Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

Once again, another StripWalk from MikeCh, this time covering South Strip properties (and a trip to the Hard Rock).

Continue after the jump to read the details, photos are here:

This walk includes the south strip hotels and a walk up to Flamingo road, then a ride east to the Hard Rock.

Excalibur: The "party pit" gimmick is catching on, and spreading from Harrah's to MGM's properties. A former slot area between Dick's and the escalator to the upper level was curtained off, and was about 80% of the way done. It's probably open by the time you read this. The party pit continues the restaurants and logos and theming from Dick's restaurant out into the casino, so that means stuff like disco balls and snarky slogans painted on the walls and their cartoon character on the tables.

The old Galahad's Prime Rib was being used for a staff meeting, and the bar is stripped of everything but it's decor.

Luxor: There was some sort of staff training for the T&T taqueria going on, but they've switched from walls to curtains so I cautiously took a few pictures. The dining area is mostly open to the atrium, but the decor looks like a bit like an alternative fashions store clashed with an Apple Store. Orange, and gray metal structures hover over the tables, the wall behind the bar looks like someone mixed paint spraying machines with loud and vibrant colors,

New signage is popping up around the hotel. It's kind of basic looking, bulbs behind only a frosted horizontal pinstripe box with black lettering. Directory booths are being added around the casino. According to a hotel marketing rep on Twitter, these are supposed to be 3D, though I don't know if that means virtual walkthroughs or exactly what. One is near the Pyramid Cafe, one is right inside off the Excalibur walkway. Speaking of the space just inside the walkway, the ticket booth is gone, and left behind is a reservations phone on the wall. Make your own reservations, ya lazy bums!

A big blue sign has been hung from the ceiling above the buffet escalators. The casino level is now very, very blue.

The theater is open again. They've swapped the gift shop and ticket booth places. Formerly the gift shop was a small space up front and the ticket booth was a fairly large lobby area to the left of the doors. Now the ticket area is a small window near the hallway in and the old lobby area is a big gift shop. The hallway, and what I say of the theater lobby itself when the doors open, more or less have the same shape as they always did with new decor. In the case of the hallway going in, the window on the northern side that used to have Blue Man or Hairspray ads have been replaced with a mirror with trees that has a sort of 3D effect that makes it appear that CG bunnies poke out of the trees. On the southern side, mirrors. The Egyptian doodads were stripped away and the area has been given a gray paint job with red touches and carpeting.

New signs discard the "inclinator" moniker for the more typical elevator. This is a deliberate attempt to make the place easier to understand, according to the marketing rep mentioned before.

NYNY: The old change booth building was replaced with slots, and so the room feels really empty. There's basically nothing but a field of slot machines and some of the new table ceilings from the escalators down from the bridges, all the way over to the Times Square area. The Big Apple Bar has become a high limit lounge. It reminds me of the high limit area of Red Rock, but on a larger scale. Thing is, with the themed buildings throughout the casino being ripped out, and no more of the "central park" stuff like the fake trees and the fake lake and so on, the room really feels like a warehouse. With no buildings, little theming, and no more neon and animated signs hanging around the casino, I feel here like Hunter does at Palazzo: like I'm in an airplane hangar that became a casino.

Rok Vegas is in the old Cabaret Theater space. There's an obvious "loud music" theme with phony speakers behind the name and TV screens at the entrance of women stroking guitars while dancing around on CGI backgrounds.

Monte Carlo: This is a food review, not an update, so if you want more construction details scroll down.

Buffet: The creatively named "Buffet" at Monte Carlo is about $14 for lunch, the same price as Excalibur's Round Table Buffet and Luxor's MORE. With Excalibur, you get a poor layout and drinks you have to refill yourself. With Luxor, you get a dark basement dining room and tiny glasses. Fortunately, the Monte Carlo buffet has large glasses that are refilled for you, so it's an easy victory, right?

Not quite. Like all buffets built by prior Mandalay Resorts ownership, this buffet has a huge dining room and a small food service area. Luxor does this (actually, their food service area is kind of huge, but a lot of it is shut down most of the time.) and Excalibur basically does this by doubling the entrance trench with a buffet line, the result is always the same: dodging others and crowding. Furthermore, the steak is top round instead of prime rib like at Luxor. However, the top round was really good IMO. There also wasn't any turkey. Dessert was good and included creme brulee and tasty cheesecakes along with cupcakes and cookies, The Asian foods are there, as is a seafood section but that's not really my interest so I passed it over. I felt the Mexican station seemed to be missing. So the food is good, but limited, and the space is crowded. And for only $5 more you can get the really high end stuff by walking past CityCenter to Bellagio. So, while I'd say this is better than MGM Grand and Excalibur, it's about level with Luxor and as a solo person I'd just spend a few more bucks and get something really good elsewhere.

CityCenter: They had just reached the top floors of Aria not too long ago.

Hard Rock: I went over here to buy a ticket, and took a photo of the work in the parking lot near Paradise. There's also a hotel tower on the other side of the place that I'll try scope out in a few weeks when I come back for said ticketed event. I really haven't been over here before, so practically the whole thing is new to me and I can't point out what's changed. There's a new concert venue called Wasted Space and apparently The Joint has gotten or is getting a refurb, Curiously, I found a sign that said "Employee Lunchroom -->" pointing into the entrance to Body English.


Read archived comments (15 so far)
September 27, 2008 1:41 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Sounds like MGM is destroying yet another good hotel once again. You can only de-theme a hotel so much. NYNY, come on give me a break already. Maybe its things like this that are killing Vegas. That's kinda like de-theming Paris, or Venetian.

September 27, 2008 3:04 PM Posted by mike_ch

Brian: They are keeping some of the art deco influences around, it's just toned down and the "central park" stuff is gone. It kind of like a light version of what they've been doing at Mirage the past few years. Most of it is nice enough, they just need to put up some visual distractions to keep the casino from feeling like a gigantic slot floor.

Obviously, the loss of the Big Apple Bar with no apparent replacement means no real space for live lounge acts playing into the casino which is good or bad depending on your prerogative (seems like Steve Wynn set a new standard with the death of lounge acts as well!)

The ceiling is really high there and the phony buildings planted around used to help people lose perspective. Hopefully they aren't finished yet. The western side of the casino, with the registration desk and the coffee shop and the valey/taxi entrance is mostly unchanged. But the area from the new high limit space to the bridge escalators to the Rok/ESPN area is now a big bermuda triangle of sorts with the closed off Garden high limit area missing, no more bar, and the cashier/stock exchange building gone.

September 27, 2008 6:51 PM Posted by Jason Robar

The Excalibur party area is indeed open. Instead of two small platforms for dancers to dance on in the table area, there is now a full fledged catwalk for them to perform on.

As for the NYNY feel, I'm going to hold off until they get the middle area of the casino floor done. It's probably going to be as you feel Mike, but I'm still holding out hope that they will install some more little pieces to make the area more interesting.

September 28, 2008 7:05 AM Posted by Brian Fey

I have to admit, I don't fully understand why Wynn has killed the lounge thing. When Bellagio opened, you could fine live music at at least three different places each night. You had the Piano Bar off the lobby, Fontana in the front of the casino, and the big band feeling in that center casino bar. This was probably my biggest disappointment with Wynn Las Vegas. But I can't help but to notice this quote from Wynn Resorts, "seven cozy bars and lounges". There are more bars and lounges, than there are places to eat. And this does not even include the nightclub. Now I realize if each restaurant has a bar, and most all at Wynn do, that could equate to five of those, so we'll just have to wait and find out. But perhaps, Wynn has seen what Wynn Las Vegas was missing (which isn't much) and is giving us more. I hope that is the case. In just 3 short months, we shall see. I look forward to seeing it all for myself.

September 28, 2008 7:52 AM Posted by MGK

Butterfly Mosaics and Hallway Leading to Encore:

The temporary construction wall left of the Le Reve Theather has been removed, revealing more of the hallyway leading to Encore. It is my guess that this hallway area will be the shopping area, judging by the looks of the fronts with the awnings. Other than that, they've recently started to install the butterfly mosaics in front of the Le Reve Theather where there was once an oval patch of carpet.

September 28, 2008 8:07 AM Posted by detroit1051

Brian, I sure agree with you on lounges. It was a sad day when Bellagio's Allegro Lounge closed. I assume Petrossian still has live piano music and Baccarat Bar still has soft jazz. Small, relaxing lounges where one can enjoy music and still be able to have a conversation appeal to me. I have to believe Steve Wynn realized the numbers aren't there.

MGK, great photos. I'll bet there won't be any problems with the mosaic tiles like there were when Wynn first opened. I definitely will return after Encore opens. It may give Las Vegas the shot in the arm it needs now.

September 28, 2008 9:04 AM Posted by Hunter

Thanks for those shots - I was prohibited from taking those right there last week.

Regarding lounges at WLV - consider the possibility that it's not that Wynn D&D doesn't believe in lounges but that the design of the original WLV just didn't have any good spots to stick them.

Lounges weren't unwelcome, just not as important as reaching all of their other design goals which just didn't leave a good option for a Fontana style lounge. That's my guess more than them being unwelcome.

September 28, 2008 9:06 AM Posted by Hunter

There will indeed be shopping in those spaces - that's been discussed previously.

One funny thing- the count rooms for the WLV casino are through a door down that hall to the left (that opens to the outside on the other end, near the parking garage for Brink's access). During the count time, there's a ton of human traffic in that area. Will they move the count room?

September 28, 2008 10:18 PM Posted by MGK

On a few occasions, I've noticed armored vehicles waiting in the garage (which I always thought was unusual), but I never realized the count room was right there.

September 30, 2008 1:30 PM Posted by donnymac

Cool site with renderings of City Centre. Looks like there will be some interesting features.

October 12, 2008 11:29 AM Posted by Andy S

Thanks for the update Mike!

I really don't understand what they think they are acheiving with all this dethemeing, they won't change the outside of NYNY, you will go in and it will be like all their other casino's.

Changes at Luxor look terrible, I think the worst renovation undertaken by MGM and that includes the MGM Grand and "ti".


November 9, 2008 3:26 PM Posted by Joe

This may be too late but:
Brian- the post you put up earlier "its kind of like de-themeing paris or venetian" well (I may be wrong) Paris is de-themeing slowly as time goes on because just look at their new modern rooms!! it has nothing to do with the "PARIS" theme just another re-do of the Flamingo go-rooms but Venetian even though it still has the Venice thing going on, their rooms too are modern. (not as bad as paris' new rooms.

Well see about Bellagios new rooms in 2009. (every four years)

November 9, 2008 8:50 PM Posted by mike_ch

It's not too late, that's what the "Recent Comments" blurb is for.

I'm a big theme fan though I don't know how far it should go in the rooms. Wynn sent a clear signal with his older resorts that the themes should end at the elevator, while Mandalay went a bit further, to the point of absurdity at Circus Circus in the years of old ownership.

I like the way Disney pulls it off: at first glance the room is a room like any other room, and only when you stare hard at the furnishings do you notice the castles or whatever on the bedspread, the tiles in the floor shaped like Mickey's head, or what have you. It makes people feel like the room is something special without making them feel like they're in a fun house.

How well done the new Paris rooms are, well, I've never stayed in one.

November 9, 2008 11:02 PM Posted by Joe

Paris las vegas' new rooms are just awful- i stayed in one

April 28, 2009 1:49 PM Posted by Joe

We stumbled upon the Party Pit at Excalbur by accident on our trip to Vegas last week. It was the best time! We spent about 6 hours there playing cards & partying! IT WAS A BLAST! great idea