Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

Thanks to Dave Schwartz for allowing us to publish his recent Atlantic City trip report.

The report is after the jump and the photos that go with it are here:

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Trip Report: Atlantic City, June 2007

I flew back to AC mostly to visit family, but I saw a couple of the sites while I there and spent some time on the boardwalk and in the marina, so this might be interesting.

For the first time I flew Spirit—they’ve got a new non-stop flight from Vegas to Atlantic City International (hah) Airport that’s about $200, which is $200 less than the USAirways nonstop into Philly. The funny thing is that it’s easier and cheaper to take public transportation to get to AC from Philly than it is from the AC airport, so unless you’ve got someone picking you up, be prepared to pay $30+ for a cab ride.

I drove to Caesars and parked so I could check out the Pier and walk down to the Taj. Caesars is looking good. They’ve put a lot of money into keeping it up-to-date (as the photo of the Mia restaurant shows) but the main casino floor still has some pretty low ceilings. The photo is of the second-floor casino.

Here’s a view from the Caesars—Pier walkway looking south (or west—don’t get me started on AC directions).

The Pier at Caesars is their attempt to open a Forum Shops East with a nod to the beach and boardwalk. Here’s a shot on the second story, which I really like. The third floor has a small fake beach area the overlooks the real beach and, in this shot, Boardwalk Hall and Trump Plaza’s East Tower. The third floor is exclusively restaurants, and though I didn’t eat in any this time around The Trinity Irish Pub looks neat (though if you’re in AC you’ve got to check out the real Irish Pub on St. James Place), as does Buddakan. The lighted central table is a great touch that I didn’t do justice to here.

The first floor’s floor is covered with a herringbone pattern of boards, just like the Boardwalk. It’s a neat touch, though this replica of local landmark Lucy the Elephant in It’s Sugar makes me wonder if they’re putting too much effort into copying what’s out there instead of creating new icons. The light and fountain show at the end of the Pier doesn’t photograph well and falls somewhere between the Sam’s Town and Bellagio fountains—though leaning towards the former.

Bally’s Wild Wild West is looking a little the worse for wear. When this place opened in 1997 it was way different from anything that’d been seen in AC and the first real try at a themed place, but I’ve never been able to wrap my head around a Western-themed casino on the Atlantic Ocean.

Further down the Boardwalk, the Sands garage sale was just dismal—I caught it on its penultimate day and it was looking really skanky. This picture pretty much sums it up.

To show you the sunny side, here’s a nice shot of the Boardwalk. And here’s another showing Resorts, the Hard Rock at the Taj, and the famous Bridge to Nowhere between the Taj and Steel Pier.

This is the Taj’s casino floor. It’s looking very different from when I worked there, and a huge section by the old post 6 is walled off, showing that more changes are on the way. The new carpet, which I’ll post to Die is Cast soon, is actually a step down from the old one.

The semi-refurbished CF level, which they’re calling Spice Road, looks decent, but not incredible. Here’s a shot of the un-renovated section, which gives you an idea of what the whole thing used to look like. The modest Trump Exchange store will draw them in, though, I’m sure. LOL@ “You have to think anyway.”

Just for old times sake here’s a shot of the bus waiting area. Again, something you don’t see too much of in Vegas, at least today.

I took a few photos of the tower expansion, but it’s only about 5 stories high and didn’t photograph so well. Suffice to say that it’s octagonal, and that it looks surprisingly compact.

I really had some fun the next day when I rented a boat from Fish Tail Rentals in nearby Brigantine and motored around the marina and bay sections. Here’s the Harrah’s construction as seen from the bay. I was really disappointed by the Borgata expansion, the Water Club, which looks like the bastard child of Wynn Las Vegas and the Trump International Tower. It’s all hard angles, which is a stark contrast with the gently-rounded original tower. I don’t see how this will work, period, and my first thought on seeing it was, “Maybe Echelon Place isn’t such a no-brainer after all.” I have no idea what they were going for here.

One really funny thing happened when I took my sister out for a drink to Harrah’s one night. We’re sitting in the atrium lounge. I don’t know what it’s called but it’s really cheesy-looking, with the kind of false-front look that reminds me, again, of Sam’s Town. We’re enjoying the stylings of Joe Bonanno and the Godsons of Soul (they were actually pretty good), when all the sudden my sister points and I notice that, about 10 inches from my right foot, a small brown mouse is hopping around—at first I thought it was a frog. I guess he didn’t like the attention because he scooted back into the plastic foliage nearby. I told our cocktail server and jokingly suggested she notify the management.

About a half-hour later, a completely earnest beverage shift manager who looked about twenty came by and apologized profusely, saying that mice weren’t Harrah’s usual policy. Seriously, those were his words. When I said, “You mean that’s not your typical clientele?” He replied, in total seriousness, “No, it isn’t.” He was nice enough, and comped us a round of drinks, even though I didn’t ask for or really want it. That was enough like a scene from Strange Brew to crack us up, though I don’t know if this will work at Okada or Joel Robuchon. Later, when we’re enjoying the free drinks, I see the mouse (or maybe it was another one) dashing around the middle of the floor but don’t care enough to mention it to anyone.

Flying back on Spirit was OK, although the intensely loud and incredibly misinformed people behind me confirmed that Spirit definitely is American’s leading low class…err, price…airline.

I’ll close with this veiled threat by Pinnacle to build something more fun than the Trump Exchange, and a look at what ties the Tropicana as the city’s ugliest building, the Bally’s tower.


Read archived comments (5 so far)
June 19, 2007 10:03 AM Posted by Tom M

I agree that the new tower at Borgata doesn't match the original architectural shape at all. However, I was never that impressed with the original tower, especially because they didn't really seem to put any emphasis on the outdoor space/entrance. Unlike most strip, the emphasis at Borgata is all on the inside, so that is the part of the new tower that I am most looking forward to.

June 19, 2007 11:59 AM Posted by detroit1051

Hi Dave. Great report and photos. While you were in AC, did you hear any talk about Bader Field being used for casinos? Dan Lee already said that would be a dealbreaker for his plans to build in AC.

June 19, 2007 12:28 PM Posted by Dave

Detroit--I heard the same that you did, that Lee and Harrah's have both expressed their unhappiness with a potential Bader Field casino. As I've said before, I think that a first-class mixed-use development at Bader Field is probably the key to the city's growth over the next 20 years. I hesitate to say it, but they need a Bader masterplan.

Seriously, if I was the mayor or governor of NJ, I wouldn't take Lee's threat too well. I say if he decides not to build, fine--let him sell the land to someone who will. From what I've read Pinnacle's casino will be along the lines of the Venetian, in that it's going to have a relatively large convention center. I know the Venetian gets a beating on this site sometime, but nobody can deny that it's been incredibly successful, even with Wynn next door. A casino with a similar business model might do just as well on the Boardwalk with a City Center-type resort "over the bridge." All I know is that the city needs new development, and quick, to spark some interest and reverse the declining revenues.

June 19, 2007 6:24 PM Posted by Mike P.

Dave -

What do you think of the Pier at Caesars chances of being successful? When we checked it out in early February it was pretty dead, and most of the people wandering the mall were just window shopping. The place seemed to be trying to be too upscale for the area.

June 20, 2007 12:46 PM Posted by Dave

Mike, I think you're right--I noticed the exact same thing, and they are doing far less business (or so it seems) than The Walk, the outlet stores between Caesars and the Expressway. Personally, I've gone to The Walk and actually bought stuff every time I've been in town the past few years (they've got and H&M and my wife loves H&M), but even though I've been to The Pier a few times, I've never bought anything. I don't doubt that there are people with the money to shop there going to AC, but I'm not sure that they're out on the Boardwalk.

Most of the people I saw were on the third floor, enjoying their sandwiches in the faux beach area. And my usual informal index of retail success, how many people I see with shopping bags, was about zilch. It's a shame because it's a great looking place.