Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

All Articles Published: December 2009

December 31, 2009

Vegas Gang #42 - December 31st, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* CityCenter Opens
* 2009 Recap/2010 Look Forward
* Gary Jacobs and MGM Mirage

Have a Happy New Year. We love you.

December 31, 2009

Vdara General Manager Responds

Posted by Hunter

A few weeks ago I wrote an open letter to Vdara General Manager Angela Lester about problems I had during my stay. I'm happy to say that today I got a detailed, point-by-point response from Ms. Lester that covers each specific issue I raised.

All service operations have missteps, especially brand new ones. The thoughtful response indicates that they truly want to fix these problems and improve quality. I appreciate her taking the time to respond in full.

As for if I will visit Vdara again - certainly. While I prefer gaming properties when in Las Vegas, a Vdara firing on all cylinders could be a nice alternative.

Ms. Lester's response is after the jump.

Happy New Year!

December 27, 2009

Phil Ruffin: The Strip in 2020

Posted by Hunter

Writing a piece for the Las Vegas Sun, mega-investor Phil Ruffin of TI has shared his vision for the future with the rest of us here:

His predictions are pretty safe: more people, uptick in room rates, and 'don't invest anywhere but The Strip if you want to be successful'.

If Ruffin has any real insights about the future, he's not sharing them here.

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Posted by Hunter

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Thanks to everyone that is part of this community.

I hope everyone has a great day.

December 22, 2009

Serrano Serrano Serrano

Posted by Hunter

This is a short post about something I haven't been able to get out of my head. I had lunch at Julian Serrano inside ARIA this past Friday. Serrano is doing tapas at this joint, unlike the far more formal Picasso at Bellagio.

Wow. I can't wait to go back.

Not only is it open for lunch but given the restaurant's tapas format, it's super easy to try a bunch of different flavors without committing to one dish. In some way's it's the anti-buffet - small portions of the best food you'll ever have.

The shots of what I tried:

any my personal fave:

December 22, 2009

Open Letter To Vdara General Manager

Posted by Hunter

Both of my trips to Vdara were extremely problematic for me as a guest - stuff was broken, long waits, service issues, etc... I decided to write a letter detailing my experience to the hotel's general manager, Angela Lester.

I also decided to post the letter here, after the jump. If she responds, I will also make sure to post that as well.

I tried to be fair and this is not meant to embarrass the hotel but as a paying guest, this stuff shouldn't happen. Comments are welcome.

December 19, 2009

Mandarin Oriental - December 2009

Posted by Hunter

For my last night, I stayed at Mandarin Oriental... and am I glad that I did. This place is amazing.

Here are some photos:

I'll be writing and posting all throughout the next week with my thoughts - for now, I'll leave it at these!

December 18, 2009

UPDATED (AGAIN): ARIA Opening Is In Full Swing

Posted by Hunter

The coverage is rolling -

Also, I just uploaded 190 photos from inside ARIA to Flickr:

Got to sample some of the restaurant cuisine - so far great stuff. Lots of details to come but the staff here seem happy and excited - fun!

Update: Photos of two rooms at Vdara (I was moved to a suite due to 'issues').

Update 2: More photos of ARIA and opening night festivities:

December 16, 2009

Boyd Makes New Bid For Station Casinos

Posted by Hunter

Boyd Gaming, who made an offer for some of debt-plagued Station earlier this year, has now said it wants to buy the entire company for $2.45 billion. Station Casinos is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

I can see how this would make sense - they seem like organizations with comparable goals and customer bases. Station rebuffed the previous offer.

December 12, 2009

Vegas Gang #41 - December 11th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* Dr. Dave Tours CityCenter
* Hunter Stays at Vdara
* Jeff Explains How Harrah's Can Buy P-Ho
* Fontainebleau Drama Continues

December 11, 2009 - Just Like Being There!

Posted by Hunter

I'm very excited to see ARIA open next week - after all these years and billions of dollars, it's like Christmas is coming early. Despite your opinions on the complex (and I expect them to vary a good bit), it's a ton of fun to see a new place turn on the lights.

Now, not everyone can be there in person - if you want to follow the action live, we've once again partnered with to build a special site just for you: On the site, you can easily see a special feed of our tweets, photos and videos.

For those that ARE going to be there, we need your help! Our new site accepts photo submissions sent to After being moderated, the photos end up on the site for all to see (there are instructions available if you want to see how it works). The person who takes the best photo, as judged by myself and Chuckmonster, will win a brand new iPod Touch and a copy of Vegas Mate.

It's gonna be a lot of fun and I can't wait to see the amazing photos you'll all submit.

December 11, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

Posted by Hunter

A LVRJ article on the new trend (?) of sunlight being let into casinos:

Of course, Encore made a significant play for this and I think very successfully - parts of the casino are indeed flooded with light.

The author mentions CityCenter as an extension of this. My first impression walking through ARIA was certainly not that I needed sunblock. The casino is directly up against the porte-cochere glass doors in several places and light certainly spills in at the edges... maybe it's because the color scheme is mostly earth tones but it 'felt' dark to me.

There are certainly wonderful spots at ARIA, such as the main registration desk, the Harmon entrance and the entire promenade level, that are very well lit.

I hope this is indeed a trend that continues... Personally, I'd love to see a joint where the entire casino floor ceiling to be a skylight. Could be an amazing design feature, no?

December 9, 2009

Vdara Mini-Review: December 2009

Posted by Hunter

This past weekend, I spent one night at Vdara, the CityCenter condo-hotel the opened December 2nd. Can you really form opinions after one night? I accept that some will say no. I'll be back at Vdara soon but I wanted to share the good and bad of my first experience.

I do have sympathy for small glitches surrounding a brand new hotel - these things happen everywhere and I don't read too much into them unless they continue on subsequent trips.

December 8, 2009

More Time Inside CityCenter's ARIA

Posted by Hunter

I got a second chance to check out part of CityCenter's ARIA last week - I figured this would be a good time to share some of those thoughts.

The 4,004 room resort is the centerpiece of the project, including the only gaming space in the complex.

Continue after the jump for some additional thoughts...

December 7, 2009

UPDATED: No Push For Locals as ARIA Customers?

Posted by Hunter

This one was too odd not to post. Steve Friess has a blog post with a quote from MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren where he says he doesn't really care if locals visit ARIA, implying it's the least important part of the complex (to him?).

This seems like an odd thing to say, the simplest reason being that ARIA has a killer spa, pool day-club and a bunch of high-end restaurants, let alone 150,000 square foot casino. It'll be interesting if he backtracks from this at all - almost sounds like it didn't come out right.

Update: It gets even better!

Here's an open topic thread for y'all - feel free to discuss today's opening of The Crystals, Mandarin Oriental tomorrow or anything at all.

On a program note, Steve Friess will be airing his nearly two hour interview with Steve Wynn this Saturday from 4pm - 6pm. You can listen live at I'll be in the studio with Steve and Miles, generally just being a nuisance and making dumb comments. Come hang out in the chat and listen to the interview. I haven't heard it but Steve tells me there's lots of good stuff!

Update: Due to circumstances beyond our control, the interview today will be Jim Murren of MGM Mirage, not Steve Wynn. Apologies but please come join anyway!

December 2, 2009

We're Nominated! VT Trippies 2009 - Voting Is Open

Posted by Hunter

As the 2008 recipient of the 'Best Blog' award, I'm honored to be nominated again. I think that award really went to the wonderful community that I'm fortunate enough to be a part of - the comments are a huge part of what makes this site special and I can't tell you how much I appreciate every one of you.

This time, we're up in a few categories:

* Best Website (
* Best Podcast (Vegas Gang)
* Best Blog (Two Way Hard Three)
* Best Twitterer (@hunter)

It's a cliche to say so but I honestly am very honored to be nominated - these selections came from the public which feels great. There are incredible choices in all of the above categories - it's always fun to be part of the Trippies.

Anyway, to vote, head over here:

December 2, 2009

LA Weekly: CityCenter - Vegas 4.0

Posted by Hunter

I'm gonna assume you're not sick of CityCenter and want me to keep feeding you all the details... Here's another 4,000 words to keep you busy - Steve Friess writing for LA Weekly:

I got to talk to Steve for part of this story - it was fun. Lots of interesting stuff in there - check it out.

December 2, 2009

ARIA Opening Week Meetup Schedule

Posted by Hunter

Here's the schedule for meetups scheduled during ARIA's opening week:

15th 7:21pm Fontana Bar // Bellagio (or maybe somewhere at PHo)
15th 11:21pm Mandarin Bar // Mandarin Oriental (if we can get in)
16th 7:21pm Bar Vdara // Vdara
16th 11:21pm // GRAND OPENING
17th 1:21am CityBar // ARIA
17th 1:21pm View Bar // ARIA
17th 7:21pm Bar Moderno // ARIA
18th 7:21pm The Deuce // ARIA

If this looks oddly similar to this, it should. We're doing the meetups together.

More info about our coverage, including a chance to win a prize, soon.

December 1, 2009

UPDATED: Vdara: Some Photos and Opinions

Posted by Hunter

Dr. Dave Schwartz has blogged a bit about his walk through Vdara this morning. Also, his photos are available here:

Also, VegasRex has his own take, another interesting read.

I'll be at Vdara on Saturday to explore it more fully, along with The Crystals, before the big event in two weeks.

Update: Steve Friess lends some new pictures and thoughts about Vdara.

December 1, 2009

CityCenter: First Component, Vdara Opens

Posted by Hunter

Tomorrow morning, the first component of CityCenter, the Vdara condo-hotel, will open for paying customers. There's a party tonight that I'll unfortunately be missing - a charity shindig for the Sebastian Copeland Foundation.

Some info on Vdara and the Silk Road restaurant:

Thursday will see the opening of The Crystals retail mall and then Friday, Mandarin Oriental - this is a big week for the project.

One important aspect is traffic flow and the Sun has a story, with diagrams, of how it all works: