Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

June 6, 2011

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #023: Examining CityCenter

Posted by Hunter

CityCenter has now been open for about 18 months.

This time around, Jeff looks at how things are going for MGM with their gigantic project.

While CityCenter was being built I was conflicted about its design and prospects. I thought the project looked very cool but questioned whether its design would appeal to Las Vegas visitors. I wondered whether the money that could be made on condominium sales justified the long-term loss of control over the project footprint that would accompany thousands of property owners.

CityCenter has now been open almost a year-and-a-half and I'd like to use this column to reassess the Strip's biggest project.

First, let's take a look at the elements that MGM Mirage (now MGM Resorts International) decided to include in CityCenter: A resort casino (Aria), a condo-hotel (Vdara), two boutique hotels that were also to have condominiums (Mandarin Oriental and Harmon), two condominium buildings (Veer Towers) and an upscale retail center (Crystals).

A casino resort was an obvious keystone for the project and MGM decided to build a big one, Aria, which opened with more than 4,000 rooms. Aria's room rates have been below those of its primary competitors, but the property will be around for a long time and other resorts (Venetian and Palms come to mind) were able to significantly ramp up room rates within a couple of years after opening. Reviews have been mixed for Aria's dining options and tilted negative toward its show, "Viva Elvis." The property has a big and well-designed parking garage, although entry and exit is more confusing than competing garages at Bellagio, Wynn and Encore. In total, I think Aria is a beautiful resort and I love its lobby and its art. I also like its rooms, interiors and casino and believe the public's appreciation of Aria will increase, especially once weaker elements are improved or replaced.

MGM decided to bet big on retail, building a big and architecturally dramatic center and giving Crystals its premier location in the heart of its Strip frontage. (I'll address the decision to place Crystals in its spot on the Strip later.) Although most of the retail leasing took place after the economy plunged into recession, MGM Resorts successfully landed many of the world's most prestigious brands. Many critics seem to take delight in slamming the lack of foot traffic in Crystals, but I'm not sure that is such a bad thing. The Forum Shops, Grand Canal Shoppes, Fashion Show and Via Bellagio all have lots of foot traffic, but those retail hubs have different uses and/or store mixes. As long as Crystals retailers are happy with the amount and quality of prospective customers they are getting -- and that's my understanding -- then it's tough to criticize MGM for its focus on upscale retail.

Building separate boutique hotels and a condo-hotel was a questionable decision, I believe. Mandalay Bay had its Four Seasons hotel-within-a-hotel from the start and added its THE hotel tower, but both are part of the same resort footprint. The Mandarin Oriental, Vdara and, if it had been completed, Harmon, are separate hotels (more like the Signature towers at MGM Grand or Palms Place) and I think MGM Resorts overestimated the public's desire to come to Las Vegas to stay at non-casino hotels. Connecting those hotel properties closely to Aria would have been a better move. Indoor and outdoor easy access to the main resort's features would have been a better decision, as far as I'm concerned.

CityCenter's residential components have clearly failed. The billions of dollars MGM spent to build the Veer Towers, Vdara and the top half of Mandarin Oriental will likely take many years to recoup. Sales of Vdara's condo-hotel units (condominium units that would have been owned by unit buyers but rented to Vdara visitors, similar to the way MGM Grand Signature units are owned and rented) were so anemic that MGM Resorts decided to treat Vdara as a non-gaming hotel. The company may eventually decide to sell Vdara units. The Harmon, obviously, was the biggest catastrophe, and it will probably take years before MGM Resorts collects -- if it does -- on its lawsuit against Perini Building Co. over the Harmon's construction failures.

The decision to build condominiums was a mistake, I believe. I remember writing before ground was broken on CityCenter, Fontainebleau and Echelon that I thought Bill Boyd was making a wise decision not to build condominiums at Echelon. Steve Wynn told me back then that condos took away a developer's control over the property footprint, reminding me that Las Vegas resorts are eventually imploded to make way for new ones. Boyd explained his decision by saying that he just wasn't convinced there were that many affluent people who wanted to own a residence on the Strip. I think Boyd and Wynn were right and that Terry Lanni, Jim Murren, Glenn Schaeffer, George Maloof and Sheldon Adelson were wrong to bet on condominium development, and doubly wrong given their bad timing.

That said, I like the Mandarin Oriental brand and I believe adding a scaled down MO closer to Aria would have been a good decision. The same goes for the Harmon. A small boutique hotel run by the Light Group could have been a positive feature if it were connected more closely to Aria. As for Vdara, I've long questioned the whole condo-hotel idea. The concept has always seemed like a con game, suckering unit buyers into thinking that room demand would be strong enough to generate sufficient room revenue and unit appreciation to make the purchases a good investment. I always thought that some people might like to live in a Strip condo and maybe more would like a unit as a second or third home. But I never could figure out why people would want to buy a condo-hotel unit to have a resort company rent out to others. The hotel company would always have more incentive to rent out its own rooms. So, in my opinion, building Vdara was a terrible mistake. (Buying a Vdara unit would be an even bigger mistake.)

As for CityCenter's location, I think it is a great one. The line of resorts stretching from Mirage to Aria (with Caesars Palace, Bellagio and Cosmopolitan the meat in the sandwich) is only matched by the Encore to Venetian wall (with Wynn and Palazzo at its heart). While CityCenter does not have direct access to an Interstate 15 exit road, it has direct access to the west of I-15, by way of Harmon Avenue.

Now that I've evaluated CityCenter's components and location, let's take a look at its design.

CityCenter's architecture is the most controversial element of the project. I loved the way it looked as it was being built and I love the way most of it looks now, but I have long questioned (way before it opened) whether its sophisticated architecture was the kind of architecture likely to capture the attention of Las Vegas visitors. Aria, I think, has a cool look that would be more impressive if it stood alone rather than surrounded by so many other towers. Mandarin Oriental, Vdara and the Veer Towers are also interesting buildings that I think are great additions to our city, but they not only surround Aria -- a problem for the project's financial dynamo -- but they are the kind of modern buildings one might find in any major city. People come to Las Vegas as an escape, and if they come for architecture it is for our whimsical buildings, not to appreciate urban modernism.

The Harmon has a cool, blue look that might have been a plus for the project but its dead, half-finished state is obviously a major blight on the project now, as it sits on the Stripfront corner of the project closest to the city's high-end competition. The Harmon disaster added to CityCenter's design problem, devastating the project's streetscape. CityCenter's Strip frontage would have looked much cooler had Harmon been fully built, with Mandarin Oriental and Harmon, two hybrid condominium-hotels, framing the dramatic Crystals retail plaza.

Personally, I believe Crystals is a beautiful structure. Too many journalists have been tossing the word "iconic" around lately -- Sahara? Tropicana? Give me a break -- but Crystals' architecture is beautiful day and night. I think the look of Crystals is iconic and the big question is whether its stunning appearance is valuable enough to offset MGM's questionable decision to place Aria at the rear of its CityCenter footprint. As I've had time to consider Crystals and MGM's decision to place it front and center, I've come to acknowledge one advantage to placing the retail center and its dramatic architecture where it is: The power of its brands. For Las Vegas visitors surveying the Strip, it is hard to underestimate the look and power of the Crystals retailers. Each of the stores are big and the brands facing Las Vegas Boulevard send a clear message about the mall and the entire development: Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton and Prada. I think the Stripfront brand and store placement impress international visitors in particular.

That said, no other resort gives such prominent placement to its retailers. Even the horribly designed Planet Hollywood (which opened as Aladdin v.2), which surrounded most of its casino with retail and made self-parkers walk by a couple of football fields worth of stores to get to its casino, gave most of its Stripfront to its casino (albeit elevated to a height forbidding to passersby). And there's a reason why most modern developers don't hide the casino resort behind a wall of retail -- the retail is an amenity, the casino and hotel are the centerpiece, the reasons for being. Some resorts -- even the newest ones -- still underestimate the core importance of the casino, emphasizing the hotel and its food and beverage offerings (cough, Cosmo, cough Venetian/Palazzo) but no one hides both the casino and hotel behind retail. So, while I love the Crystals stunning architecture, brilliant interior design and unmatched brand power, I believe the trade-off in hiding Aria was too great. Aria should have been on the Strip, perhaps with part of the Crystals and one of the boutique hotels.

Finally, I'm going to briefly address one of CityCenter's biggest problems, its financing and cost. Some of the aforementioned problems led to CityCenter's incredible $9 billion price tag. Skipping the building of Vdara and the Veer Towers and removing the condominium elements from the Mandarin Oriental and Harmon would have cut much of the cost. The remaining elements, a couple of boutique hotels and Crystals closely attached to the Aria resort, with the resort given the prime Stripfront location, might have cost more than a third less to build.

Thankfully for MGM the company was able to get Dubai World to buy half of the project (even more, really, when you consider that DW bought almost 10 percent of MGM Resorts stock). MGM had to fight some of its financiers (and Dubai World) to fulfill their commitments to finish building, and has steadily written down the value of the project since its opening in 2009.

Because of the drag from its residential component and continuing weakness in the U.S. economy it is hard to envision CityCenter being much of a positive for MGM Resorts in the near future. As I've written before, perhaps MGM can use CityCenter's lagging performance and Dubai World's impatience to entice the Gulf State's investment vehicle to make a second bad decision and sell its stake while times are bad. Then MGM could take double-sucker advantage of the Middle Eastern rubes: Sell CityCenter to them high and buy it back low. P.T Barnum would be proud.

-- Jeff Simpson, June 2011


Read archived comments (13 so far)
June 6, 2011 5:50 PM Posted by detroit1051

A Vegas friend says it's ridiculous that you can't get into CityCenter (or Cosmopolitan) from the west side of town without being forced to get on the Strip to enter from the east. Further, he doesn't understand how such a major project could have been approved without direct access from I-15. Didn't Clark County do any traffic analysis before CC was built, or does MGM carry such weight, it can do what it wants?

June 6, 2011 6:48 PM Posted by BigHoss

Good analysis. I think you are dead-on in your assertion about the residential failure(s). Those may yet be the company's undoing. You just can't write your way out of a drag like that, especially when the economy is still sputtering.

June 6, 2011 7:45 PM Posted by parchedearth

I am pretty much in agreement, but what do they need to do going forward?
1. Aria is a pretty nice property that should be able to turn a profit especially now that much of the debt has been written off. Revamping Elvis and adding another upstairs music venue would help a lot. MO and Crystals have the potential to support themselves over the long run and just need a few changes.
2. The Harmon needs to be resolved before CC can ever reach its potential. It needs to be a strip gateway to compete w/ the excitement of Cosmo. I am not sure it could have ever done that even as it was intended, so MGM must concentrate its efforts on whatever replaces it.
3. Veer and Vdara are lost causes but would always have been pass-through properties for most visitors. They could be shuttered and most tourists would never even know. MGM just needs to accept that Vdara will be overflow for Aria and Bellagio; and Veer might do alright as apartment rentals.
4. Although Harmon crosses over the 15 it only connects through back streets to the south. They need to build a bridge over the train tracks to provide access to the Rio and Palms.

June 6, 2011 8:07 PM Posted by sbpewsaw

While I generally like CityCenter, I do too often get the impression that I am at an airport (especially towards the North Valet area near Haze). I am perplexed by MGM's building placement. The entire Mandarin property is a total waste of prime strip frontage. I personally would like to see some more active uses going into the strip-frontage to generate some pedestrian activity. I think that a cafe with outdoor patio dining, a box office for MGM Resort hotels, a coffee shop (even a starbucks) would be better than the art galleries and shuttered up bakery that they have now that generate little to no interest.

Connections between each of CityCenter's (and Bellagio) developments could also be better. Walking from Bellagio to Vdara (2 higher end resorts) one is often greeted by the whiff of garbage and the view of various pipes and AC units - not exactly high end views.

June 6, 2011 11:10 PM Posted by mungroo

Great analysis, Jeff. I agree with most of what you have written. I recently stayed at the MO and there were some head-scratching design decisions on how it connected with Aria. The comparison between Mandalay Bay/The Hotel and Aria/MO is an interesting one. The design of the former is so much more intelligent and practical.

One item you did not cover is that ridiculous, useless Bellagio-MC tram. I cannot see that being a worthwhile expenditure for MGM.

Anyway, I like Aria itself (now that they have increased the lighting levels) and I don't find its location within CC (and distance from the Strip) to be too big a deal. But one cannot evaluate Aria in isolation. When you factor in the cost of the entire project, the Harmon fiasco and the Veer debacle, you have to wonder WTF they were thinking.

June 7, 2011 6:30 AM Posted by mike_ch

When CityCenter was about to open, Jeff was the only guy on the Vegas Gang who seemed as into it as I did. I could sense a small amount of the enthusiasm that I felt, as I had capped off about three years of complaining about the city's lack of urban design or planning, and so to see the kind of aesthetic and higher density land use that we're unaccustomed to seeing in the nation's third worst sprawl (I'd give Houston and Phoenix the edge) made the project just seem really neat to a local.

Thing is, and this I feel is important to the land use discussion that also involves the casino's placement, is that a a large amount of that land is dedicated to parking garages.

CityCenter *started* with a parking garage. The very first piece of construction was the employee/valet garage shared by Bellagio and Vdara, which opened to replace the Bellagio employee lot that previously sat there. Then a second garage was added by Monte Carlo for the public. All the while, two underground garages were built at Palazzo and Cosmo and though they seem too cramped to some visitors and have some odd angles, a lot of visitors have been impressed by the ability to set off a garage elevator and immediately into the property.

Cosmo, for what it's worth, bought a lot west on Harmon between the freeway and the train tracks. I think if Murren really wanted to really transform how Las Vegas lives, works, and plays; MGM would bought a few empty or undeveloped tracts around the city's most populous neighbourhoods to be lit employee lots, with a guard, a shuttle to the property, and time-stamped ticketing (so managers can see when employees arrive at the lot if the shuttle is caught in traffic.) It could have stopped at Bellagio's employee entrance while CityCenter was being built, eventually adding a CC stop somewhere centrally located, most likely the rear Harmon roundabout, either top or bottom level depending on Haze usage. Maybe even a Monte Carlo/NYNY one later somewhere in the proximity of the current CC temporary buildings, if the idea works out and they get more spaces.

You don't have to run shuttles at high frequency all day long because the casinos know when their shift changes occur (as anyone who has been in line outside the Bellagio buffet has seen) and when the shuttle demand will be high. Employees at these properties might be skeptical at first but will realize that they're not having to drive in and out of the Strip, which locals find a pain (especially the ones from the northwest that have to deal with the spaghetti bowl interchange.)

It's not cheap, but some coach buses and a few grocery store sized lots around town outside the big HOA developments has to have been less money wasted in 2005 than all that land between LVB and Sinatra Drive that was invested in parking. You could have placed a smaller garage with the same amount of valet and customer spaces, put it fully or only partially underground, and put something on the top of it.

I talked about this on Twitter once and it was sort of dismissed as a pipe dream that wouldn't work out because Strip employees are just too used to driving to the resort in rush hour traffic every day. I'm sure it'd be put down at first, but so long as nobody gets punished for attendance on account of the shuttle being in traffic (which happens at the Disneys frequently, thus the mechanical timestamp) I think it would eventually be considered a perk for working at the company's mid-Strip properties, as a lot of gas is spent on commuting in this city and taking your vehicle to the Strip is a bit of a gamble in and of itself in terms of how many times you can do it without a dent.

I suspect if they had done this, they would be the only property/company to have been able to pull it off. The types of residents who obsess over the politics of their homeowners association would eventually pitch a fit to the assorted government collective that land outsize their covenant is being used for aesthetically unpleasing parking lots. Even though I'd prefer a lit, 24hr guarded garage over some people I live by. But they're also about the only properties that really need it, as Harrah's has a huge amount of land behind their hotels that they can't seem to find a use for and the southern MGM properties includes a bunch of space Mandalay Resort Group never got around to developing.

June 7, 2011 7:21 PM Posted by Jeff Simpson

detroit 1051: I'm sure MGM officials would have loved an I-15 exit for Harmon leading right to the north valet of Aria and Vdara. I don't know why one wasn't built but my off-the-cuff guesses would be:
1. Too difficult to add an exit between Tropicana and Flamingo exits without interfering with those already busy freeway entrances and exits.
2. A major west-of-15 expansion would have had to be made to Harmon, disrupting existing property owners.

If I remember correctly Clark County planners long ago agreed to Harmon extension cutting through the parcel (during the Wynn/Mirage Resorts era, at his behest I think). I'm sure they (Clark County and maybe the state) did traffic analysis on the impact of adding CityCenter and Cosmopolitan (and even the PH Westgate Tower); I haven't paid close enough attention to their findings and decisions to comment.

parchedearth raises some interesting questions about how CityCenter can improve going forward. Certainly increasing and improving entertainment options is one tried and true method (see: Venetian). As for the half-finished and dormant Harmon Hotel, the result of the MGM/Perini lawsuits and MGM Resorts' financial position will be crucial, but clearly something needs to be done with the property's northeast corner -- CityCenter's doorstep to the Strip. Completing/retrofitting or rebuilding the original Harmon seems unlikely. I need to think about this some more and talk to some smart folks in the business to come up with some informed ideas about what could be done with the corner if MGM decides not to stick with the Harmon.
Veer condos and the condos left in Mandarin should be sold as quickly as they can without a fire sale. They'll provide steady, slow cash flow if done right. I agree that MGM should give up on Vdara as a condo-hotel, but the company should invest enough to make the tower a hotel with reasonable hotel amenities -- not just a convenience store.
Clark Co. should definitely improve the street connections on the west-of-I-15 section of Harmon, improving its access to Tropicana Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

sbpewsaw, I love your idea about an MGM Resorts box office, at least as a place holder, as a way to energize the MO Stripfront. As for the pedestrian walkways between Bellagio and Vdara and between all of the CityCenter components, they should be improved. Pedestrians should clearly not be walking by exposed HVAC systems and catching whiffs of garbage.

mungroo, I must confess I've never ridden on the modern version of the tram (MC-Aria-Bellagio). I have ridden the old MC-Bellagio tram several times. Back when the monorail was being built I used to discuss the west side of the Strip's "Poor Man's Monorail," with the Mandalay Mile's Mandalay Bay to Luxor to Excalibur leg, the Monte Carlo to Bellagio tram, and then the Mirage to Treasure Island tram.
I don't mind trams. I don't think they solve Strip traffic crowding at all but I do think they can be a hot/rainy/cold weather solution for some small number of weary pedestrians.

mike_ch, I appreciate your thought-provoking comments about parking and wasting valuable Strip property on parking garages and especially employee parking garages.
First, the easiest issue. Underground garages like those at Palazzo and Cosmopolitan are awesome (presuming there are no ingress/egress issues like I've heard about at Cosmo at busy times). The concept is undeniably great for guests but they are incredibly expensive to dig and build. (Only two horribly space constrained projects have done them so far.) If Strip land prices get back to New Frontier/Plaza-sale levels at some point in the future we may see more underground garages. I don't think developers see the value of the underground garage being worth the cost -- yet -- unless they don't have the space.

I think it would take a forward-looking company to promote satellite employee parking far away from the Strip, but I don't think it is a crazy idea at all. Cosmo (and formerly Venetian before its deal with Harrah's Las Vegas to pay for a garage on HLV property that both company's employees could use) show that near-Strip satellite parking is already useful for space-constrained properties. I agree with you that redevelopment of smaller-footprint center Strip properties (and escalating land values) could be the impetus for Caesars and maybe MGM Resorts to consider distant satellite parking closer to where employees live. Maybe they could even team up with cooperation from the Regional Transportation Commission and come up with a workable system. It will be tough to do unless employees are required to park in distant lots but that's not an impossibility -- Venetian did it for a couple of years (although the lot wasn't far from the Strip). To me the issue would be less about too many garages and wasting valuable space on employee garages. I don't mind allowing the market to take care of those business decisions. To me it would be more about reducing car trips in and around the Strip, a valuable end in and of itself.
As for building the lots right next to upscale gated communities, that sounds like a funny idea, but I'm sure there are less controversial ways to find space for employee parking/shuttle-bus pickup and dropoff all over the valley.
I think it would come down to a deal among the major operators to require employees to park away from the Strip. I doubt it would happen soon, but I don't think it's impossible in 10-20 years if development and visitation heats up.

June 8, 2011 3:24 AM Posted by Jeff Simpson

I meant to include this in my earlier comments directed to the initial commenters: Thank you very much for reading my column and for your contributions. It really is gratifying to participate is such a thoughtful exchange of ideas. I know I've said and written this before, but the comparison of the comment strings following Hunter's, Dr. Dave's and my columns with the comment strings following Las Vegas newspaper stories and columns is like night and day.
I'm not sure what the newspaper business should do about allowing public comments. I guess allowing them encourages more page views and drives reader engagement, but I'm sort of old school and resent when there is a bunch of foolishness or worse tacked onto something I wrote. Maybe the answer is better moderation, but that's labor-intensive and stifles expression, anathema to the First Amendment-reliant media. I, personally, would advocate for a newspaper to operate a message board with separate headings for each days' news stories, keeping the comments off of the stories, columns and editorials. Readers who want to comment (or to read comments) could have a click-through to the separate page and a comment string for that story. There often are valuable and insightful comments that follow stories and I've occasionally had story ideas and follow-up ideas from newspaper comments. Comment strings as they exist allow the mean, the ignorant and the doctrinaire to hijack the discussion and pollute the whole.
So, again, thanks for the constructive engagement.

June 8, 2011 5:16 AM Posted by jinx

Great analysis Jeff, I agree on so many points. Aria itself is a very nice property, but as you pointed out, it absolutely needed strip frontage.

I still wonder why it wasn't beat up like the Aladdin for it's inaccessibility. Perhaps, it was due to the recession or people trying to buy into Murren's image of the property, either way there definitely seemed to be a lack of outcry from the LV press on the issue in comparison. Although it was not exactly a timeframe that throwing stones would have done Las Vegas any good.

I do think they missed on many of their restaurant choices for Aria and I think it's hurt the complex as a whole, very little buzz for the choices, and definitely a feeling of higher priced offerings repackaged from places we already had on the strip.

I know there is much made of Cosmo's focus on the non-revenue gaming revenue streams of it's resort, but that's a much easier correction then flopping on your restaurants and nightclubs. If anything, I think Cosmo's focus is exactly what they needed to do in that case. Developing their brand through those things, should allow them to attract some of the higher rate players, if even as a 'curiosity'. Without those venues, the property would suffer horribly. If MGM didn't have such a stable of venues for high rollers to be served in, I really wonder how poorly CC would have been performing at this point.

June 8, 2011 6:49 AM Posted by Jeff Simpson

jinx brought up a couple of great points. First, he notes something that I think a lot of folks who participate here have said in varying ways: That MGM Resorts executives have a kind of autopilot when it comes to deciding on new entertainment, F&B and design. Remodeling? Modern. Entertainment? Cirque du Soleil. Dining and clubs? Light Group and the current cast of celebrity chefs.
The company thinks, I'm sure, that it is sticking to proven performers and well-regarded design principles, but there clearly is a backlash among some portion of the public. What I don't know is how big that portion is and whether it will grow exponentially. Intuitively it seems like folks will ventually tire of the same-old things, but -- as I've written before -- it's hard to argue with MGM's reliance on proven money makers/crowd draws like Cirque.
As for Cosmo's emphasis on its non-gaming components, I agree that it was a wise course of action, although (as I've also written) the property needed to and needs to do much more to improve its gaming performance. On the non-gaming side Cosmo has zigged somewhat where MGM Resorts zagged, choosing new-to-Vegas chefs, a couple of new food genres and unique retailers. The club operator isn't new but they seem to have hit a home run for its design and operation, both on the day- and night-sides of the club business. Positioned as Cosmo is amidst MGM Resorts' two most powerful properties, jinx makes the astute point that we should consider Cosmo's decisions in light of its big-brother neighbor. (And maybe future owner, if times get better for MGM?) I dought John Unwin will adopt the new slogan (instead of the right amount of wrong or the choice of the curious class) : Cosmopolitan: MGM's Remora.

June 8, 2011 10:36 PM Posted by Jenn

Great column, Jeff, and I enjoyed your observations on City Center and MGM. There is nothing wrong with individual MGM offerings such as the various Cirque shows, but the problem that I have with the MGM properties is that they have become so incredibly homogenized. All of them have basically the same offerings, albeit in a slightly different package or price point. To me, Cosmopolitan seems like a breath of fresh air for that reason. Please, not another Light Group club, restaurant or another Cirque show. The uniqueness is the draw. You were spot on when you said their execs seems like they are on autopilot. I know that Deutsche Bank will want to sell Cosmo, but I think it would a real shame if it sold to one of the two already-existing conglomerates on the Strip. The fact that Cosmo is so obviously trying to do and be something different is the draw, IMO. Aria is a pretty building but I don't think that most people see any compelling reason to go there - certainly not to experience anything really new. And the fact that it is set so far back from the Strip provides even less incentive.

June 9, 2011 7:34 PM Posted by sbpewsaw

Count me as a member of the public who has grown tired of the homogenization of MGM's casinos. I use to enjoy walking up and down the strip from hotel to hotel to see all the different offerings and themes. Each property seemed to have its own unique environment and feel. Now, I feel no different walking into the Mirage, MGM Grand, NYNY, Luxor, or even Mandalay Bay.

THe only reason MGM haven't lost my business is because they own most of the nicer mid-market resorts on the strip. I agree with Jinx and Jenn with regards to Cosmo being refreshingly different. If their room offerings were priced at Mandalay - Planet Hollywood levels (instead of Wynn, Aria, Venetian rates), I would definitely call Cosmo home.

June 10, 2011 6:32 AM Posted by BigHoss

Jeff, in regard to your comment content comment, I think there's a real difference in what drives readership and comments between sites like this and the newspaper sites. The readers here and VegasTripping have many common interests, fascinations and/or passions. I'm not suggesting that doesn't foster debate and speculation. But it's somehow more civil, polite and informed than what we see on the newspaper sites. It seems like the general tenor of online newspaper commentary tends toward the extreme in political belief, religion, hate speech and so on. More than anything, I think anonymity plays the biggest role in some of that blather. I've called many a writer of a letter for a print edition to confirm their identity, ask a few questions, etc. An online commenter has less accountability. We really struggled with it when we first started the website for a newspaper where I used to work. We all resisted moderation and didn't like the idea of it. But the commentary got so inflammatory, inaccurate, hateful and outlandish that we had to consider the liability side of it. All that stated, I'm not sure what the newspaper industry should do either.