Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

December 11, 2009 - Just Like Being There!

Posted by Hunter

I'm very excited to see ARIA open next week - after all these years and billions of dollars, it's like Christmas is coming early. Despite your opinions on the complex (and I expect them to vary a good bit), it's a ton of fun to see a new place turn on the lights.

Now, not everyone can be there in person - if you want to follow the action live, we've once again partnered with to build a special site just for you: On the site, you can easily see a special feed of our tweets, photos and videos.

For those that ARE going to be there, we need your help! Our new site accepts photo submissions sent to After being moderated, the photos end up on the site for all to see (there are instructions available if you want to see how it works). The person who takes the best photo, as judged by myself and Chuckmonster, will win a brand new iPod Touch and a copy of Vegas Mate.

It's gonna be a lot of fun and I can't wait to see the amazing photos you'll all submit.


Read archived comments (33 so far)
December 11, 2009 10:07 AM Posted by detroit1051

It won't be "just like being there", but it will be the next best thing. I'm sure looking forward to all your and Chuck's comments, photos and observations. I know you'll cover my questions and more, but here a couple of things I'm interested in:
When CC and Aria are fully open, do the vehicle and pedestrian traffic patterns actually work?
Did MGM misjudge the public's willingness to use valet parking?
Will Bellagio's self-park garage be bogged down by CityCenter visitors, thus hurting Bellagio?
Where are the casino Hosts coming from? Will senior and executive hosts leave other MGM properties for Aria?
I'm also anxiously awaiting the expert opinions from you all on the bars and restaurants.

December 11, 2009 10:09 AM Posted by Hunter

On your question about hosts, I believe that the majority came from Bellagio and The Mirage. The latter perhaps contributing a larger share than you might expect.

December 11, 2009 10:29 AM Posted by Brian Fey

Ok, Tutor-Perini is issuing their press release today, that they've delivered the City Center Project on time. Now we know where this 19,000 parking space figure comes from. That's the total number of cars they can park, but that includes all 5 garages some of which are large above ground also.

December 11, 2009 10:33 AM Posted by mesa

Won't be there for the big opening but will be staying at Aria on the 20th. Got tickets to Viva Elvis also. Can't wait.

December 11, 2009 3:09 PM Posted by Tom M.

Are you guys going to do live streaming given the poor cell phone coverage you have already experienced?

December 11, 2009 3:13 PM Posted by Hunter

Got Verizon as a backup so hopefully we'll be okay.

December 11, 2009 3:39 PM Posted by mike_ch

Boy, what a glowing endorsement of AT&T. Heh.

December 11, 2009 4:38 PM Posted by detroit1051

I'm too average a guy to know whether these pretentious "experts" know what they're talking about or not. That's why I'm waiting for Hunter, Chuckmonster and some real people to weigh in next week.
"But in the end what the company and its architects have created is a kind of bell-jar urbanism, a complex that is closer to an eye-popping, full-scale mock-up of sophisticated city life than the real thing."

December 11, 2009 6:10 PM Posted by GregoryZephyr

I probably wont be back to Vegas until March so I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your efforts to bring us all the interesting details. I generally find the mainstream media to either gloss over details and dwell on generic topics ("City Center cost a trillion dollars to build!") or recite PR-supplied drivel ("Aria is the most luxurious resort in the history of the world!").

December 11, 2009 9:43 PM Posted by Doug

If MikeE is going to be at the opening please ask him to tweet or report some of the gaming conditions. I know that has nothing to do with 'casino design', but it sure would be nice.

Also, a report on 'The Duece' and 'Bar Moderno' would be great...

December 11, 2009 10:11 PM Posted by Mike E

Doug, I'll be fashionably late. Arriving the 21st. Will be more than happy to report any and all gaming conditions if they haven't been reported by then already.

December 12, 2009 2:00 AM Posted by mesa

MikeE we arrive we get in on the 20th.We have to stop meeting like this : )

December 12, 2009 6:27 AM Posted by Dave

As far as the blog post that Detroit linked to, I think that the author's seeing part of the picture, although he's too busy expressing his contempt for concentrated wealth and suburban sprawl to see the whole thing.

As a real person who's been inside Aria, I'll reiterate what I said on the last Vegas Gang. The real difference is the way that Pelli handled space, volume, and views inside the building. When you get there, go up to the second floor balcony overlooking the main lobby atrium, preferably just around sunset, and enjoy the view out over I-15 to the Spring Mountains. You definitely haven't seen this in a public space in a Strip casino before.

As far as pedestrian access goes, I found it pretty hard to walk from MO to Vdara, but that's probably because I was detouring around Aria. But the pedestrian access to MO doesn't from outside seem that friendly--I had to cross a few driveways to get inside from the Boulevard.

My impression--and this may be a premature one--was that the complex doesn't integrate better into the surrounding pedestrian grid than previous casinos--in fact, it's far harder to stroll into Aria than it is to walk into the Flamingo or Harrah's. But within itself it does deliver an "urban," walkable feel.

December 12, 2009 8:20 AM Posted by Dave

And, much to my dismay, the LA Times writer called it "the City Center" in the last paragraph. Next stop...the Aria!

December 13, 2009 10:27 AM Posted by Kenny

City Center tram signage at Monte Carlo from the "street of dreams" shops:

December 13, 2009 11:50 AM Posted by detroit1051

Oh No!
Monte Carlo's tram signage has CityCenter written as two words. C'mon Monte Carlo. It's CityCenter.

December 13, 2009 7:22 PM Posted by detroit1051

I just don't get Jim Murren. Like the Medicis???
"MGM Mirage touts CityCenter, a cluster of skyscrapers, casinos and shops nearly six years in the making, as "the evolution of Las Vegas into a sophisticated, multidimensional city." Its 67 acres feature a central boulevard that's the width of New York's Park Avenue and sculptures by the likes of Henry Moore and Maya Lin. "We view ourselves as patrons, like the Medicis," Mr. Murren says."

December 13, 2009 7:29 PM Posted by Mike P.

I'm going to miss all of the CC "grand openings," but we were there last week for a meeting at the far south end of the strip.


"My impression--and this may be a premature one--was that the complex doesn't integrate better into the surrounding pedestrian grid than previous casinos--in fact, it's far harder to stroll into Aria than it is to walk into the Flamingo or Harrah's. But within itself it does deliver an "urban," walkable feel."

My first impression of the pedestrian zone along the strip was that it's a failure at least on a par with the (pre PH) Aladdin across the street. To get from MC to Bellagio you have to climb a couple flights of stairs to the walkway over Aria Drive (or whatever it's called), then either walk through Crystals on the second level or walk down then up again to cross over Harmon, and then down again where for the next year -- at least -- you'll have to walk by Cosmo construction barriers.

It's tempting to take the tram to bypass that mess, but that takes another long walk through Monte Carlo, up a couple more long flights of stairs (OK, escalators or elevator for most), a few minutes wait at what could be an EL train or tram stop at any big city transit system or airport in the world, then a 5 minute ride to Bellagio where after a few more flights of stairs or escalators you end up at the edge of the Spa Tower, 10 or 15 minutes away from the strip (but close to Bellagio's meeting rooms if that's where you're headed).

December 13, 2009 8:05 PM Posted by Access Vegas

I spent some time riding Las Vegas' most bumpy tram (Bellagio to Monte Carlo). Somebody who has too much to drink is going to lose it on that thing.

Man and woman (who were in jeans and a construction vest) were peering out at each stop in plans for final placement of the public trash cans at each stop. The cans at the Bellagio stop did look out of place... turns out they are being borrowed from Bellagio for now. Very interesting to hear all the detail even down to trash can placement at tram stations.

Got in conversations with a number of people riding back and forth. Got the conversation going and then noted that I am a travel writer and was able to probe just a little bit.

The verdict of my non-scientific sample?

People over 40-ish noted that it looked nice, didn't seem Vegas, and couldn't understand buying a condo there when someone with that kind of money is going to gamble enough to get comped anywhere.

Note: I realize that Murren said they are targeting people who really want to live full time on The Strip. I'm just passing along opinion.

Younger guys thought it was cool, but maybe not "Vegas" in the terms of party/gamble/live-it-up vibe to it.

Younger women were by far the most favorable -- they seem to appreciate the design concepts and shopping (even if it is window shopping). They may be the ones driving their boyfriends/husbands to visit, stay, and spend.

I'm not sure if I heard Murren detail that side of their expected revenue, but it is no secret that CityCenter can use all the positives possible opening in this economy.

Past that, I'm reserving a truckload of judgment until after New Years Eve. I could give them a laundry list of various things that make it somewhat difficult from both a driving and pedestrian traffic perspective (IE, for the first-time visitor of which they'll have many -- not for the rest of us who have been able to visit, learn our way around, study all the maps and stuff).

But if they are being as detail oriented as they are with garbage can placement, I'm guessing that they will be on top of many other things as well once the property is in full swing.

December 14, 2009 3:34 AM Posted by mike_ch

Wow, I might as well quit posting. I've got nothing left to contribute after this brilliant summary by Dr. Dave:

"expressing his contempt for concentrated wealth and suburban sprawl"

Whadda ya know, that sums my posting/commenting history for the past two years. There's nothing left to say now that he boiled it down into those little words.

Farewell, ladies and gentlemen! :)

December 14, 2009 5:07 AM Posted by detroit1051

Hunter, I know you'll at least be walking through Bellagio this week. I'd be interested in any observations on how well the property is being maintained, both inside and outside. When you posted your photos of CityCenter last week, you had one of Bellagio's Spa Tower taken from the tram. In the photo, it looked to me like the exterior panels were faded and needed some attention. Let's hope MGM's expense control measures don't do damage to Bellagio.

December 14, 2009 7:52 AM Posted by Hunter

Yes, I have a night there this week actually - first time as a guest in quite awhile.

December 14, 2009 12:50 PM Posted by parchedearth

Apparently, its not just Murren who doesn't get the whole MGM is a gaming company and LV is a gaming destination. The president of Aria recently referred to the casino as an "anchor tenant"; as though it was leasing space and could be replaced. Somebody needs to explain to these guys that the casino is the anchor without which CC would not have been built. Those whales aren't going to fly halfway around the world just to see a shiny new hotel.

December 14, 2009 4:10 PM Posted by Andy in MSP

"In the photo, it looked to me like the exterior panels were faded and needed some attention. "

The entire exterior of Bellagio is in dire need of a paint job! The buildings surrounding the lake used to be colorful and now they all look about the same faded beige color.

December 14, 2009 9:50 PM Posted by John

Can't make it this weekend?

December 15, 2009 2:33 AM Posted by mike_ch

I think they're, at least in their own minds, making an effort to make the town more than just a gambling capital. I mean, yeah, that's certainly there, but clearly they're trying to acquire the image of being something more than a casino with stuff placed around it. The simple fact is that everyone expects a casino, so emphasizing that there's more to it is probably more important.

We'll see how it looks in the product, I think if they're truly going to make an effort to downplay the casino, they'll stop the psychwar efforts to get people to gamble (i.e. the ground floor labeled C on the elevator, everyone and their brother ending a conversation with "Good Luck!", etc.)

December 15, 2009 3:38 AM Posted by hail2skins

Clicked on the City Center interactive guide at the LVRJ site and more pics of Aria's interior. Some might have been there before but one was dated the 14th suggesting this is new stuff. This is a nice looking place.

December 15, 2009 10:34 AM Posted by dstanley

Has anyone been to the Millenium Park in Chicago? It is fantastic. I would have liked to have seen MGM hire artists who would create innovative and immaginative works for City Center like those found in that park. From the images that I have seen I am not too interested in the public art at City Center.

December 15, 2009 2:36 PM Posted by cgriff

Wow, that "view" from the Aria room that Chuckmonster posted is dreadful!

December 15, 2009 4:56 PM Posted by Mike P.

Millenium Park has the same sort of postmodern abstract public art installations as CityCenter. What's the difference?

Cloud Gate is an iconic piece that's fun and approachable and the Frank Gehry designed pavilion is, umm, unmistakeably Gehry. The only other notable piece of public art at Millenium Park is a fountain, and frankly Wet Design does them better.

December 16, 2009 12:16 PM Posted by Kenny

Im with Detroit. I have not been at the Bellagio in several months and really want to see how the "City Center effect" has on the place. If you have a chance, I would like to hear what you have to say (or any updates) about the Bellagio when you return

December 16, 2009 3:24 PM Posted by BTF

Thanks for all of these great pix!
Have you had the opportunity to see the suites yet?
They only have photos of the bedrooms in the suites on the Aria website.
Thanks for the info!

December 17, 2009 5:21 AM Posted by kage

aria skysuites interiors - pics 10 > 16,0,853232.photogallery