Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

April 19, 2007

MGM Purchases North Strip Land Near Circus Circus

Posted by Hunter

So, that story we posted the other day from VT&T was true! MGM Mirage has indeed purchased the land surrounding Circus Circus to assemble a jumbo parcel that will certainly see re-development sometime in the future.

We previously discussed this here:

Unfortunately I don't have the facility to merge the topics in any sensible way.

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Read archived comments (33 so far)
April 19, 2007 7:27 AM Posted by detroit1051

We have this subject in two places, so I'll link the other one I commented on here:

What does everyone think of the possibility of MGM Mirage buying BYD, then Caesars, and getting control of the entire west side of the Strip? HET on the east side and MGM on the west. Sort of like West Side Story, the Jets and the Sharks. LOL.

April 19, 2007 11:42 AM Posted by mike_ch

Harrah's assumed a boat-load of debt and a number of assets they didn't really want to have in order to get Caesars Palace, so that's unlikely.

Besides, wouldn't You Know Who have to sell his big green X in order to make that vision work? That's not going to happen, unless he dropped the name of the place and the hotel component of PCC got a lot more Grand, if you get my drift. And then HET will buy the old green monster and name it "Gary's Gamblin' Hall and Ultra-saloons."

April 19, 2007 1:27 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Maybe MGM and Harrah's could make a trade...

MGM Grand for CP. :)

Then each would only be on one side of the strip!

April 19, 2007 4:24 PM Posted by dstanley

Are they actually going to keep Circus Circus and not tear it down? I couldn't believe it when I read that in the article. I understand that it said they will renovate it, but still that place is the biggest dump in Las Vegas. That place deserves to be torn down more than the Stardust or any of those others.

April 19, 2007 4:46 PM Posted by John

I'm just glad that the Maxim resort is dead. Honestly, that resort was so flawed from the beginning that it almost deserved to die. On a happier note, I'm really quite excited that we might see a CityCenter NORTH and, when combined with Fontainebleau, the final catalyst that will spur the redeverlopment of the north Strip.

April 19, 2007 7:25 PM Posted by Christian

Gary's Gamblin Hall and Ultra Saloons is a great idea. hah. Because we all love the new signage on Bill's Gambling Hall...right?

Anyway, I used to think MGM was going in the right direction. Don't get me wrong I think there business is a fine greased machine but the difference between a MGM development and a, for instance, Wynn development is the passion. MGM wants to zero in on bringing partners into the new parcel to develop it. They have become too big of a company to really explore their passions, to show direction in the city.

Regardless of his tactics and executive decisions, Steve Wynn will always be in my book as top notch in development. Whether you like it or not he tries so hard to make every nook and cranny in his resorts the way he wants it.

Please show me where that is in any MGM development? PCC has Mandarin Oriental, which will be nice - but its not really MGM's baby. It's their idea - but it seems to stop there (empirically speaking, of course).

I am not trying to disreguard the intense work that is put into their projects, but behind the meat and bones there seems to be no heart.

When they build it people will come. That includes me. But to really better themselves I think the company should take its hands out of so many pots and really search for gold in the ones they have. I can only hope they pace themselves at the rate they are already going.

April 19, 2007 7:28 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Wait until you see what MGM/MIRAGE has planned for that vacant (former old El Rancho) site across from the Sahara. Too bad that [they] don't just implode that p.o.s. Circus since it will give them 100 contiguous acres of Strip frontage. I happen to personally know the family who have privately owned that old Travelodge Strip property for several decades. One cannot image what that tiny slice of land is worth today. FYI -negotiations for the parcel across the Strip from the Sahara + MGM/MIRAGE started long before Sam Nazarian bought the existing Sahara Hotel. Even though my father designed that landmark property, Nazarian apparently has no intention of bringing it down, instead he has signed an exclusive 15 year deal with Philippe Starck (one of the greatest designers on the planet!) to develop interior/exterior designs for all of Nazarian's future properties. Regardless of my own personal connections with the Sahara, it is definitely time for that aging property to become a totally clean slate. Apparently, from what I have been told, Nazarian does not intend to implode it. I am really interested in how Starck will be able to "transform" that property. What has me somewhat baffled however, is the fact that MGM/MIRAGE has decided to retain + upgrade Circus. Why? Also, as I reported here before, the MAXIM deal was destined to failure from day one. Expect MGM/MIRAGE to bring in the same level of architectural excellence as they have have done with CityCenter. It would be really great to see a Richard Meier or SOM designed project for that north Strip parcel. For Christ's sake, MGM/MIRAGE have already retained the best architects out there are with CityCenter, they're now starting to run out of options...

April 19, 2007 7:40 PM Posted by Brian Fey

They won't keep CC. They may possibly keep the Adventure Dome, and incorporate it into the new hotel. They might even keep the old name. But the property is to old, to spread out, and taking up way too much space in its current form. I look for a new CC, a new lower end, affordable property to cater to the mid to low end customer. They will attach several condo towers, etc. I basically look for a more affordable City Center 2. I Circus Circus is stand in 5 years, I'll be very surprised.

April 19, 2007 11:05 PM Posted by mike_ch

IMO it's an injustice that Circus still stands and Stardust is a pile of rubble next door! I don't hate Circus as much as some people do, but it's hardly a place anyone goes to have fun. It's just a cheap room, and usually a scary one.

Keep in mind I don't have any problem with the family image. While I realize the whole Strip isn't a theme park anymore I think Excalibur has far more legs than Circus and can go ahead and officially succeed it already. Not just because the physical building is newer, but because Circuses are usually thought of as pretty grungy to adults and a bit crazy/scary to children.

On the other hand, I don't have to tell you what other destination landmark Excalibur is SUPPOSED (but completely fails) to imitate, right?

But, if MGM replaces Circus with another hoity-toity superluxury palace, they need to start knocking down rates on older resorts like Monte Carlo and those endless standard resort rooms at MGM Grand.

April 20, 2007 4:57 AM Posted by detroit1051

Christian used the words, "passion" and "heart" in comparing Wynn development to that of MGM. Imo, that hits the nail on the head. Most of the 40+ million visitors to Las Vegas each year don't have the casino resort design background that Leonard Stern has or the interest in gaming that we all have. They want to come to Vegas for pleasure or business and experience the city emotionally. They want to "feel good" about their trips. As fascinating as CityCenter is, when the Strip is predominantly a CityCenter, Echelon Place and CityCenter North, what kind of appeal will it offer to typical tourists?

As important as high-end tourists and condo buyers to Las Vegas, will there be a tipping point where the former bread and butter visitors will just stay home? After all, there are casinos within an hour or two of almost everyone in the U.S.

April 20, 2007 5:00 AM Posted by detroit1051

"or the interest in gaming that we all have"
I should have been more clear. I'm talking about our interest in the gaming industry, not just going to casinos to gamble.

April 20, 2007 1:35 PM Posted by jholiiday

Circus Circus is a DUMP. It would be nice to see it redeveloped, but I have to believe it would be cheaper to implode it, and build a new, moderate resort. MGM has to realize that budget minded customers exist, and the luxury hotel market has a ceiling. Look at Disney. They have 3 (well, really more like 4 tiers of properties)
Deluxe (although some of them are kind of Deluxe, and some of them are Super Deluxe)

April 20, 2007 5:01 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

detroit: I beg to differ, don't try + include Echelon in the equation as far as raising the bar for progressive or otherwise 'great design' is concerned. Boyd is expected to release the final design development renderings for Echelon in early summer. However, after CityCenter is launched, EVERYTHING currently existing (+ proposed by Wynn, Ruffin, Boyd) on the Strip will look like nothing more than a high-end Holiday Inn by comparison, the ONLY exception being Fontainebleau which is a definite GO as well + LVT if it indeed moves forward. While CityCenter has now revised its construction budget to $7.4B, don't be surprised if it approaches $8B by the end of 2009. Regardless of what MGM/MIRAGE is currently reporting, Circus is TOAST for absolute certainty! What [you] fail to understand is the fact that there are currently NO properties which even approach the design sophistication of CityCenter + eventually even the "Average Joe" will then have something to compare it to. Don't be fooled that common folk will not respond to this new level of design, it's like eating Kobe Beef for the very first time after only have experienced Chuck Steak...

April 20, 2007 5:33 PM Posted by mike_ch

Although I agree with what you're saying, that's a not a good comparison. While they do have some of their own hotels at Disney, they greatly rely on chain and independently owned hotels outside their property to accommodate all their customers and focus on the entertainment.

Here, the hotels kind of ARE the entertainment.

April 20, 2007 8:36 PM Posted by John

Mike, that really only applies to Disneyland in California. Walt Disney World, on the other hand, has so many of their own hotel rooms that they are having trouble trying to fill them. Part of the reason Disney created the Value hotel category so they could compete with the Holiday Inns in Kissimee. Now, saying that, Disneyland is surrounded by roach motels that do deserve to be torn down. I know that was really off topic, but I just needed to make a point.

April 20, 2007 11:44 PM Posted by mike_ch

Leonard: You seem to easily forget that not everyone can afford to eat kobe beef. Detroit had a point that none of these "progressive" projects are expected to be considered budget-friendly in the slightest. It doesn't matter how far what it looks like or who built it, there's a certain point where people won't buy in.

John: It's still not really valid. In Florida they have to compete with the third-party hotels on International Dr as well as the ones on Hotel Plaza St. Granted, they've tried many times to compete with those hotels, last month they've announced a plan to rent out property just outside the main archway to third-parties in a sort of "can't beat em, so join em" gesture, but we'll see how it unfolds. Nobody's hurting for business on I-Drive, though.

April 21, 2007 7:19 AM Posted by John

True, I did forget about the Four Seasons announcement.

The only question I still have about City Center is the level of interior design. People don't like a casino made of steel and glass. They like a comfortable casino, and I know examples of said casinos have been discussed before. Also, CityCenter Sales Reps are still pushing the fact that natural light will make its way into the casino, being the first casino on the Strip to do so. What about Wynn? The large windows overlooking the Lake of Dreams allow light to flood into the casino, if you are walking down the casino's center walkway. Also, the atrium allows a lot more light as well. Therefore, for MGM to say its the first company to end this tradition of not allowing sunlight into your casino, is almost of flagrant advertising.

Back to my main point, though, the main resort and casino may have an incredible tower that will be a symbol of exterior luxury, but we can't judge a book by its cover, now can we. If the interior is not strikingly beautiful or amazingly comfortable you're going to have a major problem.

April 21, 2007 2:00 PM Posted by Andy S

Really hope that Circus does get torn down, it really deserves to. Will be interesting to see what they propose for this site.

The thing I don't get about CC, is to have valuable strip land taken up by condos and non gaming hotels that are not of much interest to the average visitor. Their main hotel is well back from the strip. Also altough the design may be very cutting edge now, will it be so in the future? The problem with selling appartments is that it will be very difficault to redevelop in the future.

John I also agree with you that they will have to do something good with the interior to make people want to go there.

April 21, 2007 2:11 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

John: How do you come up with this theory that "people don't like a casino made of steel and glass". There has NEVER been any major luxury property built here in the past that even comes close to represent this next evolution of interior + exterior deisgn which CityCenter will offer for the first time to the public. What you refer to as a "comfortable" interior casino/public space design scheme have, in the past, been nothing more than schlocky attempts to continue the traditions of the past, many of my own father's former projects included. Let's just wait until CityCenter is complete + then you can try to explain your obviously unfounded position. Granted, Wynn did incorporate the introduction of 'natural light' features into [his] casino level venues, first in a limited fashion with Mirage + Bellagio + then to a greater degree with WLV. But, despite that "innovation" Wynn's interiors continue to reflect the interior design of nothing more than a high-end whore house as a result of the talent-challenged Roger Thomas! There is no agrument here. I will guarantee you, at any cost if you choose to wager on this, that CityCenter will introduce new interior space design (project-wide) the likes of nothing that have EVER been experienced in Las Vegas history. I simply see no basis supporting the validity of your comment that a super-contemporary (steel + glass) casino cannot break the mold + set a new standard for L.V. architecture + the direction it is now headed towards for future projects!

April 21, 2007 6:38 PM Posted by mike_ch

All this talk of steel and glass makes me imagine the thought of what it would look like to have people gambling in the Fashion Show Mall. Egads, if there was ever a makeover on the Strip to make something even uglier, well, outside of "TI", that would have to be it.

April 21, 2007 8:16 PM Posted by John

Honestly, I can wait and see, but in terms of the interior design for the rooms, will they really be that revolutionary? I mean, look at Vdara, those rooms aren't much different than any other Condo-Hotel units on the Strip. Maybe, MGM can really pull something together for the rooms in the main tower, but as of now outside of the Mandarin Oriental interiors, the unit interiors aren't that spectacular. They're nice, but not anything that you can say, "Holy Jesus Christ, these are the most amazing rooms I have every seen!!"

Now, I know this doesn't translate that well, in terms of the interior design of the public spaces, but as of now we don't have much else to act as a litmus test for the feel of the project.

And now, onto the lenghthiest section of this post.

Leonard, here is the reasoning behind my previous post:
People want to spend their money in an environment in which they feel comfortable. They don't want to be surrounded by cold steel and glass that more closely resembles the Citigroup Intertaional Headquarters than a luxury casino. Wynn may look like the best little whore house in Texas, but I feel comfortable gaming in the resort. I feel comfortable being surrounded by white, red, gold, and chocolate brown linens. I feel comfortable being surrounded by rich marble and vibrant red carpeting. More so, I feel comfortable being in an environment that make me want to spend money. Glass and steel feels cold. Glass and steel is unfeeling. For me, glass and steel is not COMFORTABLE. And, even if my argument if unfounded, what happens if people don't feel that City Center's interior design in as revolutionary as you believe, Leonard? What happens if people are drawn to other resorts that feel more "comfortable" than City Center? What happens then?

April 22, 2007 3:19 PM Posted by Tom M

I see no indication that the rehab of Circus Circus means that it will not eventually be torn down. I suspect that MGM will redo the resort and leave it for a few years while they finish other projects. That will increase the revenue and make it more viable. There is so much going up in Las Vegas that I can see them waiting quite a while to redevelop that land so rehabing the Circus is a good way to improve the cash flow while completing designs and seeing how City Center is recieved. As far as CC design, I frankly don't see what's so spectacular about the designs that have been shown on the web. I don't think it will be a revolutionary advance in design but, hey, I guess I will have to visit las vegas when its done to find out. I look forward to the opening so Leonard can explain in detail why it is so great.

April 23, 2007 10:58 AM Posted by BillyInLasVegas

Here's how I see it, they can't implode Circus until CityCenter is done just because there are so many resources being tied up not only by CityCenter but by all the other construction projects.
There is no doubt that Circus will disappear but the reason you can't put that information on a press release is because the 3000 employees that are working at Circus will start looking for other jobs and their level of service will be even worse that what it is now.
My prediction is Excalibur goes after the doors open at CityCenter and Circus Circus will follow closely their after.

April 23, 2007 11:05 AM Posted by motoman

Shucks, detroit -- I was going to give the same "Ditto" to Christian's remarks (but you said it more eloquently--and thanks Christian for making that point).

I'm with Tom M and John, City Center is going to be a "wait and see." Oh the place will do well at making money. But as for detroit's "tipping point" question, it seems Vegas is now back at the top as a convention destination; the question is will CC have the emotional appeal to tourists that detroit, John, Brian and Christian refer to. I can't help thinking about that Kohler commercial in which the incredibly stuffy German architect is asked to design a house around their faucet....

And Tom M, you're on the mark about Circus. As discussed here before, MGM has mastered the art of squeezing money from their existing properties (even at the expense of the property's "soul," as Christian, mike_ch and others have alluded to). There was that article linked here last year about the Grand's revised restaurant and club lineup in which even successful venues were changed to produce more cashflow, and Skylofts making a cash generator out of largely unused VIP suites. Also previous discussion here about Monte Carlo operating at least until the bulk of CC is completed.

Hence it's really no surprise Circus will stay open; any work on that North Strip property is years away, construction costs are nearly out of hand (making a value-oriented new property impractical), Tom makes a good point about evaluating reaction to CC first, and MGM is pretty extended with all they've got going on now, so why shutter a money-making property that is really the only bargain-basement option on the Strip save perhaps Excalibur, which some here have also advocated imploding but is instead also being refurbished. (Strat doesn't count, too far away.) And family-friendly: the Adventuredome and arcade, distance from the core of "Sin City," and value might appeal to some parents. (Just don't let the little ones wander beyond the property after dark....)

April 23, 2007 11:10 AM Posted by motoman

Oops, sorry Billy, I didn't see your post before writing mine. I don't disagree at all that Circus will hit the ground soon; just not immediately, for the reasons stated.

April 23, 2007 4:16 PM Posted by mike_ch

Maybe I'm just optimistic because I have a favorite restaurant in there, but I can't see Excalibur hitting the ground anytime soon.

I'm currently trying to book a trip for a guy who wants the cheapest Strip visit possible and it's one of the only reliably solid places for not much money. It's no CityCenter, but it's better than the Imperial Palace and that's gotta count for something.

April 23, 2007 6:16 PM Posted by Brian Fey

No way Excalibur goes away before Circus Circus.


April 28, 2007 2:47 AM Posted by Damien

I agree there's more passion in Wynn's properties. I've always said that. Wynn grew up and lived in Las Vegas as a kid so he always admired Vegas for what it was. Each one of his properties has unique features. He doesn't repeat his style over and over. Steve Wynn's passion to build new things consistied always of not only make it bigger and better, but he also kept in mind things like functionality of the building and also alot of thought went into the design and landscape. MGM City Center project may have the best architects, but it's all steal and glass. Las Vegas isn't about steal and glass. IMO it doesn't fit Vegas' character at all. Steal and glass screams CORPORATE. IMO corporate sucks. I can travel to thousands of cities in the US and look at steal and glass. People come to Las Vegas because they find it unique than any other town. MGMs City Center Project is exactly what the name entails. It's a mini city made of steel and glass design that they intend to cram ton$ of people into $$$$$. Can anyone give me examples of the innovation behind this project? They want to build a second one on the ElRancho propety, yet they don't even have concrete numbers that prove their first one is a success because it isn't opened yet.

I for one approve of MGM/Mirage rennovating Circus Cirus. I think they can pull it off. Just go to their Reno Circus Circus web site and look at that property. It's nicley done and they can do the same for the Vegas location. Newer isn't always necessary better. People have this bazarr phobioa of old buildings. So, does that mean when your house is 50 years old you call in the demolition company to tear it all down? NO, you rennovate it and continue to make it a comfortable enviroment to live and function in because you CAN. Every new resort going up comes with rediculous room rates that I will never pay. With room refurbishing projects now being done DownTown the Strip has finally lost my hotel business this year. If I have to pay more than the amount of someones apartment rent for a month to stay 1 week in Vegas on the Strip, I find that to be a joke. I just chuckled when I looked up room rates at the Flamingo for their 'new' GORooms. The average room rate for May and June is $227. That's a joke. And the biggest joke of it all is the ammenities in the room that I don't even care about like high-end stereo systems, state of the art flat screen tv's, and an i-pod docking station. That's getting a bit carried away. And if thats suppose to be your average persons standard, then theres a big probelm with society anymore. I don't go on vaation to listen to a stereo system, or watch tv on a flat panel all day. They build these new hotels and load them up with extras which become 'standard', and that's all you have to pick from and you get no choice but to pay beefed up prices. Not cool.

The Disney World example happens to be a good one. I always use it. Atleast you can spend $1500 for hotel and park passes and you have something to do for a entire week and not have to worry about shelling out hefty sums of money on extra stuff. For example: DVC members can even grab a special WDW vacation plan that inclues hotel, park, and food, and airport shuttle service for $1000. Go book a room at the Venetian for a week and you'll pay close to $2,0000 and you havent even purchased a plane ticket yet, doesn't include your gambling budget, car rental, shows, meals, etc. So at a new mega resort I am going to pay double the price of a complete WDW vacation for a room in Las Vegas and I still havent budgeted in cost for any activities yet.

April 29, 2007 3:17 PM Posted by John

Damien, Wynn wasn't born and raised in Las Vegas. Quite the contrary, actually. He was born and raised on the East Coast. The most famous story of Wynn being in Vegas, as a child, was a trip with his father, where he fell in love with the city. Now, he did come to the town after his father had died, where he obtained a liquor distributorship and purchased a small stake in the New Frontier. And the rest, most of us know.

Also, Wynn really does repeat his design styles throughout most of his properties. One of the best examples would be the similarities in the design of the public restrooms at Mirage, Bellagio, and Wynn. Each design takes on a somewhat different color pallete, but each shares many similarities. The tile patters are the same in all three resorts, among other things. Also, look at the Esplanade and compare that to Via Bellagio. Each creates a sort of Steve Wynn peninsula that brings a small stretch of the resort to the Strip. There is a really great article that Detriot had written after he had stayed at both Bellagio and Wynn that really pointed out many of the similarities and differences.

April 30, 2007 3:05 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Damien: I have to second John's opinion 100%! First of all Steve was literally "dragged" out here (to Las Vegas) by his gambling-addicted father from the East Coast who propmpty changed the family name from "Weinberg" to "Wynn" for reasons that are still speculative, but tend to lean towards the fact that his father owed quite a lot of unpaid "debts" to the "Jewish" mob, which at that point in time, controlled the majority of the Strip properties as everyone knows until the Stardust (Allen Glick/Rosenthal + the Argent Corp. scandal) Wynn's father, due to [his] uncontrollable gambling addiction, died basically broke by Wynn's own admission! Your comment that Wynn designs + builds properties that are not only "passionate" but truly UNIQUE could not be further from the truth! Either you are confusing Steve's joints with another operator, or you simply do not know what you are talking about. With the exception of Steve's first major acquisition, the Golden Nugget, ALL of his subsequent properties from Mirage, Bellagio, WLV + Encore are nothing but uninspired repetitious designs of his previous projects using many of the same unqualified architects, interior designers, landsacpe architects, etc. who serve "at the pleasure of the President", oops, sorry I meant to say "at the pleasure of Mr. Wynn." When several of you guys [Damien], who clearly are not professionally appraised in the business of architecture, cease making negative comments that "steel + glass" buildings do not represent the next generation of where the future of mixed-use high-rise architecture (including gaming properties) are headed, you need to spend more more time researching this topic on Google - make sure to check out what's going on in Dubai before you opine. BTW - Some trivia, Wynn's petty little door-to-door liquor sales business to Strip hotels back in the late 1960's is now known as Southern Wine + Spirits, the largest provider of booze in the entire state!

May 1, 2007 10:43 AM Posted by mike_ch

Sorry, Damien, but your post was kind of all over the map. Steve Wynn is the reason why building lifespans are so short, he is often given the title Implosion King for the number of old buildings he's torn down.

To some people the Desert Inn was especially frustrating because it seemed possible to turn around, but was axed essentially because it wasn't a megaresort and it wasn't Steve's design.

May 14, 2007 4:42 PM Posted by detroit1051

The LV Sun has a story today on the North Strip. The first link is to the article, the second to a map of "CityCenterNorth". I didn't realize MGM couldn't buy one parcel. I assume it's where the Hilton Timeshare sits.
I don't know if I agree that MGM will start CCNorth, even with partners, before it digests CityCenter.