Thursday, December 3, 2009

City Center: Wynn v. Murren Round 3, Vdara Rooms Selling, Aria Pics Leaking, & Crystals Opening

Yes, my peeps, we have more CITY CENTER CITY CENTER CITY CENTER to talk about! Steve Friess has just been spotted at LA Weekly, and we have yet another great piece on what this massive project means to Las Vegas. Here's MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren talking about the design of City Center:

What we were trying to create was not just another resort, not just another mall, but an urban environment that doesn’t exist here, and to create the energy and the interest and real urban planning and be thoughtful about parking and vehicular circulation and pedestrian circulation and parks and open spaces and an art program and world-class architects was very intriguing,” [...]

“I think people around the world, particularly those who have visited great cities, will be very intrigued by this because it is in microcosm a very ambitious master-planned community.”

And I can't help but share this next shot in the now running media battle between Steve Wynn, the guy who built The Mirage, and Jim Murren, the guy now in charge of the company that Steve Wynn grew.

A year ago, on the brink of opening Encore, Steve Wynn was furious about the state of the economy and, more specifically, the condition of Las Vegas. Pacing his Picasso-adorned office in a rage, he took note of the fact that every one of his competitors teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in large part because they had taken on huge amounts of debt.

“It’s disgusting what’s happened to my city,” seethed the man who conjured up the Mirage, who single-handedly set in motion the Vegas mega-resort era and whose office Murren now occupies at Bellagio. “It’s disgusting what they’ve done to this community.”

Murren, not surprisingly, begs to differ. True, he says, MGM Mirage has “more debt than I would like.” True, the company came days away in March from defaulting on a bank covenant, spinning into bankruptcy and having to shut down construction on CityCenter. But intense negotiations and fancy accounting helped to avert that, and now the project has created 12,000 new service-sector jobs at a time when Nevada’s unemployment rate exceeds 13 percent, an all-time high.

“We as a community were lulled into a sense of confidence that was undeserved,” he says. “I’m part of it. ... Even the most bearish people of the time, because they did not get the financial crisis and the layering of that on top of the global recession.” [Emphasis mine.]

Yet being lectured on risk by Wynn clearly sticks in Murren’s craw. Wynn’s attacks seem to ignore that he, too, relied on huge debt loads and faith in his own vision of a new, uncharted Las Vegas when he built the Mirage and Bellagio.

“We didn’t get here because we sold out and went private so some shareholders could make a lot of money,” Murren says. “Our company’s debt went up dramatically because we’re trying to do something for the community and for ourselves, something different. It’s not going to be our competitors, it’s going to be this company that will single-handedly pull us out of the two-year decline in visitation and drive more people here.”

It's really interesting to see Murren actually take some blame for what happened. It's extremely rare for any big casino executive to admit his/her role in Las Vegas' near collapse in The Great Recession. And ironically, it's the product of all that risky debt-fueled construction (Sound familiar, Steve Wynn? IT SHOULD.) that we're now all looking toward for economic salvation.

Yeah, we're now looking to a massive project filled with odd-looking, irregularly shaped glass buildings, only one casino, insanely expensive accommodations, and even more insanely expensive dining and shopping to save us. Either we're all doomed or the MGM Mirage execs will soon be lauded as the brightest geniuses to ever have graced the Las Vegas gaming business. So far it's looking like the latter, and hopefully things will keep going that way for the sake of this town in desperate need for some good economic news for a change.

In the mean time, have you seen Aria? If not, then check out Vegas Tripping's find of some leaked photos from Aria's casino! Ironically, it seems like the casino's the most bland, uninspiring, and dare I say "traditional" part of what's fast becoming Las Vegas' own daring avant-garde architectural icon. No really, look at those pics and wonder why the rest of City Center breaks so many "rules for Las Vegas casinos" while the actual Aria casino looks like the typical dark, smoky casino that one can find everywhere from Aliante to the southernmost tips of Henderson. Strange... But also strangely fascinating.

Vdara's expecting more guests... Soon. They're currently running just above 80% occupancy with only part of the hotel open, but they're hoping to see more success when more of City Center opens to the public.

Oh, and let's not forget today's grand opening! Yes, the Crystals shopping mall will be the next City Center project to open today. Let's see how many holiday shoppers come this weekend to load up on stocking stuffers.

Well, that's all the City Center news I can handle for now... But I'll keep monitoring all the fun new developments and check back in later with news from Crystals' opening today and Mandarin Oriental's debut tomorrow. :-)

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