Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

Here's an open topic thread for y'all - feel free to discuss today's opening of The Crystals, Mandarin Oriental tomorrow or anything at all.

On a program note, Steve Friess will be airing his nearly two hour interview with Steve Wynn this Saturday from 4pm - 6pm. You can listen live at I'll be in the studio with Steve and Miles, generally just being a nuisance and making dumb comments. Come hang out in the chat and listen to the interview. I haven't heard it but Steve tells me there's lots of good stuff!

Update: Due to circumstances beyond our control, the interview today will be Jim Murren of MGM Mirage, not Steve Wynn. Apologies but please come join anyway!


Read archived comments (52 so far)
December 3, 2009 12:46 PM Posted by GregoryZephyr

This is going to be kind of an esoteric question. From the pics of interiors of CC so far, it appears they've taken the mid-cent modern/60's-70's design style of Red Rock to an even more extreme level. Do you think they have gone too far into a 70's theme with mirrored wall paper and groovy light fixtures, etc.?

I was watching an episode of HGTV's House Hunters the other day and one house the buyers were touring featured a bathroom with shiny silver wallpaper with gold accents. It was a vintage 70's look because it hadnt been updated since the 70's. The buyer took one look and exclaimed something like, "Wow, this bathroom looks like Vegas!" I took it she didnt mean that as a complement.

December 3, 2009 1:22 PM Posted by Dave

I got a pretty strong retro vibe in the Vdara porte cochere, but the rooms didn't look like throwbacks to me.

December 3, 2009 2:29 PM Posted by JK

I can say I really like the design concepts at City Center. The one thing with the modern design is that there really isn't anything unexpected because the modern design is so abstract. That being said, it certainly has those moments that jump out at you and say "that's cool!" I'm still going to have to wait until I see it, but I think the designers should have worked on making it more distinct than with its exterior architecture and size. The theme is Urban Center, however the modern design to the average visitor isn't exactly unique.

Now do I think it is significant as The Mirage? No. I think it is more on the Bellagio level (for different reasons). Mirage redifined Vegas. Bellagio took another leap after the redefinement in terms of elegance and service. City Center probably won't change the way resorts are built as dramatically as The Mirage, but it is offering something completely different for the time being. Who knows how high it will raise the bar? I'm sure it will raise the bar, but every new resort offers up new concepts these days. City Center is big, and that is why it gets all of the hype. It is still based on the fundamentals of casino/resort design and I don't think that makes it quite worthy of the title "New Vegas". When you get down to it, there is the boutique hotels and such, but there probably won't be four hotels opening in a development from now on.
City Center is new, big, modern, and it is themed. It's a new Vegas resort that will blow people away. It raises the bar in Vegas like all new resorts (to their credit though, I think it will raise the bar more than Palazzo or even Encore did).

On a side note, I can't wait to hear that interview with Steve Wynn.

December 3, 2009 7:20 PM Posted by John

Went through the Crystals tonight. It is pretty sparsely inhabited at the moment, and smaller than I thought it'd be. Everyone seemed to enjoy the tram ride and for a mall, it's one to remember.

They are allowing people into the pocket park between Aria and Crystals as well as allowing pedestrians along Veer and Mandarin's shops (which are insanely far from being finished). The Henry Moore is enormous and one of Richard Long's mud painting looks close to completion. Bring on the 16th.

Oh, Silk Road was eh. Maybe it's their second day, but it was enough to make me not want to go back.

December 3, 2009 8:37 PM Posted by Anthony

A few low quality pics of Mandarin.

December 3, 2009 9:14 PM Posted by charlie

5 star cuisine, Romanee Conti, and what a romantic view of the PHo.

The MO in NY is one of the world's great hotels, especially b/c of the sky lobby overlooking Central Park. Here you are only as good as the company you keep.

Now I am totally diggin the Aria photos, especially the casino. Its like a modern re-interpretation of the Vega$ (tv show) Vegas - Caesars, Dunes. Complete with low slung ceilings, dark carpet, dark walls, dark ceilings, dark everything, and big shiny metallic stuff everywhere.

Totally Dig It Man. Groovy.

December 3, 2009 9:26 PM Posted by JK

While Aria's casino is better than I thought, the Crystals reminded me of a dream I had before Encore opened; Wynn made everything white, and it looked awful. I guess I'm psychic cause the Crystals looks exactly like that dream. I'm not kidding you.

December 3, 2009 11:14 PM Posted by Kenny

Speaking of Steve Wynn and City Center, I found a video of the Crystals mall and Steve wandering the place with his new girlfriend (at the end of the video). Check it out

December 4, 2009 12:23 AM Posted by mike_ch

To expand on something I wrote on Twitter: while browsing the want ads, I see that Imperial Palace is opening a food venue of some type called Quesadilla.

I wonder if Harrahs is beginning to take the IP a little more seriously and is upgrading it's disastrous dining options?

December 4, 2009 3:53 AM Posted by Brian Fey

JK - Maybe you're clairvoyant perhaps?

December 4, 2009 5:30 AM Posted by Craps Man

Great thanks for letting me know i will definitely check this out. I've read a few blog posts about Steve Wynn with people praising him, have to see if he is what they say he's cracked up to be

December 4, 2009 6:39 AM Posted by Anthony

No wonder Mandarin Oriental is sold out all the way to Dec. 16. (except for the Dec. 14th). Only 75 rooms will be open this weekend.

December 4, 2009 9:25 AM Posted by Anthony

MO sneak peak

December 4, 2009 1:16 PM Posted by Phil

A little off topic on the City Center buzz, but I wonder if this blog was around 30 years ago we would be talking about the design of this.............

December 4, 2009 2:26 PM Posted by Phil

I had no clue that the Crystals Louis Vuitton exterior was in fact an LED sign. Pretty neat.

Video here

December 4, 2009 2:35 PM Posted by mike_ch

Phil, thank you for posting that. That rotunda and it's moving path still exists at Caesars, it's out at the Strip sidewalk by the Deuce stop. You go into that little temple thing, get on a movator through a dark room, and then over the street and into an entrance built up just above Pure, next to the Coliseum. There you walk through a mostly empty white hallway with just some lit-up signs advertising restaurants and stuff (they actually do keep them fairly up to date, surprising considering this is a hard to find location) and then you arrive in the Forum Casino with the Coliseum box office on your right and PURE on your left.

What little effects exist in the temple thing are turned off. You get on the movator and you can sort of see the water of the reflecting pools and then darkness behind glass with maybe the hint of something behind there. Didn't know it was a diorama of Rome. I figured it was pitch black in there because of the flow of Vegas in the past few years, first that Family Stuff Isn't Cool, followed by Themes Aren't Cool, and Harrah's wouldn't have an interest in maintaining it.

I never knew that the real reason it's turned off is that it's from 1986! That's hilarious. I wonder if they still have the tapes of George Burns in a toga?

December 4, 2009 2:40 PM Posted by mike_ch

BTW, if Dr Dave is reading, if you have anything to add on this old Caesars thing, photos of it in action or something, please speak up because this sort of carnival stuff is what I liked most about Vegas. :)

December 4, 2009 7:05 PM Posted by charlie

Nothing exemplifies pre-Mirage Vegas more than Rain Man and Charlie Babbitt slowly gliding into Caesars Palace, the 1988 8th Wonder of the World, to bring down the house. I love the shot of the Mirage being built in the background. Of course, I have re-enacted the whole scene a dozen times. I even played Blackjack with Nick the dealer, "You're doing very well sir.", back in the day.

December 4, 2009 8:10 PM Posted by Phil

I remember the Caesars thing quite well when it was first built, even down to the script of the speaking holograms inside, so for those who never experienced it back in day, here are all the details as I remember them.

First of all, prior to this "Caesars World Temple" being there it was a giant steel shelled black dome that looked identical to the shape of the old Omnimax theatre, it was open aired for the most part. You walked through this domed sculpture and entered the moving walkway, which had speakers (now broken) that detailed what was going on at the hotel as you traveled up the moving walkway, things like current entertainers performing and restaurants, it was frequently updated as the entertainers changed. When the first stretch of the walkway was complete you had a landing area, again with a little steel shaped dome to match the Omnimax dome shape, the dome on the landing was a bit smaller. If I'm correct, this second dome still exists today and the only thing in the hotel that is a remnant to the design of the old Ominimax theatre days. The 2nd half of the walkway then led directly to the 2nd floor of the Forum casino where the main entrance was to the Ominax theatre. This 2nd floor was very small, essentially a loft area that overlooked the Forum Casino, there used to be a lounge up there which was converted to a video arcade later.

When they converted to the "World of Caesar" temple as detailed in those links, you'll notice that entrance along the sidewalk was different than it is today. Why they killed the winged lion and fountain down the middle I'll never know, but the pictures on the link clearly show a design change to eliminate the center stairway. The original entrance stairs were a little more inviting immediately open to the sidewalk and matched the concept theme (wealth flowing from the source as they called the main lion flowing fountain). They closed off those stairs, removed the mythic lion and fountain and made access only on the far right and left of the Caesars World temple as it sits today.

Now on to how the temple worked on the inside. You were greeted by this roman festival type of music. The entrance was very dark. Immediately on the left and right there were pools with a fountain (last I checked this has been filled in by fake ferns today). Just beyond the fountains were mini models of Rome, they were backlit with colors of purple and blues. It didn't look cheap, they were well done. The statuary on the right was unique because when you looked into the Roman buidlings you saw a 3D hologram of a Roman party going on within the mini Roman buildings, basically people dancing in togas. You could hear them having a good time. Immediately after you crossed an arch was the highlight that no longer exists. It was another hologram on the right side it was nearly within arms reach from standing on the moving walkway. It was another 3D hologram of Caesar and Cleopatra, standing about a foot tall. Caesar said" You have just seen my world's of past, now enter my new world of food, entertainment and casinos". Cleopatra then said, "may the gods of fortune be with you at Caesars Palace". After a few years they put a glass barrier between the holograms and you, probably due to some carless guests. Both the Caesar and Cleopatra used were the same that roamed through the hotel (there were may over the years), but this particular Caesar was around for a long time.

Keep in mind for the early 80's seeing 3D holograms was cutting technology at the time as was the Omnimax theatre the walkway led to.

The whole experience was very fast as back when this place opened the moving walkway actually worked and it worked fast so going through the temple was a cool experience and I recall many people walking backwards on the walkway to get a view of it more in detail. If I had to guess I'd say they killed the holograms about 8-10 years ago, the internal fountains about 3 years ago, so basically the temple is a skeleton of what it once was. The crazy thing is if it was refurbished back to what it once was, it think it would still have appeal. It just was Caesars way of giving us a cool little free adventure that was cutting age for its time.

December 4, 2009 8:24 PM Posted by jinx

Love that entrance at Caesars although it's been forever since I saw the walkway moving, and a couple of trips, it's been closed up completely for an entrance.

December 4, 2009 9:23 PM Posted by Phil

For those who long for some old school.

Check out the Mirage land before it existed.

Oval Indy track-

Road course Formula 1 track-

December 4, 2009 9:33 PM Posted by Doug

The HDR photos of Aria I found through a link at Vegastripping are jaw-dropping! This is beyond what I thought it would be - incredible.

Also, the Aria poker room picture from the LVRJ set of pictures looks great. It looks like they took the best aspects of the poker rooms at Bellagio(comfort) and MGM(lots of space) and put them into the Aria design - I still say this will become the number one 'big games' room in town.

December 5, 2009 1:23 AM Posted by mike_ch

Francesco's at Treasure Island is gone at last. Originally demoted to a pizzeria from it's mid-level Italian joint origins, it's now entirely gone. Probably to be replaced with Gilley's.

So where has the Italian gone? To the steakhouse. To be specific, to the newly retitled Phil's Italian Steakhouse.

That's an iffy combo right there, but word was that Ruffin was really disappointed in the original Steak House.

December 5, 2009 1:39 AM Posted by mike_ch

Another thing I noticed about the steakhouse, is that it's now open for lunch. Steaks aren't served at lunch, but pasta is ~$5 less than it is at dinner.

This is an unusual step for a few reasons, one being that it's odd for any restaurant to expand their hours in this economy, but also that more and more of the premium dining locations have been chopping off lunch (Circo, anyone?) as serving lunch is some kind of loss of prestige. Dining buffs would know more about this than me.

Whether it's permanent or not, I guess we'll see, but it looks like Ruffin has decided to not be quite as stuffy at the Steak House, which is old enough that the room doesn't really look like fine dining anyhow (or perhaps it was heavily de-themed? I remember once it was called The Plank.)

This leaves only Isla and Khotan as dinner-only, and the latter opens a bit early at 4PM.

December 5, 2009 4:52 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Awesome finds Detroit, thanks. The NBC Sportsworld footage is a trip down memory lane. How the world has changed in 25 years.
I think this open topic thread shows why RateVegas got nominated for best blog, I just love it.

December 5, 2009 6:24 AM Posted by detroit1051

Jeff, I agree with everything you said, but I didn't post those comments. Doug, Phil and others have given us a fascinating glimpse of the past and deserve the credit. Ditto on these discussions making Two Way Hard Three the best there is for us Las Vegas and casino design nuts!

December 5, 2009 4:10 PM Posted by Tom M.

Hunter great pics of CC. Thanks a million for those of us who can't be there now. Any plans to do a live ustream of the Aria opening. I know something was mentioned but I havn't heard anything recently.

December 5, 2009 5:01 PM Posted by Hunter

We have plans for a bunch of live coverage... Stay tuned for more details very soon.

December 6, 2009 3:47 AM Posted by mike_ch

Pre-Mirage view north from Caesars:

Don't know if that URL will work forever, but lordy lordy, there's almost nothing out there.

December 6, 2009 5:25 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Ouch-my mistake! Sorry, Phil. Guess I need to pay better attention early in the morning.

December 6, 2009 7:07 AM Posted by Brian Fey

I'm a little older than some of you, and I've been going to Vegas for the past 25+ years. But I sure never remember this Holiday Inn? Did that get imploded, or become part of something else?

December 6, 2009 8:20 AM Posted by Jinx

The interesting thing to me about Phil closing Franchesca's is that I believe as recently as this summer, he was praising the genius of changing the previous offering to casual Italian, because it was just rolling in the bucks. Although I realize that Gilley's is probably the ultimate reason for the removal.

December 6, 2009 9:01 AM Posted by Hunter

It was converted into Harrah's Las Vegas.

December 6, 2009 10:40 AM Posted by Phil

Take a trip on the City Center monorail

December 6, 2009 10:44 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike_ch wrote, "but lordy lordy, there's almost nothing out there."
That's how I remember Vegas. Caesars, Sands, Desert Inn, Dunes, MGM Grand at Flamingo and The Strip, the Marina and country club where MGM Grand is now.
Hunter beat me to it, responding to Brian about Holiday Casino. Brian, you say you're older than some of us, but you're also a lot younger than some of us (sigh).

December 6, 2009 10:51 AM Posted by Jason Robar

Random note from Norm's interview with Eva Longoria about her new restaurant. Initially she was in negotiations with New York New York about a space at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. From the quote it sounds like it would have been accessible by foot somehow from Trop and LV Blvd.

December 6, 2009 12:28 PM Posted by Andy in MSP

Franchesca's Casual Italian is being moved to a new location in the shopping area of TI, next to the Poker Room if I remember correctly.

December 6, 2009 1:04 PM Posted by Craig

"Eva was in negotiations with NYNY about a space at the foot of the Statue of Liberty". I wonder how active MGM is marketing that space. Is a change in this area in the works? If they do to NYNY what they did to the bay at Treasure Island, it will indeed to be disgrace.

December 7, 2009 12:44 PM Posted by Andy in MSP

An interesting (opinionated) article about the opening of City Center so far. Has anyone else had similar thoughts?

December 7, 2009 7:23 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Hum...VT&T has made their monthly post. He made it sound like accessing Vdara from Bellagio isn't as simple as I expected. I don't know that Hunter really eleborated on it exactly, but I thought it was pretty seamless and just walking through a series of walkways. But according to VT&T you have to go outside, through the tram station, up an elevator. Hum....I'm not impressed. Hunter...? I trust you as much as any other expert I know, besides myself, and I haven't seen it yet.... :)

December 7, 2009 7:40 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Sometimes I wish I knew how to link. Today's R-J has a pretty good story about the almost forgotten "Miss Spectactular", and Steve Wynn's attempts to develope it for the Las Vegas Strip.

December 7, 2009 9:15 PM Posted by Hunter

The walk from Bellagio to Vdara is as follows:

Walk to the Spa Tower elevators - just beyond is an escalator that leads to the second level. If you want straight ahead, you go out on a covered walkway to Vdara, about 180 feet. If you walk to the right, you go up another escalator to get to the tram station.

It's easy.

December 7, 2009 11:36 PM Posted by mike_ch

That show can't be forgotten soon enough, based on what's been written about it.

The author should simply get over it, and if he can't find a good buyer then adapt the music to new lyrics and write a new musical about something else that somebody somewhere might want to buy. Either that, or take that one to other cities instead of insisting that it needs to be in a casino showroom. Nobody has any money to throw at unproven lavish musicals by Broadway producers right now. Not when you can get musicals that are proven draws, or non-stage proven draws like Garth. It's all about security.

Not to mention the whole story of a girl from a hick town who makes it big in the city lights isn't exactly what you'd consider very original. Hairspray is basically the same thing with a recognizable title and it did horribly.

December 8, 2009 9:47 PM Posted by detroit1051

MO, an unsurpassed zen retreat?

December 9, 2009 4:27 AM Posted by Anthony

A quick overview of CityCenter's water features:
Lumia, Focus, Latisse, Glacia and Halo

December 9, 2009 9:01 AM Posted by detroit1051

Murren's going to move those condos!

December 11, 2009 12:14 AM Posted by mike_ch

Wynncore wants some of that gay money that Harrah's and (sorta) MGM are going after:

December 11, 2009 4:37 AM Posted by detroit1051

Wynn's "Pride" website is better than the main one! Wynn's marketing appears much more appealing and genuine than HET's. Wynn's effort doesn't feel like pandering.
Everything is well thought out, and the "press" section adds credibility.
Very impressive.

December 12, 2009 12:19 AM Posted by mike_ch

Where are Palazzo, Encore, Vdara, and Aria getting these 42" TVs from? Sony and Samsung both don't have any 42" models, just 40" and 46". Are they buying from LG?

I know WLV has Gateway TVs, but I've never stayed in anything newer than it so I'm out of the loop. :(

December 14, 2009 10:04 PM Posted by John

Not a lot has been mentioned about the Sky Casino at Encore lately. I wonder if that has brought any more business Wynn's way since the opening.

December 24, 2009 7:54 AM Posted by charlie

familiar tune...