This is a photo of Treasure Island's lagoon, taken before they repainted the high-rise exterior and removed the original sign. This is a great example of a themed hotel done right.
The exterior has been substantially modified since then.
Categories: Casino Design, Casino Design Photo of the Week, Las Vegas Photography, Las Vegas Strip, MGM Resorts International
Past tense, it was done right. Now we get to play cowgirls (Gilley's shot girls) and pirate wenches (at least until Ruffin announces his planned changes for the Sirens). This lagoon has actually held up pretty well over the years, despite all the changes at the property. The best viewing for the pirate show is in the Palazzo on the balconies at Lavos and Morel's.
Yeah well, MGM F*ed that up good and fast.
I dunno. I've never really been a TI fan. It's like "the hotel that Steve Wynn never should have really built". His style was never hokey-dokey theme park, but he rushed into Treasure Island to go after the families opting for Circus Circus' new "theme park casinos" (Excalibur, and later Luxor). And honestly, I think this is why TI was troubled from the start. It was essentially created with dissociative disorder as a higher-class carpet joint still trying to be "family-friendly" and "affordable". MGM Mirage couldn't really fix it when they tried hipping it up from 2003-2008, and it's yet to be seen if Phil Ruffin can fix it by "takin' it Country" now.
Why would you say troubled? As far as I can recall, it's always made money.
A lot of the themed detail has been removed but there used to be all sorts of cool little touches.
Some things, like the pool, suck.
It's not a luxury hotel, it's something else. Something else done creatively.
Steve Wynn actually used to draw comparisons between himself and Disney a lot before his ego ballooned with Bellagio and he began focusing exclusively on the $75,000+ crowd.
TI is okay, taken in context with Mirage next door. I like both since they showed that Steve Wynn hotels don't have to be massively pretentious. Which is what everything he makes comes out as now.
"Why would you say troubled?"
Because it seems it wasn't the long-term formula for success. Of course, Treasure Island made money in the '90s. It was incredibly easy to make money on The Strip in the '90s. But as the millennium turned, The Palms was born, and The Strip (once again) became "The ADULT Playground", TI wasn't as popular and MGM Mirage felt the need to do some kind of "shakeup" to bring back the tourists.
"It's not a luxury hotel"
But Steve Wynn opened it as such, and it's managed to win the AAA Four Diamond Award since. However, this may change with Phil Ruffin at the helm. We shall see.
"Steve Wynn actually used to draw comparisons between himself and Disney a lot before his ego ballooned with Bellagio and he began focusing exclusively on the $75,000+ crowd."
And he then thought, along with the rest of the big casino operators then, that "family friendly theme parks" were the way to go. Ever since the mid '90s, I've heard rumors of Disney itself being interested in land to build a "Disney World Las Vegas". Even as recent as last weekend, a relative was saying she heard the rumor at work... But the rumor never proves to be true, as Disney realized long ago that Las Vegas does NOT work as the "family friendly destination" that the two Orange Counties (California and Florida) have built their reputations on.
That's why Steve Wynn started abandoning the "family friendly theme park" concept in Bellagio, and everyone else soon followed when the next wave of casinos dropped the "theme park" to either focus on high-end luxury and/or party, party, party (adult style).
MGM updated the resort but it was always making money. It made even more afterwards.
On an ROI basis, I'd bet TI is up there with Monte Carlo as one of the best on The Strip over it's lifetime.
I guess you and I have a different idea of luxury. 4 diamond is not it in my mind.
I've stayed at TI at least ten times. Troubled is the last thing I'd call it, despite its flaws.
If you have some numbers, please cite them.
"If you have some numbers, please cite them."
I'm looking through the MGM Mirage annual statements now. If I made a mistake in describing TI's financials, I apologize. It's just been my understanding that weaker profits led MGM Mirage to redo TI in 2003 to de-theme it and redo it as more adult entertainment centered.
"I guess you and I have a different idea of luxury. 4 diamond is not it in my mind."
Well, TI has never been top-notch a la Bellagio or Wynn... But it had always been a few notches above other "theme park casinos" like Luxor and NYNY. And swankier properties like MGM Grand (main hotel) and Mandalay Bay also fall in the 4 Diamond category.
"...swankier properties like MGM Grand (main hotel) ..."
Swankier? You gotta be kidding. TI was far superior to MGM Grand when Steve Wynn owned it and probably still is. It started to go downhill when MGM bought it and "whitewashed" the pirate village and changed some of the good restaurants.
atdleft: Wynn never supported "family friendly theme parks", he largely had little involvement in TI and left a large amount of it to Roger Thomas. And even Thomas looks back at the original incarnation as not really his best work.
But still, I was talking about things like this:
"It was Walt Disney, I think, that really sort of summarized and produced, as an example, his own little world, and in it, things were in the literary, romantic sense, better than they were in the real world. (...) "I never meant to attract children. What we did do, and we should do, is realize that families often travel together, and, therefore, the hotel should be user-friendly to everybody. But, in terms of my pitch, my goal is for you — I'm looking for parents — not children."
But really, Disney's property in Florida still has locations where children really aren't welcome, although they're more hidden since they closed down their clubs in 2007.
My point wasn't to defend Disney here, though I do believe you can have a casino with a whimsical, surrealist architectural thematic without making people think there should be a roller coaster somewhere if you do it well. When I go to Bellagio, for pure visual style the old tuscan design stuff knocks the pants off the WHHSH-era Light Group managed trendybar low-slung chair dark woods crap. Circus and NYNY have ruined your impressions, I think.
Detroit: I think atd is looking at things through foodie-coloured glasses. Taking out the gourmet room for two trendy establishments (nightclub, which has been an also-ran; and the Asian-Fusion place which is another Light managed room) knocked the place's luxury quotient down a peg, and then Ruffin removed the fine dining element of Francesco's Italian and turned it into a Pizzeria in Wynn's old fine dining room, before removing it entirely and reusing the same name in a very pizzeria like room so that the old Francesco's space could be used for Gilley's Warehouse-- I mean, bar. Gilley's isn't really swank either. I haven't tried the steakhouse but the decor looks like it probably hasn't seen much change since opening.
Meanwhile, at MGM Grand, the back mall area had a bunch of nice if otherwise unremarkable dining rooms added (you never hear the noise about Seablue as you do Mina's Bellagio place) and of course Joel Robuchon is basically the biggest meal ticket in town. So atd's opinions might be a bit tilted in that direction.
In other respects, TI is still better than MGM Grand. It's standard rooms blow MGM's 13 year old rooms away, and although I think it's really weird that the renovated spa (done for his wife, the previous spa was only 18 months old or so) is charging as much as the Wynn/Encore spa for routine things, Ruffin claims he brought in all sorts of practitioners of obscure foreign rituals or something. In all other regards but food, I'd prefer TI.
Well, I'm coming to town next week to tour the Encore Beach Club and I picked TI for my quick overnight, mostly because I got the room for $50.
I haven't stayed at TI for probably about five years but before that, I was a regular. It will be interesting to contrast.
"Well, I'm coming to town next week to tour the Encore Beach Club and I picked TI for my quick overnight, mostly because I got the room for $50."
Good pick. And I mean it. Of all the parts of TI, the hotel is the best... Especially with the renovation done just before MGM Mirage sold it to Phil Ruffin. Just because I'm not that big of a fan of the overall package doesn't mean I'd entirely rule out staying there... Or at least refer it to others looking for a good bargain. I almost sent a relative there when she was looking for a cheap-but-still-nice hotel.
"I think atd is looking at things through foodie-coloured glasses."
Well, I wouldn't put it that way... But I must admit I enjoy eating the finer things in life. And what does TI have? At this point, nada.
"It's standard rooms blow MGM's 13 year old rooms away"
True, but as I've been saying over at VT's Board, one doesn't really go to MGM for the standard rooms. My fave so far has to be the Signature suites, especially a one bedroom with the separate bedroom and jacuzzi tub in the master bath!
"and of course Joel Robuchon is basically the biggest meal ticket in town"
And for good reason! At the very least, everyone needs to try L'Atelier some time soon. And of course, I can hardly wait until the next time I'm at The Mansion... And I can actually do one of the full tasting menus! YUM!
"Wynn never supported 'family friendly theme parks', he largely had little involvement in TI and left a large amount of it to Roger Thomas. And even Thomas looks back at the original incarnation as not really his best work."
And this goes back to my original point. I guess this is what I was really thinking about when I made my comment about TI being troubled and having dissociative disorder. Neither Steve Wynn nor Roger Thomas really put his heart into TI because they weren't into the "theme park casino" that Circus Circus mastered with Excalibur and Luxor v.1993. Mirage Resorts was after the "middle class family" demographic that Circus Circus had cornered, and Treasure Island v.1993 was their "weapon of choice" to really break into that market.
Perhaps to an extent, Bellagio was Wynn's and Thomas' attempt to return to their strength by toning down the cheesy themes, and trying for something more tasteful and less Chucky Cheese. And no matter what Wynn said in the '90s, the fact of the matter is that he and all the other big Vegas players were marketing Las Vegas as "family friendly" and they were marketing TI and MGM Grand and NYNY as "theme parks" where the kids would have something to do while the parents gamble.
"When I go to Bellagio, for pure visual style the old tuscan design stuff knocks the pants off the WHHSH-era Light Group managed trendybar low-slung chair dark woods crap."
Well, that's your opinion. And that's totally fine. Your opinion is just as valid as mine. I just feel more comfortable at a casino that isn't pretending to be some place else.
When I step into Wynn and Encore, it feels like a place where Steve Wynn and Roger Thomas finally had the full freedom to create a unique and luxurious experience. When I step into Aria, it feels like a cool and jazzy place that is really its own place. I even feel very comfortable at Mandalay Bay, as I think Circus Circus/Mandalay Resort Group saw where Steve Wynn was starting to go with Bellagio and taking it further in dropping the heavy theming to instead just provide a classy resort that doesn't have to pretend to be something else (save for perhaps the wave pool/"beach").
I think Phil Ruffin gets it:
An employee brought him a menu from the hotel’s new Gilley’s, which would open that weekend. He made a notation with a look of irritability and sent it back.
“They wanted a menu with no prices. That’s no good. They need to show prices.”
The substance of the meeting was that gambling at TI is not bringing in as much income as he’d like; he wanted to know what minor tweaks they could recommend for gaming tables.
He said there were places like the Bellagio, just up the Strip, that cater to what Ruffin called “whales,” high-end gamblers.
“That’s not what we’re about,” he said.
How could they attract more middle-class clientele?
As with the menu, he was detailed; he asked whether they could attract more visitors by offering “pirate weddings” on his pirate ship, where the TI puts on an explosive sea battledance-fireworks show every night.
“There are places in town where they make a million in revenue just from offering weddings. We are not anywhere near that. Could we offer something cute, like pirate weddings, you know, give them pirate hats?” Ruffin asked.
Mike_ch, thanks for the Ruffin interview. He has the ability to analyze and question all issues, both large and small. More like Wynn than Murren in that respect.
Atdleft, I probably shouldn't comment since I haven't been to Aria, but everything I've read, seen and heard about Aria leads me to conclude it's a cold, unwelcoming place for many people. You obviously have a different opinion. Imo, the market will make the final judgment within a year, and it won't be positive.
I miss the old Treasure Island whether Wynn felt it was his best or not. The people liked it. Theme done right, AAA 4 diamond and yet completely middle class, now it seems like every other joint out there appealing to the drunk youth. Typical loud music to draw the Affliction t-shirt crowd. People that love to blow their paychecks on booze and girls. And as Brian so aptly put it, MGM "f'd it good and fast". Mr. Ruffin are you listening???
I don't understand why billionaire owners in their 60's and 70's are in the trend of turning over the vision of their casinos to 20 somethings with a marketing degree that don't have a clue. All I know is the pool of places I go to gets smaller and smaller every year. Back in the day, you looked forward to hitting every place on the Strip, now you stay away from more than you go to.
"but everything I've read, seen and heard about Aria leads me to conclude it's a cold, unwelcoming place for many people"
I know Aria didn't give a good first impression with the lack of cell signals, the constant electronic malfunctions, and initial service hiccups... But so far, they seem to be fixing these problems. And when it comes to the pure design, I really enjoy it. It may be "The Anti-Wynncore" with its cool minimalist feel, but I appreciate it. Not everything has to be "over-the-top maximalist" like Wynncore, and not everything has to be heavily themed to death.
And it seems as time goes by, CityCenter is starting to find its own audience. Remember when Steve Friess was shocked to learn how his husband's sister and her husband were in love with Aria and Vdara? And the RateVegas reviews for Aria and TripAdvisor for Aria seem to be looking better these days. Still, I'll have to save up some $$ soon and try one of the rooms/suites to get a fuller picture for myself. I'm really curious as to whether the tech glitches are all gone in the hotel.
Atdleft, I read these two stories on Dave Hickey before I saw your reply. Interesting.
"If CityCenter was the right answer: “No. It’s no fun. They’re going to have fix one of the hotels before then. But maybe not. This is Jim Murren’s taste, and Jim’s a lot younger than I am. And maybe this is the face of the future and maybe I’m really wrong.”
Phil said it better than I could, and I sure agree with him:
"...the pool of places I go to gets smaller and smaller every year. Back in the day, you looked forward to hitting every place on the Strip, now you stay away from more than you go to."
Part of it is age, at least on my part. I want Wynn, Bellagio or GVR and have no interest in many of the other joints. However, the operators realize there are more dollars and bodies in the Gen X & Y groups and even Boomers than in older groups.
Well, I can't sugar-coat it. It will be a major loss for us. Libby Lumpkin & Dave Hickey really tried to "up the ante" on our art scene. And while I'm not as dour as Hickey is (after all, who expected a flourishing Arts District in DOWNTOWN??!!), I can understand why he's throwing in the towel.
Still, I do suspect his negative experience at UNLV is affecting his view on CityCenter. In many ways, it's what he and Lumpkin have been calling for years. MGM Mirage, and especially Jim Murren, took a major risk in doing CityCenter the way they did. It could have easily been designed with another hokey-dokey theme a la what The Plaza (on The Strip) and Harrod's of Las Vegas were to become (before the recession killed those plans). But instead they hired our generation's top architects, designers, and artists to take it in a new direction that's now bringing high art and hip design to the masses.
"the operators realize there are more dollars and bodies in the Gen X & Y groups and even Boomers than in older groups"
OK, now we can bring the conversation back to TI. That's what MGM Mirage was eyeing in 2003. The Palms & HRH first showed how lucrative the younger jet set/party scene can be. And while those two are now facing some hard times, it seems The Strip properties are now trying to use this formula to get back into the black. The first set of "day club pools" (Bare at Mirage, Moorea at Mandalay, & Tao at Venetian) were big hits, and now everyone else is trying to cash in as well. This summer will be a test of just how lucrative all the "Camp Vegas day club pools" will be.
So bringing it all back to TI, it will also be interesting to see what Phil Ruffin will ultimately do with it. It seems the dissociative disorder continues with Gilley's and Mystere at the same casino, and I've talked at length before about the downscaling of amenities & upscaling of prices. We'll have to see what Ruffin ultimately does to finally make TI one cohesive hotel-casino.
Detroit: I think Aria is quite alright once you get in there, but I told you over email how it's a challenge to get in there.
The other factor is the noise. I saw/read somewhere around here that Aria has background noise speakers and automatically cranks up the sound system if people are talking loudly. Which just causes people to talk louder.
Not that I can't also help but wonder the safety concerns of something like that. I have a visual of a fire happening, and people running through the casino screaming that there's a fire and the computer trying to squelch them out with loud music.
Alright, since I know the links will work, here's my bazillion links.
Since atdleft was going on about what I consider to be modestly/acceptably themed casinos as "theme parks" and "themed to death," I was searching Flickr for shots of the REAL old "theme park casinos" to establish a difference between, say, early Excalibur and modern day Paris.
And then, I hit it, a motherload of pictures. Mike Brister, a Cirque show tech, has been working in Vegas for a very long time. Since 1993. Not sure how he does it, since five years here has me packing my bags and driven me bonkers. He has quite a lot of of the old cheesy era of themed Vegas in his Flickr account. Here's a rundown of some photos/galleries with notes from myself on what's most interesting.
Photo: TI Arcade
This rather random choices of shots might reveal just how much Roger Thomas or somebody at Mirage Resorts was lifting from Disney. The lady in the window is somewhat similar to the lady in the window in this Pirates of the Caribbean scene.
Photo: TI Carpet
Had to mention this one for Dave S, given his interest in casino flooring. It seems this old pattern is still around in places where most people will never look.
Gallery: MGM Grand Adventures
MGM Grand Adventures was a full[ish] sized theme park in the backyard of MGM Grand where Signature condo towers are now. A number of simple buildings are still standing and can be seen here, even further north of Signature because golly gee whiz MGM Grand has a big footprint.
Fun Fact: This park was so bad, Disney sued Kerkorian over it. Well, sort of. KirKer had given Disney the go-ahead to use the MGM Studio's name and lion logo on a theme park in Orlando, with a ride featuring scenes from Wizard of Oz and other non-Disney movies. Disney alleged that Kerkorian was trying to sink Disney's MGM park by making another one, causing confusion and generally devaluing their product.
Parts of this collection have been seen on Flickr before, like the Emerald City model (currently Centrifuge) and the Good/Evil witches on the lobby podium (presently occupied by a gold lion.) What has largely been lost to history was the park itself, which is pretty well documented here. From the entrance patio to the streetmosphere and man-made lake (huh, didn't know about that last one.) Reaching into some of the more unusual corners of MGM culture for content, this park had a Three Stooges show? Er, wow. Also, the description on this photo of Bumper Cars says they did not actually bump. Lame. As is often the case whenever a theme park employee posts pictures to Flickr, you can expect behind the scene shots as well.
Casino-minded fans will enjoy this map of the property as The Way Things Were. Can you imagine if CityCenter opened with a room called "The Flying Monkey Bar?" Which is now the next thing I will be scouring the internet to find a picture of. Other notable things is that the Crazy Horse Paris theatre is a lounge, a lot of other spaces in the casino became Ultralounges, and The Mansion hasn't arrived yet so the space is occupied with a pool complex and (a Kerkorian staple) tennis courts. The most telling sign of the times is that the convention space consists of one large ballroom near the Arena, and that's it. More old park space was claimed the other year for meeting rooms.
Photo: Excalibur's 5th anniversary slot tourney
Uhhhh... Yeah. Pretty self-explanatory. I'm actually a little surprised that there's no Merlin here. Maybe my memory is failing, but I seem to remember Excalibur also had a jester character, too.
So anyway, I think I've reached a sort of reasonable conclusion about themes and how something like the Treasure Island village isn't really overdoing it. I'd say from 1999-2002 or so TI had a pretty good mix of fantasy atmosphere without going off into the absurd with roller coasters and daily parades in the casino. Some people are really drawn in by the designs but you don't want the more resistant people in the crowd to be scared off by overwhelming them with the feeling of a total carnival inside.
I'm not sure what we have now, a subtle pirate-cowboy casino, and a castle/pyramid with props that you aren't allowed to take pictures of, is really a vast improvement over some of the more absurd stuff above. There was a sweet spot there, and I feel at most hotels (with a few exceptions like Paris and Bellagio and maybe Caesars) the pendulum passed over and is now on the other side.
"Since atdleft was going on about what I consider to be modestly/acceptably themed casinos as "theme parks" and "themed to death,""
And for me, Paris and Venetian are themed to death. They're pretending to be something they're not. At least Bellagio isn't as egregious an offender (though it still feels a bit like a museum at times), and Caesars is so goofball with its blend of Old Vegas & New Vegas that it's actually grown on me in a weird way.
Now these '90s theme parks... This is evidence of what I was saying earlier about the Vegas casinos pursuing the "middle class family" sector that regularly takes trips to the two Orange Counties (California and Florida). And that's what all the heavy theming was really all about. The kids wanted somewhere fun, and the parents wanted somewhere for the kids to have fun while they gambled. But ultimately, the formula didn't work. I couldn't ever imagine Disneyland with a casino.
And by the early 2000s, attitudes were changing. The Strip was becoming "adults only" again. Mandalay Resort Group was already starting the de-theming with Luxor v.1996 and Mandalay Bay. The Palms didn't even go with any type of theme park, opting for a "hip party palace" vibe instead. And after initially flirting with Vegas in the '90s, the family set ultimately stuck with the two Orange Counties while MTV's "Real World: Las Vegas" (FINALLY) made Vegas look attractive to younger crowds.
MGM Mirage was just following the lead in redoing TI starting in 2003, and they were hoping to piggyback on the success of Palms by toning down the "Pirates of the Caribbean" vibe and instead trying to hip it up. We'll have to see how Phil Ruffin ultimately reconciles Mirage Resorts' conflicting theme park/nice resort of 1993, MGM Mirage's attempt at party palace of 2003, and what he wants to do with it today.
I would actually mark Real World as the down point. That pretty much was the opening shot in $400/night rooms, "bottle service", specialty suites, and the resort industry basically overplaying it's hand. That even the Tropicana pool is now promising to have beautiful people everywhere and well-heeled patrons paying more money to be somewhere in their vicinity proves that the resorts still some times don't get it.
Again, to me the perfect period was 1999-2003, AFTER the Luxor and MGM and so on decided to stop making their hotels look like a giant county fair. There's nothing wrong with a casino trying to be something it's not, so long as the effect is heartwarming and not appalling, and you're smiling and not groaning or rolling your eyes or feeling ripped off.
Being different is cool. Being TOO different is offensive. Bellagio is different while still remaining in the realm of cool, and that's why it wows so many people. On the other hand, NYNY, you need to have a much bigger tolerance for it. I might still think it's cool while Hunter laughs and you try to avoid it altogether. But nobody takes pictures of the parts of Bellagio that look like every other hotel on the road.
atd, are you just extremely sensitive to themed buildings or something? Maybe being from the Oranges makes you rebel against that stuff? I absolutely hated small towns when moving to Vegas in 2005 because I was long tired of living with more cows than people. There's an appreciation for a certain level of this kind of stuff for most people to some degree. Even Fear & Loathing noted the surrealism of Circus, and neither Circus nor Thompson were interested in kids running around anywhere at the time.
If you were dragged to Disneyland a million more times than you ever wanted to go, maybe that would explain why you seem to think Venetian (which practically turns into a plain beige box in it's casino, disappointing given the promise of it's exterior) or Bellagio is too much for you. But I think if they did what you wanted, they'd look exactly like Bally's and Monte Carlo (the two most staid, boring hotels that I can think of on the strip) and many people would be very disappointed.
Mike_ch, great info on MGM Grand. I first went there in January, 1994. The high limit slot room was on the wall toward Tropicana, and the slot reps would bring out freshly baked, warm chocolate chip cookies. Nice, but weird. Baccarat was where high limit slots are now. I attended a lot of slot tournaments at MGM in the mid-1990's, and they were held on the Tropicana wall near the Monkey Bar with cocktail receptions held out in the theme park. The floor plan shows how much has changed. Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe was over rated and didn't last too long. Dragon Court was so-so, and I don't remember Sir Reginald's Steakhouse. It must have been changed to Hollywood Brown Derby early on. Now, that was a place I liked.
Remember when someone stole Toto the dog from Emerald City and sent photos of it from all over the world?
MGM Grand offered one free night to all shareholders who attended the 1994 Annual Meeting. Naturally, I went.
TI's original carpet was great. Who but Steve Wynn/Roger Thomas would have thought of it? And, it was complemented by the "bones" chandeliers. Wish I had taken some photos.
Wow. The bones chandeliers cost $400,000 each and that was in 1993.
Who else thinks Mirage and TI's casinos were made way too dark once MGM renovated them? From what I hear and see, the same is true at Aria.
"atd, are you just extremely sensitive to themed buildings or something? Maybe being from the Oranges makes you rebel against that stuff?"
Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!
Seriously, you don't want to know how many times I went to Disneyland as a kid. It eventually got old, and by my teen years I was over it. And honestly, it may have been a factor in me ultimately moving here. I liked the concept of Vegas being more of an "adult playground".
"I would actually mark Real World as the down point. That pretty much was the opening shot in $400/night rooms, "bottle service", specialty suites, and the resort industry basically overplaying it's hand."
Au contraire. Again, that's your opinion and that's fine. Yours is just as valid as all the rest of ours. Bellagio was the start of a turning point, one that accelerated with Mandalay Bay and Palms. Instead of pretending to be something else, the new casinos were becoming their own unique destinations offering things like great restaurants and fun nightclubs instead of theme parks and video arcades meant to make parents feel OK about abandoning their kids to play video poker.
"Even Fear & Loathing noted the surrealism of Circus, and neither Circus nor Thompson were interested in kids running around anywhere at the time."
And Circus Circus was heading straight toward bankruptcy then. It was Bill Bennett that saved it, and he turned it around by downscaling it and making it "kid friendly". And btw, this goes back to my original point about Treasure Island. By trying to put it in the "best of both worlds" as an upscale resort and a theme park marketing to families with kids, it had a weird dissociative disorder... And to be fair, it only worsened when TI kept many of those original elements while also trying to go in a different direction as a party palace. It seems TI has had an identity crisis since its birth, and I'm waiting to see how Phil Ruffin solves it.
"But I think if they did what you wanted, they'd look exactly like Bally's and Monte Carlo (the two most staid, boring hotels that I can think of on the strip) and many people would be very disappointed"
But that's not what my ideal. I talk about this more in my diary (and btw, thanks to you, Detroit, and Hunter for the inspiration). Wynn Las Vegas doesn't need a heavy hokey theme to be original. Neither does Aria. In fact, what I appreciate about both of them is that they're their own icons rather than copies of something else. They don't need gimmicks to keep the kids happy, so instead they can focus on keeping us happy.
And remember, I'm not the only one who feels this way. There are many more tourists looking for a different kind of Vegas experience, and that's where Wynncore and CityCenter fit in.
"The bones chandeliers cost $400,000 each and that was in 1993."
I have a feeling Phil Ruffin won't be bothering with $400k chandeliers any time soon. It really will be interesting to see what he does with TI. I'm still wondering what he will ultimately do to make it one cohesive property.
Well, I'm not above my own bit of snobbery. I've been saying that Mandarin can and does knock loopy these big, town-sized casino hotels for the really sophisticated upper crust. Wynn, Bellagio, Caesars etc are all more or less managed by the laws fo the gambling industry, not the luxury resort industry. And while they may have huuuUUUUUUUUUUuuuuuuuge suites because guests will be playing so much in the casino that it's cost per square foot isn't a problem (or the room will be hosting heads of state, which is a bonus just the same), the reality is that the experience and service of these casino tycoons with thousands of employees are a tier below these select, global hotel brands that put up one location in 8-20 of the world's leading cities and compete for the most expensive clients.
And don't give me Four Seasons. Four Seasons is about as ubiquitous as a Doubletree to the crowd I'm talking about.
But not every hotel can be those places. Luxor is a lot like Bally's, but wrapped up in a fun bow. Take away what makes Paris unique and it's basically Monte Carlo.
I find today's stuff to be INCREDIBLY same-y and the amount of homogenization going on between the era of mergers and acquisitions ("Modern Generic Moderne") and the outside operators (Light, Pure, etc) has made every hotel so similar to one another that there's very little reason to leave whatever hotel you're staying at unless you can't afford it. I'm not even addressing that most of those offerings are aimed at confident young single people, either, which leaves out a lot of folks.
I'm the exact opposite of you, I dislike almost all "adult" activities, though until the past few years the resorts mostly kept it pretty classy and left all the Sex Money at the Hard Rock and sometimes the Palms. There's room for that kind of thing here, but there's a certain intangible charm to the funny buildings as well and it has made them money. Because you've heard people say "let's go to Paris" but not "well, it looks like Paris, but I guess I'll go in anyway."
Maybe you had friends who used to work at D-Land, maybe you didn't, but you're probably aware that there's no cartoons and fun house stuff in the employee areas deliberately because people who work there are on overload of sugary Disney happiness when they work there. That's how I feel about the Sex Sells stuff that Vegas is heading toward now. I don't mind it being somewhere, but it rapidly is becoming everywhere. And I blame all the mergers for the lack of creativity, since we basically have only four big companies on the Strip these days and between Pure, Light, Tao, and Whoever Wynn Has, one operator who only has one idea can club up as much as half the Strip with identical looking places.
Cripes. Now I sound just like John H's VT post about the pools, that I actually disagreed with.
"Maybe you had friends who used to work at D-Land"
"but you're probably aware that there's no cartoons and fun house stuff in the employee areas deliberately because people who work there are on overload of sugary Disney happiness when they work there"
Really? I'm sure some feel that way, but the friends I had worked for Disney precisely because they were all into it. Seriously, there were times when I was ready to go on an angry rampage after just hearing them go on and on about the kiddie kiddie fun fun at Disneyland.
"the reality is that the experience and service of these casino tycoons with thousands of employees are a tier below these select, global hotel brands that put up one location in 8-20 of the world's leading cities and compete for the most expensive clients."
Well, it isn't really a fair competition. A giant megaresort just can't compete against a real boutique hotel in terms of personalized service. However, one could argue that Wynn & Encore Tower Suites is the uber-exclusive "hotel within a hotel" at Wynncore that offers the kind of exceptional service we're talking about. But yes, Wynn Tower Suites & Mandarin Oriental are a VERY select group of uber-high-end superior service hotels that can stand with the other best hotels in the world.
Still, I must say that I encountered great service at my recent stay at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. I was concerned over past complaints, but the service probably exceeded what I would typically expect at a W or Omni or other high-end hotel chain.
"I find today's stuff to be INCREDIBLY same-y"
Perhaps Aria is quite similar to what one would typically expect for a big New York or San Francisco hotel, but it's entirely new for Vegas (other than perhaps The M Resort swiping many of its ideas to use them first here in Henderson). And just how many other hotel-casinos can fit into the same category as Wynn & Encore?
Just because a hotel incorporates contemporary design doesn't mean it has to be "same-y". Aria's art makes it unique. Mandalay Bay's "hip, urbane, but still comfy beach vibe" makes it unique. The Mirage's incredible history and "remix" of the original Steve Wynn/Roger Thomas design with postmodern touches make it unique.
And I guess TI's odd blend of kitsch, class, and *** make it unique? :-p
"I dislike almost all "adult" activities"
I guess we are polar opposites here. I really don't mind. I'm actually quite prudish most of the time with my personal life, but I don't mind people doing what they want on The Strip. For me, that IS the charm of The Strip: We're all free to do whatever we want, whether that means playing thousands of dollars per hand at the blackjack tables, doing a seven course menu at Guy Savoy, or getting one's freak on at the pool party during the day to warm up for the big Kardashian bash at Pure that night.
And in the end, sex does sell. We'll have to see how well it works this summer with "Camp Vegas" (and funny enough, one of the new ads is on Food Network now). I doubt Steve Wynn would have decided to build Encore Beach Club if he didn't see how well the other "pool day clubs" were doing and wanted a piece of the action for himself.
"but there's a certain intangible charm to the funny buildings as well and it has made them money. Because you've heard people say 'let's go to Paris' but not 'well, it looks like Paris, but I guess I'll go in anyway.'"
Actually, most of my friends back in OC have sneered at me over much of The Strip being "commercialized cartoonish copies of world landmarks". Again, these are the folks that are likely to become more comfortable with Vegas when they see the likes of Wynncore and CityCenter. Not everyone is into kitsch. That's what Wynn and Thomas realized over the years, and what Murren tapped into when conceptualizing CityCenter.
This is officially the best thread ever.
"This is officially the best thread ever."
Ha! And I was starting to get concerned over Mike, Detroit, and moi taking this SO O/T. I'm glad our argument going in so many different directions is putting a smile on your face. :-)
And maybe we can all do a tweetup at TI some time Memorial Day Weekend to continue the debate of TI's design merits?
I'd love to but I'll have to pass. I'm swooping in and out for a meeting and this EBC tour, about 12 hours of Vegas goodness.
Wow! 12 hours total? Try to fit in some time for Vegas fun. Will we be getting a TI review? It would be interesting to see how the last MGM Mirage room renovations are holding up under Ruffin.
Maybe a TI review, we'll have to see. I have a mostly finished Trop review too. Could even turn into a compare and contrast piece, since they're shooting for some of the same people.
Atdleft, can you really call the addition of a tattoo parlor, frozen yogurt stand, and Terry Fator postmodern touches to the Mirage's Steve Wynn/Roger Thomas design? I'll give you the fact that Tihany's Kokomo's resulted in a dramatic shift from times past, but poll almost any individual who experienced that venue before and after the changes and you'll find almost each and every one of them pining for the return of a lush rainforest and acceptable service. If anything, this remixing with the Love Theatre, the Baccarat Lounge--I'll admit, it's one of the few designs that I think has improved Mirage--BLT Burger, and the Art of Music Store have given Mirage the same dissociative identity disorder that you so decry at TI.
John H: Actually, Monte Carlo now also has an Art Of Music store. I wouldn't be shocked if one showed up in Mandalay Place or near the entrance (since Jack Gallery moved) since it seems like MGM buys tenants in packs.
I would say Rhumbar adds postmodern touches, and the Cravings buffet, but that's about it. I'm not going to waste my time talking about the postmodern design of California Pizza Kitchen or one of five Sugar Factory locations on that street alone.
atd: I've had friends who pishawed the Strip. They usually live in big cities like New York (one regularly goes to Atlantic City, how THAT satisfies him I'll never know) and Toronto. And CityCenter maybe appeals to them, it appeals to me. Except for the Crystals, which is loaded up once again with that pretention I've come to expect from Wynn (but hey, I hear Brasserie PUCK is good.)
I don't think the "Real World" or anything else really sparked the whole "Club-ization" of Vegas in particular, (Ok, Palms proved it could work)... it's really more of a widespread trend that began in the early 2000s and accelerated with the easy money days of the real estate and credit bubble. Mostly, I think it was driven by a population trend that saw a large wave of middle class raised - baby boomer children enter their 20's the last decade. Not to mention the downfall of genres like rock and country and the dominance of hip hop and r&b in pop culture and entertainment in general. I don't have numbers to throw around, but that's the general impression I get. Here in Minneapolis, between 2003-2008 we saw a huge expansion of trendy nightlife offerings, in what before was a town of mostly glorified sports bars and dingy music venues. From what I can tell, "upscale nightlife" has boomed all over the country. Vegas is really a reflection of trends in the hospitality and travel industry... and as we've been arguing on this board... the "family" days of Vegas were quite reflective of the overall travel and leisure trends at the time. And in turn, as the kids have grown up and the family vacation isn't as ubiquitous as it once once... Vegas has come to reflect the current trends of adult indiscretions and drunk horny college kids.
Mr. Hunter, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write your Trop review. I'll continue to wait (im)patiently if you combine it with a TI piece.
TI is unique in having Gilley's and a 5-Star spa, although I suspect this award is rather self-serving:
Unrelated to TI specifically, but tied in with ooo000's comments on demographic groups and population trends is the challenge facing slot manufacturers:
"The bottom line is that Baby Boomers, the demographic sweet spot for spending in the casino, aren’t going to live forever and when they start dying..."
That's sort of sobering since I don't even qualify as a Baby Boomer :), but the point is every generation is very adaptable to change and creates new ways to remain relevant. The issue which may slow down some of these changes is the ecxonomy.
"Mike_ch, thanks for the Ruffin interview. He has the ability to analyze and question all issues, both large and small. More like Wynn than Murren in that respect."
"We'll have to see what Ruffin ultimately does to finally make TI one cohesive hotel-casino."
Are we all talking about the same Phil Ruffin here? Comparisons to either Wynn or Murren?? Ruffin is a nickel-and-dime businessman. He buys low and sells high and has shown no vision or originality. He barely kept up the Frontier. Him putting Gilleys into TI tells you all you need to know.
SUPER RARE VIDEO FOOTAGE OF THE MGM GRAND IN '95!!
Hail, I don't know if Mirage or TI were necessarily "made darker" after MGM took over, though I find myself in a love/hate relationship with dark casinos. When they're packed, the vibe is amazing, but empty they're downright depressing. As for brighter casinos, I can't pinpoint why I'm a fan of some and not others. Not too crazy about Bellagio for some reason, but love gambling at Encore.
I guess now is as good of time as ever to confess that I've always absolutely despised TI's casino. I have this theory that when Wynn realized the higher amounts of revenue being generated under the low hanging tiki canopies of The Mirage, he decided he'd build TI with entire ceilings at the same height as Mirage's canopies. It's rather claustrophobic and I feel like I can't even take a full breath of air in there.
I just read the entire thread, so let me throw out some random thoughts.
i think there are a bunch of "Rose Colored Glasses" in use on this thread.
I think Steve Wynn wanted to be in the family business when he created Treasure Island. The hour he bought on NBC for the Prime-Time special "Treasure Island, The Adventure Continues" reflects this.
I don't think Roger Thomas was as much of a "lead" designer when TI was built as he is now. So, I don't think he is in line for most of the credit/blame for the TI design.
Terry Fator in the Mirage is better than Danny Gans was, I have seen them both in the same room, and I don't think the comparison is even close.
Las Vegas is more than a So-Cal weekend destination. In fact, I think the vast majority of visitors aren't from there and don't have the Disney fixation that seems prevalent on this thread.
These Casinos are money making enterprises, not icons. Change is a constant.
I can't believe I spent an hour of my life on this thread, except for the fact that I LOVE it!!!
The figures I've seen indicate that roughly 30% of Las Vegas visitors are from Southern California each year, the largest feeder market by far.
hail2skins, you are 1000% correct, they are way dark and seem darker now than they did back when TI opened. I’m 24 years old and have been to Vegas for every hotel opening on the strip since I was there for TI back in 1993. That said I may not remember correctly but TI seemed more light in color, both in and outside. As far as City Center, I felt it was dark and uninviting. In addition the inside looks the same as many of the other casinos out there. You could stick someone in the casinos of, Monte Carlo, Aria, Mirage, TI, and MGM Grand and feel as though you are in the same place!! Unlike Bellagio, Wynn, and Encore where you feel as though you have gone from resort to resort.
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