The BLOG FLUME - The Real City that Never Sleeps

Vegas is hot this month. And not just according to the thermometer. Kevin has the major goings-on in Las Vegas.

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: August 24, 2004 at 2:49 AM

Las Vegas Review-Journal - Aug 12

The people who own the land that Wet 'n' Wild sits on in Las Vegas have been threatening to send the park elsewhere for so many years, people have stopped listening to the threats. Well, the threats have become reality and WnW will close down permanently in October.

On the land they tentatively plan to build a resort named Palace of the Sea sporting an Australian theme. The casino will be designed after Sydney's famed Opera House and the hotel, with 3002 rooms, will be a shocking 611 feet high. (The tallest operating hotel is New York-New York at 529 feet. Wynn Las Vegas will be the tallest when it opens at 613 feet. Then comes the Palazzo in 2007, the Venetian's 642-foot expansion, which will be a stand-alone resort, much like the Mirage's Treasure Island expansion.) Most of the rest of the resort will be nautically themed, hence the "Sea" in the title. In that "sea" will reportedly be docked yachts, which will house high-roller suites.

It sounds fantastic, if they can pull it off. It would be even more fantastic if they add a Not-As-Great Barrier Reef in that sea. Even so, this resort could really revive the Sahara intersection of the Strip and make the North Strip a major draw.

As for WnW, the park operators do plan on reopening a new WnW elsewhere in Vegas, but that may not happen for a couple years. Some of the slides may make their way to other parks, but some may be transferred to the new offip site.

USA Today - Jul 30

There is a line of thinking out there that men who believe that bigger is better are smaller in a very important area. Well, Donald Trump must be the smallest of them all. He has recently announced plans to build the tallest resort in Vegas. At 645 feet, it will be taller than all the hotels in the previous story.

BUT it isn't going to be a casino, even though Trump recently got his Nevada gaming license. Trump International Hotel and Tower will house 1000 hotel rooms, 50 luxury residential units, a spa and restaurants. Trump is building the Tower partially on property owned by the New Frontier and is being built in a partnership with that resort's owner, Phil Ruffin.

What does this mean? The Frontier, even with the "New" moniker, has been the main focus of many buy-and-implode rumors, so this deal is probably meant to do one of two things: It will either turn the Frontier into the historic destination it deserves to be (Elvis Presley's first Vegas performance was here) or the Frontier will implode and the two men will create a new mega-resort incorporating the Trump Tower.

With stuff like the Palace of the Sea and the Palazzo going up in the general area, I don't see the seriously old-time Frontier lasting much longer. Which would probably suit Trump just fine, as Steve Wynn has been proving he is much bigger than Trump for years. With Wynn Las Vegas opening next year, undoubtedly to major acclaim, expect Trump to prove how much bigger he is soon after. Just remember, Donny, that the Stratosphere is 1081 feet tall! Take that!

Las Vegas Review-Journal - Aug 18

In a business move that is both smart and tasteless, Hooters has entered a partnership with the owners of the San Remo, a casino just east of the Tropicana. The hotel will be renamed the Hooters Casino Hotel after a $120M renovation, to be completed next year.

The renovation will include four new dining and entertainment additions, including a Hooters, naturally. The push for young males won't end there as they plan on adding a Dan Marino's Fine Food and Spirits, a restaurant with supposedly high-quality food and nonip prices. Higher-end males and females will be targeted with Martini Bar, another Marino concept, that is supposed to challenge snooty bars like Ghost Bar at the Palms and The Bar at THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay. There seems to be a major trend in Vegas right now to pull in the see-and-be-seen crowd, and Hooters believes expanding the San Remo pool to three times it current size will drag people away from the current poolside scenes at the Palms and the Hard Rock. I don't see why this won't work.

In fact, the San Remo was never a bad hotel to stay at if Strip prices scared you. It was just seriously boring and uninspired. With these additions, and complete room and public area renovations, this hotel certainly will no longer be either.

Las Vegas Review-Journal - Jul 28

If Harrah's proposed buyout of Caesars was introduced to throw a monkey wrench into the MGM Mirage/Mandalay merger, it worked like a charm. The Federal Trade Commission has requested more information from the two companies about the competitive consequences that will ensue. Such "second requests" are rare, and usually mean the FTC is not comfortable with something. The FTC might not have thought twice about it if the Harrah's/Caesars thing hadn't muddied the waters.

Even worse for MGM Mirage and Mandalay Resorts is the fact that all the extra information they need to supply can delay the merger by up to ten months. Second requests also lower the chances of the merger happening to 50%.

Still, the new company could simply be forced to sell one or two Vegas casinos, which would be pretty simple as Circus Circus sucks and Monte Carlo is fairly boring and not one of the majors involved.

Either way, Harrah's/Caesars makes out like a five-armed bandit. It is doubtful the FTC will be able to stop a fiveip-casino merger as Mandalay Resorts currently owns 4 1/2 and MGM Mirage owns 5 1/2.

Las Vegas Review-Journal - Aug 18

Blatantly stealing from Hollywood's Walk of Fame, Vegas plans on filling the sidewalks of the Strip with two-dimensional stars celebrating Sin City's three-dimensional stars. Okay, it isn't really stealing since the people behind the Hollywood Walk of Fame are behind this idea also.

The granite stars will eventually cover the entire Strip from Mandalay Bay to Sahara on both sides of the street. It will cost the nominees or the people who nominate them $15K, and early names floated have been Vegas luminaries like Elvis, Siegfried & Roy, Wayne Newton and Liberace. The first star is expected to be embedded within 30 days. Personally, I wish they'd take a hint from the Joey commercials and bury the celebrities under the sidewalk. And I say they start with Celine Dion!

Readers' Opinions

From Jason Lester on August 24, 2004 at 9:04 AM
I can't wait for the new hotels! Me and my family usually stay at the Mandalay, but we should have some new choices now. I hope one of the new hotels has a ride of some sort.
From David Klawe on August 24, 2004 at 9:48 PM
I can tell who is really worried about the Mandalay Bay - MGM/Mirage merger, and that is the folks in Jean and Primm on the I-15... Primm three hotels are owned by MGM Mirage, and Jean is owned by Mandalay Bay.... the merger would more than likely require one of the two properties to be sold...

Laughlin isn't much of a concern, right now Mandalay Bay owns 2 casinos (Edgewater and Colorado Belle), and MGM Mirage has nothing...

Harrah's has a casino in Laughlin, and would get the Flamingo as a second as part of a merger, but if Mandalay Bay can have 2, it shouldn't pose a problem.... there is also a lot of single owners locations (Riverside, Ramada Express, Pioneer, Golden Nugget and the River Palms)...

As for Wet and Wild, the location is high priority, moving it to an offip location makes sense, as it would help cut operating costs, though there are other projects in the works, including a new large mall that is supposed to have a "theme park" as part of the project....

With the two Major mergers, it should be an time to watch.. and talk about watching, I think I will be checking out the new Hooters Casino ;)

From Kevin Baxter on August 25, 2004 at 3:08 AM
David, I totally forgot about the mall. Not that this wasn't long enough without it.

The mall will be built by the people behind the Mall of America, but I just don't see the need for it. Every friggin' casino has some sort of shopping area in it, and the new mall won't even be as big as the Fashion Show Mall, even with that amusement park.

As for the amusement park, don't expect much. Any time I have ever seen the one in MoA, it looks even worse than the Adventuredome. With the closing of Wet 'n' Wild, they should change those plans to an indoor water park instead. Put lots of glass around it and it would probably get most of the crowd that WnW used to get, if not more.

From PM 24-7 on August 25, 2004 at 4:24 PM
Totally Agree...
The last thing that LV needs is another mall...As you noted, there are already 4 malls on the strip (Fashion Show, Forum Shops, Dessert Passage, Las Vegas Outlet-formerly Belz-)and 5 if you count the Boulevard Mall about a mile off the strip...It's getting ridiculous with malls and hotels going up being built 10 feet higher than the last so that they can say it's the biggest...The LV market is saturated with huge resorts and there is only so much that can be built before things stop being profitable...

I've got to say that I am surprised that Wet n Wild is going away...It seemed like the perfect location for a water park (in the middle of a tourist area in the 110 degree Vegas heat). It's too bad a resort couldn't put a little money into the park and make it a part of their resort (ala-Disney and Universal) afterall, we have only 1 water park in LV and about 20 mega-resorts...

From Kevin Baxter on August 26, 2004 at 3:10 AM
What about the Grand Canal Shoppes? Or that at least half of the Strip hotels have some sort of shopping area within them, like the one between Luxor and Mandalay Bay, the one that leads to Bellagio or the one at the Stratosphere, which will soon be increasing in size? Unless this thing is just a major wonder to behold, I don't see it doing very well.

As for WnW... they didn't own the park. They leased the land to the owners of WnW. Putting a megaresort next to the Sahara right now is extremely smart. The Sahara is on the end of the Monorail line, so people heading down there to ride Speed or go up the Stratosphere will certainly walk next door to check out the nicest casino on this end of the Strip.

From PM 24-7 on August 27, 2004 at 4:22 PM
There are shops in just about every casino and calling the Canal Shops and the new stretch of shops being finished next to the Mandalay Bay a 'mall' isn't really an accurate description...I'm sure that those shops were constructed for the sole purpose of keeping people at that casino rather than to actually attract/compete...I just wasn't impressed with the Canal Shops (I go to the Venetian for the restaurants and to take visiting family on the gondola rides...we still hit the Forum Shops, Fashion Show or the old Belz if we're looking for a spectacle or to actually buy something).

Was W'n'W not doing well? I know that it's an old park but...I would think it would look awefully inviting to tourists when they're in 110 degree heat...although I can see where this might be a local attraction more than a tourists attraction...afterall, every Casino has some sort of pool (usually just enough of a pool to keep guests on site just like the 'malls').

What is going to be the staple of the new resorts that keep people coming back to that area? It already seems like the focus of the strip has been stretched south...It just seems like LV has tried everything out there to make something original...what's left? What's going to keep people coming back to these new resorts 10 years down the road when the next big thing goes up in place of the Tropicana or beside Mandalay...there is 100 years worth of room for growth on the south end of the strip (all the way to the old Belz/old Western Village).

From Kevin Baxter on August 28, 2004 at 1:14 AM
I would certainly call the Grand Canal Shoppes a mall. It encompasses 500,000 square feet. The Desert Passage in the Aladdin, which you consider a mall, encompasses 475,000.

Of course the other shopping within casinos aren't malls, but my point is that whatever their hotel and the nearby hotels offer will most likely be enough. What shops could a new mall offer that aren't already represented somewhere on the Strip? Walking through some of these malls, I started losing track of where I was because I kept seeing the same shops, or shops selling the same stuff. Yawn.

WnW was certainly making money, or its parent company would have pulled out long ago. But it also wasn't making near as much as a casino can. I give credit to the owners of that land to hold out as long as they have. Prior to the monorail extension and Wynn Las Vegas, I wouldn't have given a lot of hope to a casino on this end. Now I think this could be HUGE.

As for Vegas's future... there is no limit to the imagination. Who would have thought Vegas could ever support things like Cirque du Soleil or fine art museums or roller coasters? Vegas is more than a vacation destination; Vegas is the playground for Southern Californians. All they have to do is keep them visiting on weekends and the rest is gravy.

From Robert Niles on August 28, 2004 at 10:39 AM
Well, as a Southern Californian trying to book a weekend stay in Vegas next month, only to find rooms at top-level casino resorts (Palms, Hard Rock, Venetian, Paris, etc.) going for $399 a night and up (if they are even available), I'd say the market would support substantial expansion in Vegas. Not in a few years, but right now.
From Kevin Baxter on August 28, 2004 at 3:22 PM
That's an excellent point. Vegas can fill rooms almost every weekend. Which is probably more to blame for skyrocketing prices than the big four price-fixing. We'll see what happens to prices next year, after Wynn Las Vegas opens and Hooters and Planet Hollywood have branded their hotels.

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