Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

December 31, 2008

Vegas Gang #24 - December 31st, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #24 is online.

This week on the show:

* The Trippies are announced this weekend.
* Encore Las Vegas Opens -
* MGM Mirage Sells Treasure Island to Phil Ruffin
* The Harmon / City Center / Light Group Parting Ways?

Leave any comments below.


Read archived comments (34 so far)
December 31, 2008 5:05 PM Posted by John

Next up for Wynn:

December 31, 2008 5:24 PM Posted by Hunter

I'd not seen this particular render of Encore at Wynn Macau.

This is from Google Earth?

December 31, 2008 5:41 PM Posted by John H.

I've seen the rendering of Encore on Chuckmonster's MacauTripping and it didn't seem like it was quite that tall...

December 31, 2008 5:42 PM Posted by John


I was a little taken aback that any sort of rendering was up already. Especially when you consider that there isn't even one for the Encore in Vegas yet.

December 31, 2008 5:43 PM Posted by Hunter

Right - I was very taken by the relative size in this rendering. Seems too tall, which is why I asked.

December 31, 2008 6:35 PM Posted by John H.

Well, upon reviewing the rendering on Chuck's site, it does look like the tower could very well be that tall. Seems like it's just too big of a building for the space it is occupying, though...

December 31, 2008 7:13 PM Posted by mike_ch

Jeff: I really can't see MGM selling Bellagio unless CityCenter does very poorly. It's right in the neighbourhood they want to focus on. Why would they sell it to Steve Wynn, who would run it as a top-tier property, instead of keeping it and knocking it down to the space currently occupied by Paris and Planet Hollywood?

During the build up to more and more expensive resorts, anyone who complained about how expensive things were getting was told that Aria, Encore, FB and company would be the new Bellagio, while Bellagio would become the new Paris, and Paris would become the new Luxor/TI, and Luxor/TI would become the new Excalibur/Circus, and Excalibur/Circus would... I dunno, blow up or turn into the new Tropicana or something.

My guess is FB competes with Palazzo than Encore or Aria, though I have yet to see the preview building. "Making inexpensive interiors look like expensive interiors" has been pretty much what LVS has been doing.

I'm particularly interested in Aria because I'm always excited when somebody with money, like Murren, takes on urban development. Anyone who knows me pretty well knows that I find Vegas an uncomfortable place to live for embodying a lot of things I don't like in cities built in the post-war period, so building a kind of urban cultural framework sounds like a positive first step to me. Also sounding good was Wynn's golf course plan to create a kind of Central Park vibe amongst an avenue of hotels. The only force that will actually make Clark County care about the cityscape is the casinos, and so if Steve Wynn is having to buy trees to cover up ugly buildings and MGM starts talking urban renewal, we might have a prettier city in 10 or 15 years than we do right now. Las Vegas is basically Times Square without the rest of the city surrounding it, and it would be nice if the city fathers actually cared about appearances beyond Las Vegas Blvd between Sahara and Tropicana.

Encore does a lot of things right (elevators near registration, more show and wow than Wynn) but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's like a museum. It's a very nice place, but aside from the intimacy and small spaces. I feel that Steve Wynn is basically in his own little world, building things because he wants them and not because some chart told him that it's what other people want. That makes his places different, and I assume they will continue to be. But I've been a big doubter in the "everybody follows Steve Wynn" mantra. They do so geographically, but I don't think his places are exceptions to the rules, not the rule-makers.

December 31, 2008 7:38 PM Posted by Hunter

I agree with Dave on the 'museum' comment in the sense that many of the little details inside Encore (and WLV) have a back-story - one you'd never hear unless someone told you.

To have a guide to that sort of detail would be interesting.

Unlike a lot of other hotels where the stuff is ordered from a catalog, Thomas combines custom designed items with a specific inspiration and re-worked objects from elsewhere that have history associated with them. Personally, I love hearing those stories.

December 31, 2008 8:16 PM Posted by mike_ch

I would have enjoyed those stories as well, though I think it's interesting how the stories are so different depending on who the narrator is. Friess' walkthrough with Wynn was very different than yours with Thomas. Steve F asked Wynn about the boat in Sinatra and he dismissed it pretty quickly as one of Roger's ideas, and dwelled on all the photos and awards. Meanwhile, it sounds like Thomas was more impressed with the ship than the awards and stuff.

And I'm sorry that last post was typed out so poorly, with a lot of dead-end sentences and poor grammar. I need to give up on iPhone posting, I think.

December 31, 2008 9:46 PM Posted by Phil

While everybody is praising the Twitter site, I guess I'm one of the few who was bit let down, but it wasn't really your guys fault in a sense. I literally was on that site constantly as Encore opened. The letdown was the control of Wynn management. Because Wynn didn't allow pictures, I really didn't get info much sooner than what the regular press gave due to the delay. Then there were hour blocks where nobody talked, I figured people would be posting non-stop. There were people posting videos on Youtube that gave me more a feel at the same time you guys were fighting just to get pictures so YouTube beat you to the punch. I think the concept was that we would get the info sooner than anyone else, but the reality was Wynn controlled the scene and therefore, nobody had an edge including this dedicated site. Keep in mind I'm speaking only of pictures and movies, detail wise, ratevegas is greate and great Encore pictures came later on but again that was after the fact when all press had access. Hopefully, with City Center, M, and others we will get pictures sooner, but I doubt it, the management is not going to give you guys priority over NY Times, LA Times....etc. Plus guys with laptops and video cameras will post to YouTube immediately, thats something you guys can control, but you'll have to carry a laptop, shoot video, post, walk to another area, shoot video, post. So more of a hassle than just using your cell phone to twitt. I don't want to be the bad guy here and poo poo on the attempt you guys did, but I guess I was expecting something that in reality marketing and ownership controls, not you.

December 31, 2008 9:53 PM Posted by JK

FB and Aria won't be near Wynn properties or Bellagio. They're is just too big to offer the same level as luxury. Just because they're new does not mean that they are going to be nicer. To me, almost everything that is being built after Encore is the same. They are all urban properties with no general "theme". In other words, you could put the Cosmo and FB on the City Center property along with Aria, Veer, Harmon, Mandarin, and Vdara and call them part of City Center and nobody would be able to tell that they were once separate properties. While Encore's theme isn't huge, it has the feeling of a luxury resort.

Aria is just a large 4000 room resort in the middle of a complex that is just too complex. I'm sure it will be interesting, but will it be luxurious? No. Will it be mega-urban? Yes. I wouldn't bet my money on Aria getting a 5 Diamond Award from AAA. As Steve Wynn would say, "Bigger isn't better, better is better."

December 31, 2008 9:53 PM Posted by Hunter

I'm not offended. I'm proud of what we did.

In some sense, it's still baby steps. The industry is still adapting to 'new media' and with that comes some trepidation. That will diminish over time and access will improve.

Still, both Chuck and I were posting and twittering on Monday afternoon with details, before the place opened to the public, even if you had to wait a bit for pictures of the casino. I had photos up right after check in on Monday, starting with the room and some other public areas. I don't really do video since it's so time consuming.

We did encourage folks to ask us questions on Twitter for specific coverage requests and I got fewer of those than I expected, given the large number of followers and people viewing the Web site. I don't know if you were one of the few that asked for specific info or photos, maybe you were.

December 31, 2008 9:57 PM Posted by Phil

Just to add I guess what would be perfect is for you guys to have a television grade camera and it would be a live webcast, so basically we see it as you see it. You would walk through the entire casino, through every restauarant, go over architectual details and it would be 100% live. Essentially what the local tv stations can do, but don't. Again cost wise and whether casino management would allow that is another story, but to me that is the ultimate experience for those who can't be there live for the opening.

December 31, 2008 10:01 PM Posted by Hunter

I'd love to do that.

Hopefully someday it will be possible.

Warning in advance - I'm touring Encore again in January including back of house and some other bits - photos again will not be allowed.

January 1, 2009 12:07 AM Posted by Phil

Boy, watching the fireworks live on webcast on TV8 website and looks like a disappointment. The moved the fireworks to garages behind the hotels instead of shooting them off the top of the hotels in fear of creating a Monte Carlo like fire and because of that nobody can see the fireworks as the tall hotels are blocking the view of them. Even the commentors are saying man this is terrible. The crowd you can tell is let down.

January 1, 2009 12:21 AM Posted by Phil

Boulder Station was evacuated about an hour ago because of a bomb. Nobody's saying if its legit, but assuming its a fake, Border Station is losing a ton of cash tonight.

Also FOX's New Year's coverage on the east coast on regular TV was essentially a 2 hour commerical for MGM Mirage properties including a Robbie Knievel jump over the renovated volcano, the problem was he didn't jump over it just along it with a ramp set up on the pedestrian sidewalk, kinda misleading, because they showed computer animations of potential errors in the jump and they showed his bike and himself falling into the volcano basically burning alive, his jump wasn't even over the water, just the concrete of the sidewalk and street.

The TV8 coverage of the New Years expanded with interviews with people on the street saying they were disappointed with the fireworks this year. Big mistake putting them on the garages instead of the buildings, may cause the crowds to be less next year and bodies is what that town needs these days.

January 1, 2009 12:48 AM Posted by chuckmonster

We did the best we could within the limitations imposed on us by Wynn PR, available technology and the battery life of our iPhones (enhanced by Hunter's Batman utility belt recharger gadget FTW!) As I've mentioned more than a coupla times, this is the closest to live blogcasting as one can get w/o toting around a satellite dish. Photos and tweets were posted immediately to Twitter and Twitpic/Flickr as all pertinent events took place (specifically the "let the games begin" spiel/pics from SW was posted within 90 seconds of it happening.) Hopefully live iPhone video streaming apps (like Qik) will hit the market before the Fontainebleau & CityCenter openings later this year.

The tours we're done with the agreement that there would be no tweeting or photos... stipulations they repeated about a dozen times to ensure our understanding. Personally, I wasn't about to get bounced from the opening - and ruin all future opportunities - just to get a hi res photo/video posted an hour or two earlier. As for breaks in the coverage, I stopped posting at four points - when I was in the shower/getting ready, chatting with people at Parasol before the opening, when I called my wife, and when my phone battery was about to die.

Lastly, I believe that there is a law which bans wifi access in casinos. As a result live streaming video from the casino floor or decent quality isn't technically possible, and definitely not legal. Even the news guys standing next to us had to take their cameras to the satellite news van parked at the Frontier/Plaza/Echelon cul de sac to transmit it... and even then it didn't show until the 11pm news two+ hours later.

January 1, 2009 1:17 AM Posted by mike_ch

I could maybe understand not launching fireworks off rooftops on foam monstrosities like Excalibur, Venetian, and Treasure Island. I'm not sure how launching from parking garages is safer, since you just have the shell exploding closer to the tops of the towers. But even then, not to launch a thing off the Stratosphere? Hello? Reeeee-diculous!

I hope it comes back in 2010, ideally with some of the newer and taller buildings playing along (hello Palazzo, Trump.) 2007's was pretty bad, 06 was great and 08 was okay, but this one was the pits.

January 1, 2009 12:48 PM Posted by Aaron M

Hunter & Friends,
You did an excellent job with the tools and resources to present to the world, Encore. I stand behind you 100% to keep from burning bridges at Wynn PR just to put stuff up an hour early, etc. The opportunities are endless once you get in the "loop" with Wynn Team.

Yes, the fireworks were indeed bad this year unfortunatly Fox and MGM Mirage did have horrible coverage and the news anchors were less than desirable.

Nobody will beat Encore, unless Steve Wynn does and 2 more resorts are on the way including a convention center attached to one of them.

Although Sands Corp does own air rights over Wynn's employee Parking Garage, Wynn will still kick Sheldon's Company into a hole!


January 1, 2009 1:16 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

I think Bellagio is THE premium property in Las Vegas, based on snob appeal, the fountains and other features. I would classify it as the Mercedes Benz of the Strip. I think it currently has the highest "blue sky" value on the Strip, which makes a $2billion bollar value, in Simpsons view, become a $3billion price demand. I don't think Pinnacle, with no properties in Las Vegas, has the reputation of being able to buy the most premium property in Las Vegas and maintain its current level, much less improve it either in quality or revenue.
Mandalay, however, becomes more attractive in all categories I've just mentioned. I am convinced that Mandalay can be sepearated from MGMM at a premium price, which is still substantially lower that Bellagio, with next to no harm to the MGMM empire. Any operatior without a Las Vegas presence would gladly buy Mandalay without quibble, and claim a powerful beachhead in the market. Can someone give me the outstanding features about Mandalay that make it more indespensable to MGMM than any other premium property?

January 1, 2009 2:05 PM Posted by mike_ch

Mandalay has lots of land just south of it, a large convention facility. Not as big as Sands, but it's an asset that fills a gap in their profile unless CityCenter has some big convention hall I don't know about. Or, has one plussed onto it, since pretty much everybody agrees that one day Monte Carlo will be imploded for Even More CityCenter.

It's disposable if need be, but I think Murren wants to wait and see how much activity Lion King can put into the casino before he decides to let go of it.

Mandalay also has a large concert/sports hall just a bit smaller than MGM's Grand Garden Arena. It used to host a ton of boxing events and concerts, but in recent years all of these things have moved to the Grand. I've lived in Vegas for three and a half years and the only big events at Mandalay since I've been here are two 90s bands reunion tours and a boxing show.

If Mandalay is sold, I'm kinda scared about what that means for that block's overhead tram system, because I really don't want to see old security guys keeping northbound trains empty again.

January 1, 2009 2:08 PM Posted by mike_ch

Regarding Encore Opening and other future events:

One thing I've picked up from video game and Mac sites (and I'm sure Hunter has watched a few MacWorld keynotes play out online!) is "liveblogging," which is to say, a story on a blog such as this one that updates as new information is available.

You might want to look into a system to update this blog via iPhone or whatever resources you have available. Encore Opening, while good, relied on Twitter, and I really suspect Twitter might not make it to the end of 2009 since it has all the prints of a dot-com stroke of genius that has no idea how to pay for itself. While I've seen some twittering of keynotes at MacWorld and video game shows recently, I suspect liveblogging will remain king.

January 2, 2009 10:35 AM Posted by David McKee

A group of us watched the fireworks from partway up Sunrise Mountain. I'd call the display a "damp squib." Ironically, the net effect of the lower-than-usual pyrotechnics was to make it look as if several casinos actually WERE on fire. Nothing was shot off, from what we could see, from any of the far-flung Station vanity properties (GVR, RRR, Aliante) ... unless you count the unexploded IED at Boulder Station, that is.

January 3, 2009 1:36 AM Posted by mike_ch

I can't believe I missed JK's comment about Aria.

Wynn Resorts has a bit over 4,000 rooms now between Wynn/Encore. The point that a 4,000 room hotel is too big kind of deflates itself. You can run a hotel that big with that kind of service. Wynn is doing it.

Furthermore, while I can understand the complaining about lack of theme as someone who has complained about MGM's de-theming and march to trendyism, WLV was what proved to everyone that no theme was an okay thing. Thomas has sworn them off, allegedly.

Five star hotels in other cities may not have 4,000 rooms, but they also don't have a theme beyond a hotel in a bustling metropolis, so I don't think the lack of a theme and the presence of an urban centre is going to hurt it for luxury or critical reception.

January 3, 2009 2:26 PM Posted by metalman6164

Chuckmonster, your comparison of Las Vegas to Stravinsky's neoclassical period was the shit. It wasn't just the fact that you compared the two. It was the semi-detailed explanation you gave assuming that everyone knew what the hell you were talking about that floored me. And yet, for about two seconds I felt like the student loans I'm still paying off for a useless degree in music might have actually been worth it. Hats off to you sir. From now on I'll be listening intently hoping to hear how George Crumb's serialist works are akin to Boyd Gaming's business strategy.

January 3, 2009 4:44 PM Posted by Mike E

Metalman, did you ever catch Chuck's theory on Encore's convention and meeting space? Blew my mind.

January 3, 2009 4:45 PM Posted by JK

Before I come to my final opinion on City Center, I will need to see a property map. The service may be good, but the layout makes all the difference in my opinion. Will the elevators be close to the lobby? Will the casino be a maze like the MGM Grand? How easy will the property be to navigate? I will definitely go to City Center, but I'm not sure that I would stay there. Bellagio was just too big for me, as was my stay at the MGM Grand and Venetian. Wynn is running a 4000 room complex, but he divided it into four different parts (Wynn, Encore, and the two Tower Suites), which gives it more potential to provide five star service. At City Center, the odds of bellhops escorting you to the front desk and then to your room like the Tower Suites is pretty slim because there will be too many guests staying in one hotel. Encore and Wynn are two separate hotels on one property. I'm sure Mandarin Oriental for example will be very nice to stay at, even though it is part of the City Center complex. I like the rooms at City Center, but they are more "hip" than luxurious". The bottom line is when you walk into City Center in December, will it feel hip like Planet Hollywood, luxurious like Wynn, or somewhere in between? Urban-Contemporary VS Elegance.

In regards to the theme, I'm not really slamming the fact that there are no more theme properties, just the fact that all new properties are the same "genre" (Contemporary and urban-glass facades). That was actually one of the reasons I was looking forward to The Plaza because it would contrast with City Center, Echelon, FB, and Cosmo. Diversity among the new resorts would be nice.

January 3, 2009 6:29 PM Posted by Anthony

I think the best rooms at citycenter will definitely be the Mandarin. You can see a glimpse of the rooms from their e-brochure

January 4, 2009 12:17 AM Posted by mike_ch

JK: The experience you describe is very similar to a boutique hotel and yes, if you want that your best bet will probably be with Mandarin (we'll see about The Harmon.) However, Tower Suites is basically a level of concierge service inside a larger hotel and that kind of thing isn't new or impossible. The Disney Grand Floridian has two levels of concierge that can be bought over the basic room. The Vegas resorts are only just recently discovering with Tower Suites and Skylofts that there's people with lots of money and tastes for luxury that are not well represented on the casino floor for one reason for another, and that it might not be wise to stack a customer's worth entirely on their gambling penchants.

By referring to contemporary VS "elegance," you seem to suggest that hotels with a modern or post-modern design sensibility are somehow less luxurious than ones with European/baroque style design. Is that how you see things? Because some of the top rated hotels in Asia have a very modern design. That hotel in Shinjuku where they filmed Lost In Translation, that's a very modern interior throughout and one of the most luxurious hotels in Japan. Dubai is also big on modern buildings.

January 4, 2009 1:14 AM Posted by metalman6164

I hadn't heard that one Mike E. Any idea where I might find it?

January 4, 2009 9:37 PM Posted by Mike E

Metalman, Chuck first mentioned it on a Vegas Gang podcast months ago when Wynn Resorts had quietly published their meeting room floor plans for Encore. I'm having a hard time trying to find the specific episode, but to summarize, he mentioned how the Brahms room, which can be segregated into four smaller rooms--one for each symphony--sits directly beneath the room named after the very composer Brahms most admired and whose shadow he remained under throughout his career, Beethoven.

January 15, 2009 2:58 PM Posted by Joe

Wow! Go to bellagio website under "hotel" and under one of the options (guest rooms, guest suites etc.) there is new lounge called the "Executive suite lounge"
Anyone ever herd about it? location?

January 15, 2009 4:58 PM Posted by detroit1051

Joe, that's interesting. Bellagio's website says the Executive Suite Lounge is opening January 17. It must be part of the renovation process of all the suites in the main tower. Since it says there is a view of the botanical gardens (Conservatory), does this mean they've renovated the VIP Check-In room again, or is it next to it, taking some space from Cafe Bellagio?
The pdf. file 8-page suite brochure is also new on the site:

January 16, 2009 8:20 AM Posted by Mike P.

detroit and Joe:

Digging a little deeper on Bellagio's website the true suite descriptions now say they have private registration in the Executive Suite Lounge, so it looks like they are trying to replicate Wynn's Tower Suite registration. Good for them.

We'll be staying at Bellagio next month, and I'll let y'all know where it is and how I like it. I might try to grab a picture too.