Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

October 15, 2008

Bellagio Turns 10

Posted by Hunter

Dave Schwartz reminds us that 10 years ago today, Bellagio opened:

Pretty amazing it has already been ten years - and the place still looks great and is always one of the top earners in town.


Read archived comments (17 so far)
October 15, 2008 10:06 AM Posted by joe

WOW!! it's very shocking maintaining it's cover and still in the top 3 for ten years

October 15, 2008 10:09 AM Posted by mike_ch

Oct 15th must be a popular day for casino openings. Luxor turns 15 today as well. So will Treasure Island shortly.

October 15, 2008 12:08 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Wow, I seems like just yesterday I was there for the grand opening. It has aged well, even if it has been MGMized. :)

BTW... LVS is trading in the 10's right now, and falling fast. HOLY CRAP, it also seems like just yesterday that was a $148 stock, and I was telling everyone that would listen, that it was the single most overvalued casino company on the planet!

October 15, 2008 1:31 PM Posted by joe

"it has aged well, even if it's been MGMized"
do you mean that in a bad way as in chaply made renovations
de theming etc.

October 15, 2008 6:43 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Joe - I guess my biggest problem with MGM, is the fact they only have one look. If you look at all the changes that MGM has made, at TI, Mirage, Bellagio, etc, they have done the same look/style at almost every property they touch. Now, sure there are a things they have done to each property to improve them, but there are also lots of thing they have done that have really taken away from properties as well. Lets take the village on the lagoon at TI, they really destroyed the look of this great property. I think you might be hard pressed to find a single person on this board that will disagree with me. It was just a horrible choice, and a terrible decision. Lets move next door to Mirage, Love was a great addition, but that great vibe in the casino is gone in my opinion. Lets start when you walk in the front door, Wynn had the rainforest so dense, you felt like you were really in a rainforest. He had a beautiful water feature in that area which could be viewed from the check-in area. Today you will find instead a bar where those nice water falls once stood. Now this isn't about that bar, but its about how MGM thinks and operates. They are so desperate for profit and revenue, that the push the limits on everything. The try to squeeze every penny of profit out of every single square foot of space, and enough is enough, and it shows. Just look at City Center, they its yet another example of this, could they have possibly squeezed another room into that 66 acres? I don't think so. Now back to The Mirage, move through the rain forest, into the casino, they have taken down Wynn's elaborate ceiling I guess to open up the room, but it lost that intimate look and feel, that made it what it was. Not ever casino needs 40' ceilings. And I guess lastly, it seems like MGM only hires designers that can do one style, and that is contemporary. Contemporary design is fine, and it hip and cool, and if the property is designed that way from inside out, then that's fine. Lets take City Center, its a very contemporary look outside, and I'm sure it will be inside as well. That is fine. But MGM has used that look, over and over, I'm sorry, call me old fashion, but I just don't think that look fits for every single property they own. No don't get me wrong. I think MGM is a good company, they run nice properties, I am even heavily invested in their company. I just think, they tend to take the short road, and they could use a new design team. I love Stack, and Fix, so don't get me wrong, they have done some things right, but I think they have done some things wrong also.

October 15, 2008 9:13 PM Posted by mike_ch

I don't have any complaints with what MGM has done to Mirage except for that STUPID entrance.

If you want to talk about questionable taste, look at Excalibur (which, okay, was kind of questionable to begin with, but the amount of publicity they're giving the Dick's people is really odd) and the cavern that is the NYNY casino right now.

October 15, 2008 9:52 PM Posted by GregoryZephyr

Seems like a lot longer than 10 years. I guess Vegas' boom over the last few years makes anything older than 2000 seem so last century. Nevertheless, Bellagio will likely continue to age gracefully which is no small feat for a Vegas property. I wonder if 50 years from now we will still see it as a top notch property. (Maybe some new owner will undertake a "restoration" to make it look like the day it opened.) Perhaps it will have the cache of a Waldorf-Astoria. Newer properties will come along of course but if Bellagio is maintained it could easily become the "grande dame" of the city.

I do remember the most impressive thing to me when it opened. It wasnt the fountains or the casino or the marble or the pool. It was the conservatory. It just blew me away that a resort would dedicate that much space and cost (in terms of ongoing upkeep) to something that was, well, just pretty to look at and nothing more.

October 15, 2008 9:54 PM Posted by motoman

"...they have done the same look/style at almost every property they touch."

To show I'm no high-end (Wynn) casino snob: we actually "dined" at CircusCircus' Casino Cafe and if memory serves, that room used to be the Pink Pony. A formerly kid-friendly restaurant perfectly suited to the property's target market transformed into a low-budget version of MGM-modern. And most unfortunately for that target market, the menu and prices were adjusted considerably upward as well.

You could add to Brian's list Diablo cantina attached to a corner of Monte Carlo, replacing some great Mediterranean statues and fountains. Unreal.

October 16, 2008 12:59 PM Posted by David McKee

Word to Motoman's diss of the fugly -- and totally incongruous -- Diablo add-on to the front of Monte Carlo. I'd hesitate to say it's a mustache on the Mona Lisa (and I suspect Monte Carlo will die a quick death should MGM feel the need to expand City Center) but it really mars whatever beauty that property possessed.

As for NY-NY, Gary Primm laid a fatal hand on it when it was built and MGM has been trying to incrementally reduce and prettify the place's esssential Primm-ness ever since. That place is so problematic, I'd much rather see it imploded than, say, the Tropicana, Sahara and Riviera, all of which have varying degrees of Old Vegas charm -- a quality singularly absent from NY-NY.

It also suffers from the massive, depersonalizing scale of which MGM is so fond: My one gripe with MGM Grand Detroit is the casino floor, which -- even with a bar in the middle -- has too much of a wide-open South Point feel. Wynn's casino floors are like the anti-MGM in this respect.

October 16, 2008 3:04 PM Posted by mike_ch

David: What's wrong with NYNY? Even the most jaded, anti-Vegas tourist I've brought to town, who appears to not crack a smile out of anything and wants to leave as soon as possible, will stop and take a picture of the place.

That the hotel building is a bit more elaborate than your basic X or Y shaped tower in infrastructure is a bit odd, but appealing to an architecture nut like myself. The only real mistake they made, both in practicality and image, was tossing a roller coaster onto the whole thing.

October 16, 2008 5:30 PM Posted by BrianFey

Yes, Diablo, how could I forget to mention this. This is yet another fantastic example of what I am talking about! Obviously the majority of you get me, and understand what I am staying.

And not to get all teary eyed and all with you guys but I am just have to get this off my chest, and maybe I'm just being emotional, as I sit her and listen to this great new Ray Lamontagne album, but I need to say this...

I am in love with this site, and the people on it. I've am on every Vegas site and forum there is, and its cool because we all love Vegas. But this board is really where I fit in, and am understood. Most of the forums, are filled up with crap, like where to find a cheap hooker, or the next $5 steak dinner at midnight. And that's ok, because that's what makes Vegas wonderful, it that it has something for everyone. But that's not why I love Vegas. I'll admit I have a Las Vegas obsession. And but not the reasons most guess. The people on this site, just get it. I've never found a group of people as obsessed as myself, about the little details of these places. My friends don't get it, my family don't get it, maybe even I don't fully understand it. But I've found a family here, and found several other people who are into the strange details and such to the extent that I am. I mean, I can't tell you all the stupid emails I've traded with Hunter & Mike E, about the smallest trivial things about Encore. Most people would laugh, or thing I'm completely insane, but I finially found two people that quite possibly are even more obsessed with quality resort designs than myself. And the great part thing is, I feels great being surrounded by a group of people that care about this subject as much as I do. Just take that Encore youtube video for example. I showed that to a few of my non-vegas friends and they were, like...SO WHAT? You are looking at a picture of a hotel under construction? Why would you waste your time? And while I can't speak for everyone, I know to some of us on this board ,that was the highlight of our week. I mean to finially have just a glance of what this place will look like inside, a place we've been teased about for over three years now. I guess I better post this, before I re-read it, and deceide to delete it. :) But being serious for a second, I really really enjoy this board, and the people on it. And that does not mean we always have to agree, because we're all passionate about the same subject, and I love that.

October 16, 2008 7:26 PM Posted by Joe

. Im obsessed with vegas too especially with bellaigo. I post comments on normally bellagio related things because I dont know if its still a quality resort (spa tower mainly) or a dethemed "upscale MGM grand" that has cheaply made renovations (contemporary- dissapointed with their new suites). When the B was under construction back in '97, I looked for ANY updates possible for construction stat etc. For some reason, I don't really have an obsession for Encore as much as I did for bellagio. Hope their room remodel in 2009 will turn out great! :)

PS would you pick the spa tower over the venezia?

October 16, 2008 7:48 PM Posted by Hunter

Thanks Brian - I'm happy to facilitate such interesting discussion!

October 16, 2008 9:36 PM Posted by Mike T

Happy Birthday to one of America's great hotels.

October 17, 2008 12:51 AM Posted by mike_ch

Joe: Regarding Spa Tower, depends on what you want out of the experience. The original rooms have changed enough over the years that there's no real difference other than which direction you're walking by.

Since the path from the lobby to Spa Tower passes the conservatory, Cafe Bellagio, Mina, Sensi, sweets store, two sundries shops, and is close to convention space, I've been telling people who don't like casinos to stay in Spa Tower or, if they can swing it, Tower Suites. Those two aren't quite in the same realm together for reasons that are difficult to explain without walking you through them, but if you prefer non-gaming between the lobby and your room go with Spa Tower. If you prefer to step out the elevators and straight into the casino, go original tower.

That's the biggest differences between the two that I can think of, other than high-end suites and positioning of fountain view rooms.

October 17, 2008 1:05 AM Posted by mike_ch

Forgot to mention Venezia:

They have their own pool that looks fairly nice from the one time I've walked through there. They have Bouchon right there at the bottom of the tower, and people think that's a great place. The walk from Venezia to cabs is shorter than Spa Tower but you have to go down two elevators. There's an elevator linking Venezia with the main lobby, and a skybridge linking Venezia's lobby with the sixth or eighth floor of the original Venetian elevator core.

People give Venetian flack but it's one of the few joints on the Strip that isn't embarrassed of it's theme nowsdays so I enjoy it for that purpose. But Bellagio still has it's most important elements in place: the fountains and conservatory and the lobby and O. It was never THAT themed to begin with. The restaurants and some of the casino fixtures have been changed over the years. Generally, the Olde Ornate Europe feel of Bellagio has given way for something that feels more like New York than London. It's not that they're obviously spending a lot less, it's that they're deliberately trying to look less like Senior Citizen Retirement Money with the furnishings. But there's a few small rooms in the place, such as the bus terminal restrooms, or the phone lobby outside the casino with it's phony bookshelves and wingback chairs, that look like your Grandparents' house more than a hotel.

Afraid I'm not qualified to comment if Venetian's service has improved, since I simply walk through these places anymore and rarely spend any money in the hotels. But, the occasional bad health inspector report on them seems to creep up a bit more often than the others.

October 17, 2008 7:52 AM Posted by Mike P.


Yes Bellagio is still a quality resort. No, it hasn't been significantly dethemed, since it was never strongly themed to begin with. It was supposed to evoke the feel of a northern Italian villa, whatever that might be (and how many people have any first hand experience of the expensive corners of northern Italy? Not me, and I'm fairly well traveled). If you want to imagine yourself in northern Italy you still can.

No, the room decor is not too contemporary. I confess though my living room furniture was designed by Vladimir Kagan, so I may not be the best judge of that.

Hotel reservations did not used to distinguish between Spa tower and original tower rooms, but I see on Bellagio's website they now list Tower rooms and suites as separate categories. I don't see a reason to prefer the Spa tower over the original right now other than the convenience of not having to walk through the casino from registration and proximity to the spa.

I would definitely favor the Spa Tower at Bellagio over the Venezia at Venetian. Venezia tower rooms are a long walk with two elevator rides away from the rest of the Venetian. Except for adding flat panel TVs the rooms haven't been remodeled since it opened, and they badly need it but probably won't get it soon given LVS's current financial condition. Better choices at the Venetian are their standard "suites" in the original tower, or head over to Palazzo.