Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

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:


Read archived comments (46 so far)
December 15, 2009 2:49 PM Posted by hail2skins

Great shots Hunter.....thanks much for covering this and providing the awesome info.

The place looks great to me. Is this Red Rock or M Resort on the Strip? Look forward to your full impressions upon the conclusion of your stay!

December 15, 2009 3:07 PM Posted by parchedearth

Great photo set. My first impressions:
1. The central fountain is going to look great at night but is boring during the day and will mist all over the cars in high winds. The waterfall wall is nice.
2. Lots of interesting architectural spaces. The entire resort is definitely themed MGM Moderne (sleek dark browns, glass and chrome, with sparse modern furnishings). They must have 20 different styles of mosaic flooring. Much of it reminds me of a modern office complex.
3. Many of the dining areas look like they were designed by the same person (4'x4' dark wood tables, no tablecloth, neutral colored armless chairs). Personally, I don't want to have a $200 fixed price menu next to the hallway (as though in an airport concourse). These dining rooms are major steps down for some of the high-end chefs (Le Cirque, Prime).
4. This is a perfect resort for conventions. However, I don't see it as a good fit for gamblers (not personal enough), tourists (too expensive and shiny), or locals (too expensive and difficult access).
5. I continue to have concerns about pedestrian access between buildings and to the strip. Too many of the roads don't have sidewalks.

December 15, 2009 3:50 PM Posted by craig

Great photos.
The casino is a lot darker than I thought it would be. Definately channeling some Planet Hollywood.
The porte cochere seems like just a great expanse of concrete. The potted plants in the center seem temporary. I suppose it is better than caution cones but seems an odd fit.
Can definately your concerns about the fountain. It would seem like a great place for photos or a bench. Too bad you can't get to it.
There doesn't seem to be any protection from the elements on the porte cochere. Is that overhang provide any relief to those checking in / out?

December 15, 2009 3:53 PM Posted by Hunter

There is some protection, yes... Good thing they don't get a lot of rain here though. Wouldn't work as well.

December 15, 2009 5:07 PM Posted by steve_c

As stated above, great photos Hunter. From the earlier photos I've seen, ARIA's public spaces have really came together. I look forward to seeing it in person next month.

On a side note, I know its been discussed before, but can someone tell me the proper pronunciation of ARIA? I've heard several different versions on TV recently.

December 15, 2009 6:27 PM Posted by mwdelta

Thanks for the photos, but is there any way you could allow them to be viewed larger? They are too small to see any detail or anything important really.

December 15, 2009 6:29 PM Posted by Hunter

Whoops, didn't even realize I had it set that way.

I adjusted it - hopefully I won't regret this (hopefully people won't start stealing my photos).

December 15, 2009 8:54 PM Posted by Doug

From the pictures I would say the interior/casino looks like 1 part M Resort, 1 part MGM Grand and a very small dash of Caesars Palace all shaken together in an $8 billion Aria cocktail glass...Which for me would be perfect!

December 16, 2009 3:17 AM Posted by John

What kind of music are they playing on the property? Bellagio has awful adult contemporary vomit, Wynn has island/cabana dance music - what does Aria have?

December 16, 2009 3:48 AM Posted by Daniel

Aria is the Italian word for "air". It is also the word used to describe the large musical moments in an opera. The English pronunciation is AW'-ree-uh. Notice that the accent falls on the first syllable. (The Italian pronunciation is similar. Simply flip the "r", or pronounce it lightly as the letter "d".)

December 16, 2009 4:03 AM Posted by detroit1051

CityCenter's water features:

December 16, 2009 10:26 AM Posted by GregoryZephyr

The interior is much "warmer" than I was expecting. With all the talk about glass and marble I was thinking it would look more "airport like" than it appears now. It does look big but less stark than I thought.

I do agree those little potted trees in front of the fountain look underscaled and out of place but the fountain looks cool. I wonder if the thinking was that it would provide more of an eye catching thing for guests in the rooms overhead rather than pedestrians on the ground.

I also agree that the openness of the restaurants looks odd. Looks more like an upscale food court. Although the actual interiors look great.

December 16, 2009 5:46 PM Posted by atdleft

Thanks, Hunter, for posting all these pics!

And honestly for me, the jury's still out on the casino. I'll have to experience it for myself next week to give it a fair judgment, but I must admit it feels a little too dark for me. One thing I LOVE about the Wynn & Encore casinos is that they're so bright and airy. And for a project that otherwise seems to integrate the "bright and airy" theme into the rest of the interior areas, the casino seems to stick out (or is it hidden in?) like a sore thumb.

But then again I also like The M's casino, so maybe I just have to feel Aria out in person.

December 17, 2009 4:40 AM Posted by detroit1051

A Vegas friend posted his first impressions of Aria on a public message board. He usually is very accurate in his opinions. Please don't hold it against him for calling Encore "The" Encore. :)

December 17, 2009 8:09 AM Posted by Phil

Just wanted to drop a note of thanks to both Hunter and Chuckmonster for their tweets, videos and pics. It seems like the more openings there are, the better you guys get at giving us all the details. It all was very informative and fun at the same time.

Overall, people seem more positive than negative which is good. I can only hope word of mouth sparks more travel to bounce this city back.

December 17, 2009 10:22 AM Posted by detroit1051

I'm showing my age, but do ANY restaurants at Aria have linen tablecloths? All the photos show bare tables with or without those unsanitary semi-permanent placemats.

December 18, 2009 12:22 AM Posted by Doug

Good question, detroit, I noticed that too.

The pictures/video of the Baccarat Bar make it look a little like a vip lounge in an airport - maybe the lighting was off. Bar Moderno looks really good!

December 18, 2009 10:25 AM Posted by Hunter

Jean-Georges did not, no. Placemats. Looks like Sirio is the same.

The Baccarat Bar is not very private or secluded - sorta like they had some wall space and decided to throw in a bar.

Checking out of ARIA today and moving to Mandarin Oriental for my last night. I'll write a lot more later but in general, I really enjoyed ARIA and will consider it for all my upcoming stays.

December 18, 2009 7:22 PM Posted by detroit1051

Does Gary Jacobs' resignation have anything to do with CityCenter?

December 18, 2009 7:47 PM Posted by hail2skins

Hunter, obviously the focus of this trip is on Aria, but has anyone out there had the chance to check out any progress on the Switch Beach Area? I know its only been like a month since the last pics, but was just curious as to what we can make out so far.

December 18, 2009 9:42 PM Posted by John

Is there any truth in The Deuce being referred to as The Douche by S&G? I know some of these lounges can be a bit exclusionary (is that even a word?), but obviously having been open for about 10 minutes, who knows what to believe.

December 19, 2009 2:21 AM Posted by Dan

Could you shoot and post a video on how you can reach Aria from Vdara? Is it a really long walk?

December 19, 2009 7:45 AM Posted by mike_ch

John: Huh? You're talking about David McKee, right? I think you're referring to a tweet of mine? I wrote:

@ratevegas According to @StiffGeorges, The Douche Union (errr) is for "beautiful people." They'd hold me 50ft away from the entrance.

What Dave McKee wrote was:

Union’s sister venue, a lounge/high-limit-gambling area called The Deuce is ostentatiously exclusive. It’s outfitted with large sliding windows through which one can see the (theoretically) beautiful people living it up.

I called the combined facility The Douche Union as a joke, and only quoted McKee on beautiful people. I thought the (errr) afterward might clue off that I'm being funny, but obviously a lot of context gets lost when you're trying to squeeze in both snarky zingers AND an actual statement in under 140 characters.

December 19, 2009 8:01 AM Posted by John

Ahh, okay. My bad.

December 19, 2009 12:27 PM Posted by Hunter

I don't know what McKee is talking about. I had a good time hanging out there. The staff were friendly and the drinks were tasty.

BTW, I was wearing Converse. Not exactly 'exclusionary' in my mind.

December 19, 2009 12:33 PM Posted by Hunter

Dan - I probably won't have a chance to shoot a video right away... but it's very very simple. The walk from Vdara's front door to ARIA's back door is maybe five minutes, just around the edge of the building.

December 19, 2009 12:38 PM Posted by Hunter

I actually haven't left the CityCenter complex since I arrived on Monday.

I'll probably check out Encore as I swing out of town this afternoon.

December 19, 2009 2:12 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Hunter, puhleeze! It is a known fact that Owen Wilson is one of the Beautiful People. Given the low wattage of stars at the openngs (as reported in Vegas Happens Here), I expect you got the royal treatment simply by looking "close enough". McKee is a friend of mine, but if we went out in public people would keep asking us "Where's Curly"?...... :-)

December 19, 2009 6:17 PM Posted by parchedearth

Viewing the LVRJ time lapse video on the building of CC, I noticed they didn't dig down for the foundation (as did the neighboring Cosmo) but rather started at ground level and built up (with the Aria lobby being the 3rd? floor). I have to assume they now what they were doing, but find it unusual to have suitable bedrock on the surface for such large buildings to not need a massive subsurface foundation (e.g. MB had severe settling issues which required an extreme structural fix).

Thank you again for letting us experience Aria vicariously through your exploits. I just made my reservations for mid-Jan. It also sounds like the Vegas blogger community is becoming something of a tight-knit group and gaining some much deserved mainstream respect.

December 19, 2009 11:07 PM Posted by motoman

hail2skins, a month ago I sent photos of the digging up of the former porte cochere and the beginnings of the interior construction wall (just steel 2x4s at that point). Now, the interior wall is solid and blocks out the entire former entrance atrium from the High Limit lounge to Switch, and inwards to the corridor alongside the casino. Switch was temporarily closed. Outside, the digging continues to the very edges of the property, and the outer wall of Switch looked to be preparing for demolition (the paint was gone), and the depressions for the pools were apparently beginning to take shape. (Just my unprofessional observations.)

December 19, 2009 11:28 PM Posted by motoman

Correction: I see Hunter tweeted an exterior photo of Switch Beach Club, and I was mistaken about the exterior wall. Either I was thinking of the remains of the former entrance doors or it was the glare of the mercury vapor work lights against the wall after dark, making it look bare.

December 20, 2009 6:41 AM Posted by detroit1051

Parchedearth's comment on CityCenter's construction sent me searching for the RJ's interactive guide. It is one of the RJ's better efforts, imo.

December 20, 2009 10:51 AM Posted by Hunter

I'm sure they did the normal foundation process by creating massive footings. This says 60-100 feet deep. Without that, these buildings would fall over.

December 20, 2009 11:24 AM Posted by Hunter

A few more shots of Encore's Beach Club construction were added to this set:

December 20, 2009 1:43 PM Posted by parchedearth

Thanks Hunter for that construction link. Sounds like they sunk down pretty deep footings, but essentially started the basement service floors at the original ground level. I just thought it was an interesting comparison to Cosmo where they dug a 50+ ft deep pit for underground parking on 3 sides of Jockey Club. Apparently, they went so deep it is below water level and they run pumps to keep the lower parking levels from flooding. Obviously Cosmo didn't have room for a separate parking structure, but Echelon did and they still dug a huge foundation pit (some of which you can still see).

December 20, 2009 3:05 PM Posted by charlie

HH - glad you had a great week, and congrats on the well deserved recognition. Of course, we are all interested in your Aria Trip #1 thoughts and perspectives; and compares/contrasts to Wynn/Encore. Based on my review from the sidelines, here are my Top 5 thoughts/questions:
1. Wynn (not so much Encore), is unique in the amount of indoor/outdoor dining space. It appears from the photos/videos, that you can look outside, but not BE outside at Aria. Thoughts?
2. The shear scale of Aria appears to be something never experienced before. How does this compare to Wynn/Encore's goal of intimacy? Or is the "intimacy" goal just an excuse for building something the scale of Aria?
3. Is the Aria pool deck going to be way to small for 4004 rooms?
4. With The Deuce and multiple high limit rooms, I really like the Aria's concept of "casinos inside of a casino" (which I think I commented way back when Wynn failed to do). Does this create multiple casino "experiences" in a single resort? Quick Q? - what were the table limits at the Deuce?
5. What designs/concepts at Aria would Wynn utilize in Cotai that he has previously yet to incorporate?

December 20, 2009 3:09 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah, I have a lot of writing to do. Lots of ideas of different pieces to hammer out based on the past weeks experiences.

Without getting into all of your questions right here (I'll cover a lot of this stuff), you're right about the inside/outside dining/usable spaces.

As for Deuce table limits, IIRC, $25/hand with only 21 tables in there, no other games.

December 20, 2009 5:09 PM Posted by charlie

Thanks HH!

OK my 6 - 10 quickly.

6. The posted policies at Crystals completely the wrong idea. Hey teen punks welcome, just don't skateboard and stay past curfew (good luck enforcing). But those who just had a big run at the tables, and want to drop 1,000 or 10,000 or 100k on some clothes and jewelry (or need forgiveness for staying through dinner), are not welcome with their celebratory champagne or drink in hand. BIG MISTAKE.
7. If Crystals/Aria/MO even have personal shoppers, are they going to make you slam your wine at Gucci, before heading over to Louis V? IMO, Crystals = No Fun Zone
8. Does Crystals seem too far separated, either physically or emotionally, from Aria to where you are having dinner at "the mall"? If so, impending failure for Beso and the other restaurants there.
9. MO, great property, but got the worst of the locations - should have been located where Harmon is.
10. It seems the sum of the 5 individual parts is LESS than the quality of the individual components. They don't seem to work together to create a unified visual or emotional experience. Its like they carved up the 67 acres into lots A, B, C, D, E and F and let the individual starchitects do their thing. For example, why don't the Veer towers lean toward each other, especially if they were on opposite sides of "park blvd" - they would create a gateway of sorts into city center. Why doesn't the concept of Crystals serve as the glue/connection that integrates each of the towers together. And with all that space, why just one location to throw the dice. Even a small casino, in line with the "theme" of the hotel would be fun.

December 20, 2009 7:39 PM Posted by mike_ch

Restaurants in malls work if there's something to drive you out there. The two biggest examples are Puck's Spago at Caesars and Tao at Venetian.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the two restaurants in Crystals are a Puck restaurant (treehouses) and a restaurant with a nightclub built in like Tao (Beso.)

MO has a pretty good location. It's right near transportation, right near CVS (CityCenter seems to be really lacking for general stores, and the CVS tends to charge less than casino-owned ones do). You can step outside and walk the street, there's no "maze" to wander through, nor is your hotel set so far back from the street that you first have to meander past the Giant Driveway each and every time you want to go in or out of your hotel (like you do at Aria, Bellagio, Venetian, Wynn, and ESPECIALLY Caesars.)

That's one of the things that CityCenter disappointed me with. They can talk about Manhattanization all they want, but they still put the hotel well far back into the property as has been done since before multi-level garages when fields and fields of cars used to sit in front of these buildings. It's like they still haven't escaped the 1950's mindset in certain respect.

Cosmo may actually do a better job of making a high-density, pedestrian friendly space because it has such a smaller footprint to work with.

Making gateway arches and such would make rather difficult. You'd have to space the Veer towers apart and as a result one would be resting were Harmon blvd is now. Keep in mind that Harmon runs right through the middle of the site and will finally be open to traffic from one side to the other for many years (even before CityCenter, a Bellagio employee lot split Harmon into eastside and westside.)

In a way, they're sort of giving the city back another thoroughfare to get from the east to west side of town, which is useful (especially for locals, since Harmon isn't connected to 15 at all so you don't have the increased traffic of tourists getting on and off the freeway that you do on Flamingo and Tropicana).

December 23, 2009 4:20 AM Posted by detroit1051

LV Sun's "Definitive Guide" to CityCenter has great panorama views of the lobbies of each property:

December 23, 2009 10:55 AM Posted by MattK

I finally had a chance to visit CityCenter this weekend and I thought I'd share some impressions. Entering the driveway from northbound LV Blvd, and seeing the signage, my first thought was - am I going to arrivals or departures? I spoke to a friend later and she told me she had the same airport vibe at that moment. I guess with a property this big those kinds of comparisons are inevitable, and the directions to Aria self park were easy enough to follow. I would add however that a lot of drivers were entering, reading the signs, and then making last second course corrections, resulting in the typical lane-changing confusion you sometimes get in the Bellagio driveway. Anyway, I parked and made my way to Aria, stopping first to stroll around the porte cochere. It is, simply, tremendous. The size of everything - the driveway, the surrounding environment, the buildings, - it packed a wallop. It's one thing to see these buildings under construction from a distance but another to be standing among them. Other porte cocheres are pretty, or charming, or handsome, or adjectives in that general vein. CityCenter's is stunning - and it introduced me to the "theme" that I now realize CityCenter has, and that theme is bigness. It didn't feel like Las Vegas at all. It felt metropolitan. I don't know if that's good or bad, but it made me want to go inside and see everything else.

I won't comment on everything, but I'll throw in a few observations. The casino - unexceptional. It's like the MGM with the contrast turned down. The casino bars are interesting, although I will bet anyone that those fake tree trunks won't be around long. They look like something left over from the set of Lord of the Rings. The only thing really unique about the casino that I could see was the extent to which baccarat was segregated. I walked through the bacarrat room and went back to have a look at the high limit salons behind it. The corridor is funky and interesting, but the salons are packed in quite closely like Venetian and are not very interesting. Wynn really did it the right way with salons that have windows that look out over the pool - they're light and airy. If I'm a whale, why would I play in an Aria salon that looks like some sort of back-of-house lounge? (Maybe Aria has an international gaming room upstairs somewhere that I don't know about).

I was surprised at how small the sportsbook was. I tried to imagine how packed it would get on a big game day, and I didn't think it would be pretty. My friend and I ate at the Skybox cafe right there. I ordered a burger and thought it was fantastic. My friend's sliders also got a thumbs up. Service was problematic with 2 errors on the order, but I was in no mood to complain. Opening jitters and all that.

Similarly I had service problems in the poker room, where I sat down to play a few hands. The brush and the supervisors were not running a tight ship. The lists were not being attended to. Seats sat open and players weren't being called. Once I got in a game, I had few problems, other than spotty waitress service. For poker players out there, the room offers no bonuses right now - no high hands, bad beats, anything of that kind. Though they do have the normal $1/hour comp. No dedicated bathroom either, which was a disappointment.

I'll stop here. I saw so much and yet I only explored a fraction of the full property. Having worked for another large Vegas development project, I appreciate many of the challenges of people flow and logistics that you get at a mega-property like CityCenter. I think what they've done is a huge accomplishment and I look forward to experiencing the rest of it.

December 23, 2009 10:57 AM Posted by SouthLooper

Could we get some field reports on the following?
1. How's the gaming action? Traditionally loose for the openning, or tight as a drum to pay off the debt?
2. How's the chick situation? They letting "local" girls wander around? Club scene any good?
3. How's the general level of difficulty getting a table at the restaurants? Mobbed or at the ready?
4. What's the sense of how busy it will be over Xmas? New Years? Sold out?
Thanks, and Merry Christmas.

December 27, 2009 5:34 PM Posted by detroit1051

A friend went to Aria today and posted his thoughts on a Yahoo message board:

December 27, 2009 6:30 PM Posted by detroit1051

I'm trying to figure out Aria's pricing. I selected an air/hotel package on Aria's website, one person for three nights and air from FLL. Tues-Fri in Jan, Feb and March. I then priced the same packages from Bellagio. MGM uses Southwest Air for all their packages. In the three examples, Aria was 20%, 17% and 12% less than Bellagio.
Jan: Bellagio $897, Aria $712
Feb: Bellagio $865, Aria $715
Mar: Bellagio $858, Aria $753.
Is that because it will take some time for Aria to build up reservation momentum or what?

December 27, 2009 8:02 PM Posted by detroit1051

The Washington Post reviews CityCenter's architecture in a lengthy article. It's somewhat cynical and condescending, but it gives a different perspective than one finds in Las Vegas media coverage.

December 28, 2009 12:02 PM Posted by Doug

I checked the 'package deals' for March at Orbitz, Expedia, Alaska Air Vacations and US Air Vacations - Bellagio is higher priced than Wynn, Encore and Aria at all four of them.