Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

All Articles Published: November 2009

Three interesting stories breaking this morning:

Binion's to Close Hotel Tower - the legendary Downtown hotel has announced they will be closing the hotel tower and restaurant facilities as a result of the bad economy:

Harrah's Entertainment, who have been buying Planet Hollywood debt, is taking the process to the next step - Nevada gaming regulators:

Las Vegas Sands raised $5 billion in an IPO for their Macanese operations:

November 29, 2009

UPDATED: Jim Murren: The Man and His City(Center)

Posted by Hunter

A story in today's Sun delves into Jim Murren's thinking regarding the design of CityCenter. It's an interesting look at the process and gives more insight into the man, someone that hasn't had a well-defined public persona beyond the quarterly conference calls.

Murren talks about CityCenter inspiring people to create art - that would be incredible were it to occur. Perhaps a modern-day Renoir will be so-moved by slot machines - I'm a little skeptical.

The author, Liz Benston, makes reference to people that have described CityCenter as "a themed version of New York as envisioned by a Manhattan transplant". That's one of the points I raised in my write-up of the site tour. Sounds like Murren would match it more closely with master-planning done in places like Abu Dhabi - perhaps that is more apt but I think the basic premise still holds.

There are some nice photos with the piece, including the Crystals/ARIA pocket park, one of my fave places in the complex (and it sounds like one of Murren's too).

Vdara opens on Tuesday. Hard to believe that we're finally at the finish line!

Update: A related update - the LA Times has some interior photos, though mostly specific textures and related design elements including some stuff I saw and some I haven't yet seen.,0,853232.photogallery,0,37081.photogallery

November 25, 2009

ARIA Fountain Test ; Crystals Walkway Opens

Posted by Hunter

Some interesting CityCenter related photos and videos today.

First a tourist video of a test of ARIA's porte-cochere fountain:

Also, the overhead walkway and sidewalk in front of Crystals is now open:


I love big cities. I'd much rather ride a subway than sit on a beach. I love museums and cultural events, great restaurants and urban activity.

New York is one of my favorites. If I had to live outside the US, I'd probably settle in London. I've been lucky enough to see Cairo, Jerusalem, Rome, Paris, Chicago, Istanbul and much of the rest of the world. Great cities are complicated, charming, messy, crowded, contradictory... and wonderful.

MGM Mirage is trying to replicate the best bits of those experiences in a new project opening soon on the Las Vegas Strip - CityCenter.

This past week, your humble host was given the opportunity to tour part of this new hospitality complex - 67 acres at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, located between Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

My experiences on that tour are after the jump - enjoy. CityCenter will be a hot topic of discussion for months if not years. I can't wait until you all can share your own thoughts.

Update: We're not allowed to publish the actual map but Chuckmonster traced a copy and posted it on VT. This is the casino level and includes much of the stuff I saw on this tour. His version looks identical to the 'real' one. Enjoy.

November 20, 2009

Vegas Gang #40 - November 20, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* Hunter Tours CityCenter
* Fontainebleau
* Global Gaming Expo 2009

I believe we'll have someone from MGM Mirage Design Group on a future episode, not too far away. Feel free to submit questions here.

Perennial bridesmaid Penn National Gaming made a formal bid for the shut-down Fontainebleau project on the Las Vegas Strip today - the bid: $50 million. Bidding ends January 15th, 2010.

The project has incurred over $1.5 billion in construction costs and is estimated to require perhaps a similar amount to complete to original specification.

If Penn pulls this off, they'll have their first Las Vegas Strip presence - something they've toyed with for some time... If this does happen, Jeff Soffer is going to enter the gaming disaster hall of fame, right next to new-Aladdin developer Jack Sommer... Sommer? Soffer? Odd name similarity there... Anyway...

Update: Since this was written, Penn National has been outbid by a group lead by investor Carl Icahn:

I'm trying something a little different this quarter - a single thread to cover all gaming companies reporting.

I will update this thread as other companies report.

Wynn Resorts - Net Income: $34.2 million Revenue: $773.1 million
* Wynn Las Vegas / Encore Las Vegas: ADR: $210 Occupancy: 83.9%
* Wynn Macau: ADR: $263 Occupancy: 89.2%

Boyd Gaming - Net Income: $6.3 million Revenue: $398.2 million
The Echelon project will remain mothballed for three to five years.

Harrah's Entertainment - Net Income: -$1.05 billion (loss) Revenue: $2.28 billion
Harrah's is privately held.

Las Vegas Sands - Net Income: -$123 million (loss) Revenue: $1.14 billion

MGM Mirage - Net Income: -$750.4 million (loss) Revenue: $1.533 billion LV Sun

Station Casinos - Net Income: -$455.4 million (loss) Revenue: $255.7 million. Station is privately held.

Interesting promotion from Planet Hollywood - you pay $600 and can stay 10 nights between now and March 2010, working out to $60 a night.

What makes this really interesting is that there are no blackout dates and the hated resort fee is waived.

For frequent visitors, these sorts of promotions could really save some money. Props to PHo for trying something like this.

Two interesting but unrelated stories this morning:

* Wynn Resorts will be paying a special dividend to shareholders and then start paying a regular dividend in 2010.

* CEO Dan Lee has left Pinnacle Entertainment, a Las Vegas based casino operator with properties in various US markets. Lee was Mirage Resorts CFO in a past life and partly responsible for assembling the parcel that is now CityCenter.

Posting both for the sake of discussion...

November 6, 2009

Encore Beach Club Underway?

Posted by Hunter

The Encore Beach Club, which we broke all the way back in August, is finally starting to take shape.

This photo was posted to today (used with permission - thanks blackjacker1979).

Yikes. It appears they've yanked out much of the plush-ness that was the Encore atrium. Here's what it looked like before Paul Bunyan came through:

You can see that even the stuff around the edges of the high limit room is gone. It's slightly out of frame but I assume this tree, an ancient Aloe, is gone too - though I assume moved and not killed as it was over 100 years old. The company has a good track record for preserving these things, some of which are worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I can't imagine that Paige Dixon, Wynn Resorts' chief horticulturalist, enjoys ripping out something that worked as well as this did - it was a small space but one of my favorites in the Wynncore complex.

It seems odd to start indoors on this project - most of the work will be outside. This area is open to the casino, the upscale Switch (though reportedly underperforming) restaurant and the High Limit Slot room. Perhaps this landscaping will be replaced in-kind before exterior work even begins?

Another shot:

November 4, 2009

The VT 'Debacle'

Posted by Hunter

By now, I doubt that any regular reader isn't familiar with the / Wynn Resorts flap over

Well, Charles S. Monster has posted their planned response and I think it's just about perfect (except for Steven vs. Stephen - sorry, couldn't resist the nitpick).

As Chuck's partner in the referenced Web site, I can confirm his origination of said term, which no doubt has entered our lexicon - I use it myself frequently.

I'm typically not one for boycotts or protests but there is no doubt that Wynn Resorts made themselves look a bit silly this time around. Maybe they didn't realize who the domain belonged to or its intended purpose. Let's hope that they buy into CSM's plan to reconcile - I'd rather see Twitpics of Macau than the inside of a courtroom.

Of course we'll all be watching to see what happens... and I'm sure I'll ask him about it on the next VegasGang.

Speaking of casino opening Web sites, we're reprising our Encore performance for ARIA... though we have a few tricks up our sleeve to amp it up a bit. Stay tuned.

November 1, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - November 1, 2009

Posted by detroit1051

In Boyd Gaming's Call, they said that Echelon would remain dormant for three to five years, but they wouldn't take down the construction already started: "We anticipate using or incorporating the structure that's already in place into the new project."
I don't know the cost of clearing the land compared to maintaining the construction hulk, but this is obviously detrimental to The Strip. Further, when the market recovers, it doesn't seem likely that Boyd would follow its original vision for the development.
Boyd should be a good citizen and remove the skeletons. We may see how much influence Steve Wynn has on the subject: "When told that Boyd wasn't going to do anything with Echelon until the next presidential election, Wynn became somewhat incredulous. He wants to see Echelon's unfinished steel structure disappear as much as he wants to see the Obama administration vacate the White House."

Echelon Could Use Some "Tarp" Assistance