Think back to 2005 in Las Vegas.
This is when the main building blocks that are now Encore were being fleshed out. At that time, 10,000 hotel rooms were planned for the New Frontier and Stardust sites. This would make the planned Strip porte-cochere a very important part of arrivals at Encore.
Or so everyone thought...
Quick link to my complete set of 120 photos:
Also, my buddy Steve was long on the tour too and his take is here.
The rest of my write-up follows after the jump...
Fast-forward to December 2008 - Encore opens to whatever fanfare an economically crippled city can muster. Despite a global economic crisis, Wynn Resorts throws a lavish party to welcome their newest resort into the world... a resort that includes a beautiful atrium to greet their new Strip visitors... only, there aren't any, at least not from that direction. With the Plaza and Echelon sites dormant, most guests enter via Wynn Las Vegas or at one of the two hotel arrival areas along a new private drive. Despite beautiful landscaping and warm light streaming through a mesh canopy, that side of the building felt somewhat dead - certainly not part of the original concept. What was designed as a grand statement of arrival goes mostly unused.
Even the most aggressive Wynn haters will admit that the company owns its design mistakes and instead of sitting on them, wipes the slate clean and re-builds, sometimes at great expense. This would end up being one of those times.
Writing off $13 million associated with the existing structure (just months old), they design a $69 million amenity to take its place - the Encore Beach Club, opened this past Friday. I'm happy to say that this 'plan B' looks to be a great success.
When the Beach Club was announced, hardcore Encore-lovers bemoaned the loss of the atrium and also worried about heavy foot traffic in an area that includes two high-end restaurants (Switch and Sinatra), a high limit gaming area and the Tower Suites guest lobby. In a nutshell, no one wanted to see something Rehab-esque descend into Wynn's well curated cocoon of luxury.
Walking the property around 1am on the last night of 'play days' (a sort of trial run for employees), the west side of Encore was alive - very, very alive.
Encore 2.0 includes the outdoor Beach Club, a new indoor club called Surrender (fairly intimate at 5,000 square feet, sitting in the former atrium space) as well as a new entrance plaza on Las Vegas Blvd - a transformed former emergency exit between restaurants Switch and Society. Natural light fans will be thrilled to learn that Switch's new glass wall lets even more light into the casino than before.
On the dining front, Sinatra is untouched, still nestled away in its private corner. Society Cafe Encore, which features late night eats, now has a large cut out that overlooks the new entrance. Perhaps most transformed is Switch, where one entire wall is replaced with glass overlooking the new pool. I personally found the original incarnation a bit on the hokey side - these changes make Switch feel like an entirely new experience both for dinner or their new limited lunch menu served outdoors. Cabanas and Bungalows can order food from Switch while other Beach Club patrons have access to a new outdoor grill.
To help mitigate traffic problems in front of the Wynn self-park garage, a new walking bridge has been installed between Encore's updated arrival plaza and the second level of the garage. Currently few signs guide the way, meaning that some folks have yet to figure out how convenient it is. Over the course of a day or so, I parked here twice - it's a very fast way in and out of hotel, even if you don't care about the Beach Club at all.
During the day, Encore Beach Club accepts patrons from the new Strip entrance, keeping the casino clear of the long lines and some of the other flow problems some feared. With an outdoor capacity of about 2,200 persons, managing this correctly is critical. In the evening, guests enter Surrender through the casino and can either exit that same way or out on to the Strip.
The Beach Club is open to the public - you don't have to be a hotel guest. Entrance is typically $40 for men and $30 for women, though prices will vary for special events. Beyond that, cabanas and the eight super-deluxe bungalows start at $750 and go up from there... way way up. The top-end of the Beach Club is not for the feint of wallet.
What do you get for your big bucks? Large, private quarters with LCD TVs, misters, fans, Strip balconies, opulent bathrooms and of course great service. One current omission - there's no WiFi, something I hope they'll consider adding in the future.
Personally, beach clubs and swimming pools are not amenities that excite me in the slightest - I doubt I'll be a regular patron of this facility. That said, it's extremely well done, correcting what turned out to be an Encore design flaw - a distinct lack of va-va-voom down on that end of the property.
Wynn Resorts has posted video on their YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/WynnResort