be somewhat brief - I will write a full review of this first stay probably later in the week - but I wanted to share a few first impressions, brought to you from Encore's 61st floor.
I was lucky enough to be given a guided tour this morning by Roger Thomas, VP of Design for Wynn Design and Development. He is responsible for most of the interiors of the resort, along with previous creations like Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio and Treasure Island. He refers to himself as an 'author' when talking about the design process. Given how much thought goes into his 'prose', I think that's appropriate.
The tour was great - I took a lot of notes that I will transcribe later.
In a word I would describe Encore as breathtaking. It's much smaller - very intimate. It is a fantastic complement to Wynn Las Vegas. The casino, as many anticipated, is very similar to Wynn Macau with smaller chambered areas. Personally, I think this design is a huge win, though it might not work with a larger space. It's more appropriate for a smaller casino floor as they have here.
There are walk up bars on all sides of the property - Thomas told me this was in direct response to customers wanting more bars on the WLV side. One of the bars on the east end of the casino is a huge glass wall overlooking the pool, flooding the gaming areas with natural light.
For restaurants, we saw Sinatra (retro, 60s Palm Springs kinda vibe, but not in an old sorta way). Later in the afternoon, I watched them install the 1953 Best Supporting Actor Award in its display. It's gorgeous.
Had a quick lunch at Society Cafe Encore and it was really fantastic. Simple dishes but my chicken sandwich was perfectly done.
The Esplanade includes several high end boutiques, including a new home store featuring Roger Thomas' furniture. The Wynn and Company Jewelers on this side are displaying the 'Wynn Diamond', a 231 caret stone that is breathtaking to behold.
While not being much of a nightclub guy personally, we walked through XS and I was impressed. I think it's got a chance at being the top spot in town - the interplay between the pool and the club is amazing and sure to be a huge hit, likely to be copied elsewhere.
The Tower Suites lobby is tucked away from the casino floor, as it is at Wynn Las Vegas, while the main Resort check-in is open to the main walkway on the North side. Tower Suites is less of a preferred option at Encore, though the rooms we did see on that side were huge and amazing. The 2 and 3 bedroom, two level sky villas sounded impressive, though we did not get to tour one (yet).
They're being pretty tough about photos so far. I'm hoping that will ease up at 8pm when the place officially opens.
There's a ton of interesting design detail in this place - as much or more than Wynn Las Vegas.
More to come. Please follow us at EncoreOpening.com and feel free to ask questions to us there via Twitter or if you can't do that, leave a comment.
Also, room photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lasvegas/sets/72157611429036671/
Thanks to readers for pointing this out.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has posted a few PR shots of Encore's interior. They include a couple of shots of the atrium and the spa. Others have rightly pointed out there's a lot of design cross over between Encore and the 'Villa Atrium' at Wynn Las Vegas.
Steve Friess has posted the audio from his Encore tour with Steve Wynn. Along with the audio, which I heard last night - it's great, he's posted a map of Encore.
Find them both at VegasHappensHere.com
Friends... Encore's opening is upon us. In case you missed the announcement, we'll be covering all manner of opening details at EncoreOpening.com as we partner with VegasTripping.com to bring you great coverage.
Also, several other readers who mentioned they'd be in town talked about perhaps getting together for a drink at some point... Several ideas were thrown around but if it works for others, I'd suggest 6:30pm on the 22nd at Parasol Up (Wynn Las Vegas). This would allow a little time for conversation before the public unveiling of Encore at 8pm. Everyone is welcome.
Jeff was kind enough to share some of his thoughts with us here. Continue after the jump to get some good inside info.
Read more for the goods...
Be sure to stay tuned to EncoreOpening.com this weekend and into the 22nd for the best, most comprehensive coverage.
Long promised, a new design for the blog is finally here.
It was done by my design partner, David Holtz.
Hopefully more readable, larger, better designed for big monitors and prettier. I hope you like it - I was very very sick of the old design.
The main RateVegas.com site will be getting similar treatment in the new year.
Please let me know about any problems you find in the comments. Much appreciated...
Oh, don't tell me you hate it. I'm not in the mood. :-)
Yesterday, as I was waiting in an interminable airport line, I got a call that came up as 'Wynn Las Vegas' on caller ID. That could have meant one of two things - someone was calling to yell at me about something I wrote or there was some problem with one of my hotel reservations - as many of my readers know, I'm booked at Encore for opening night and will be at WLV before that.
Well, it was the latter...
The call was from an Assistant Hotel Manager who told me that the room I had booked at Encore, a Tower Suites room, was not available and I would have to be downgraded. The explanation was that a 'computer glitch' had made the rooms available for sale when they should not have been. The manager said they 'just figured it out' and were making calls to people. Well, I booked Encore the first moment it became available (someone told me I was the second person to book online, after our friend Brian Fey). That was October 31st.
So, for a month and a half, these rooms (as well as the larger suites) were incorrectly available to book online and apparently no one noticed until December 15th. Uh-huh.
My currently unsubstantiated guess is that they got a better-than-expected RSVP from invited guests and didn't have the rooms to put them in, so they started to bump regular bookings down from the Tower to Resort side of the hotel. I'm working on getting a confirmation on my theory.
Now, I understand the casino is a VIP business and this can happen. Such is life. My first issue would be if I was lied to about the computer glitch in order to get me to 'go quietly' and accept the lesser room. I suggested upgrading to a larger, more expensive room but those were also not available. I wanted to have access to a few types of different rooms for photos and commentary for you fine people, hence my protests when the call came in.
My disappointment will subside. Life will go on.
What's interesting though is that as of now, it seems like people that booked through Wynn's Web site got short shrift compared to other methods. For instance, another reader here had booked through the American Express Travel Agency and thus far has not received a similar phone call about adjusting the reservation. Will he keep his more deluxe rooms?
If this turns out to be true, customers need to be careful who they choose to book with. The advice I've handed out to hundreds of thousands of site visitors - that booking with the hotel directly is often the best route - may no longer hold true in all cases.
Did other readers get the same call? If so, how did it go? What did they tell you? Did they offer you any compensation? I know that at least Brian was able to negotiate a dining credit as part of this downgrade so it's not a total loss.
This morning the news broke that MGM Mirage is selling Treasure Island, one of the resorts it acquired as part of Mirage Resorts in 2000, to investor Phil Ruffin. Ruffin sold the New Frontier site a few years back and is a partner in the Trump International condo development.
Also, this story in the WSJ:
This post was updated to flesh it out with more info.
Treasure Island holds a special place for me - I stayed there many times before it was 'upgraded', at which point I lost my case. I think it's a great asset that Ruffin will probably do well with. It has a hard time shining compared to The Mirage and Mandalay Bay as the lower end of MGM Mirage's middle tier.
Vegas Gang #23 is online: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com
This time around we cover:
Feel free to leave any comments below.
I was able to catch the media event for the rebirth of the volcano at The Mirage last night.
Photos from the event are here. A video is embedded after the jump.
I loved the new setup. It's so much more fun than the old version. Not only is there more fire and better music but the entire structure just looks much cooler - the rock is more natural looking and 'veins' of lava even show up when it's blasting.
The 'FireShooters' that WET Design built for this project are custom - part of the high cost is due to investing in new technology to make it one of a kind.
After being a sorta 'bleh' attraction for some time, I think this is now near the top of the list of recommended things to check out on your next trip.
For those interested, there are also a bunch of Encore and WLV photos in the gallery as well.
We've been alluding to our upcoming coverage for the opening of Wynn's Encore for some time and now we're spilling the details.
We will both be 'twittering' (or is it 'tweeting'?) via Twitter, posting copious amounts of photos on Flickr and recording our observations for what I'm certain will be multiple blog postings. You can post your questions to our Twitter streams and we will do our best to answer them right from the casino floor.
To make it easier on your inner-Vegas-addict to keep up with everything, we're compiling it all in one place:
That's your one stop shop for all things Encore. The page updates itself so when the gates open, you can sit back and let the sweet nectar flow. See Chuck's note on browser compatibility here. His recommendations are seconded from this corner as well.
There's been some talk about doing a special 'Vegas Gang' episode and while the logistics of how possible that will be are not yet clear, rest assured that we will be getting everyone's opinion on Encore out to you as soon as humanly possible.
Mike_ch is back with his latest Strip Walk. This one is more in 'trip report' style as he was slummin' it down on The Strip for a few nights at The Grand.
It's a long one so grab a cup of coffee and sit back.
Do you publish a Vegas Web site or blog and have an iPhone or iPod Touch?
If so, send an email to vegasmate AT ratevegas DOT com and request your free code to our Vegas Mate application.
While supplies last (Apple limits the number of codes we can give out).
Robin Leach has come forward with a couple of supposed Wynn Las Vegas / Encore updates.
First is that Wynn wants to do a BeeGees musical at Encore, which may or may not be called 'Stayin' Alive'.
Second is that supposedly Wynn will break ground on a 4,000 seat 'Wynn Arts Center'.
I assume this would have to be out on the golf course side of things as there's little space elsewhere.
I should note that Leach has not always been the most reliable in the past. As some commenters suggest, it might be prudent to see what unfolds here.
It IS a difficult balancing act, cost control vs customer service. If the holiday season ends with a slow New Year's, the Strip's strategy of superior customer service may have to be rethought, but what is the tipping point at which customers rebel?
"In recent months, the profits of several big casino operators have fallen faster than revenue, or total sales before expenses. It's a sign that the companies have not cut costs deeply enough to offset the decline in their business.
On the Strip in the third quarter, MGM Mirage's revenue fell 9 percent, and earnings declined more than 15 percent over the same period in 2007; Harrah's Entertainment's revenue declined 12 percent, and earnings fell 17 percent over the same year-ago period."