Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Will City Center Succeed? Especially Without Locals?

Jim Murren is now in the hot seat over City Center. It's just starting to open up, and people are starting to wonder what will be next for MGM Mirage's big bet.

Will it fail?

Will it succeed?

What happens now to Las Vegas?

We'll all soon be finding out in the coming days, weeks, and months. In the mean time, a mini-scandal is emerging over what Murren said in the last video clip above. Steve Friess first caught this in the transcript of last night's "Face to Face", when Jon Ralston asked Jim Murren about what he had earlier told Friess for his LA Weekly write-up on City Center.

Here's the original clip from LA Weekly:

I’ve never been in Encore, when did it open up? I’ve never been into Palazzo. It’s not that I don’t care, I just don’t need to go. But I do know – I have nothing against either one of those guys, especially Steve Wynn, I like him a lot. But [CityCenter] is not going to be, for most people, the same as just another resort opening up. I know it won’t.

And in case you haven't yet started uploading that second video, here's how Murren made it worse.

"I live in Summerlin. I have a great community. I coach my kids. I have a lot of restaurants out there. If I didn't work in the resort community, I probably wouldn't come down here much. That was my point. That is my point as a counterpoint to CityCenter. I really believe it is not a casino-hotel. I really would not be upset at all if people never visit Aria that live here. ... ." [Emphasis mine.]

Donde los yikes??!! Does Jim Murren really want to kick sand in the locals' faces? And worse yet, does he really want to hand over all these potential customers to Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos on a silver platter? Many of my neighbors already complain all the time about how expensive everything on The Strip is, how much traffic always plagues The Strip, and how snooty all those fancy-schmancy hotels on The Strip are. By Jim Murren adding to "the snooty factor", how will he ever get my neighbors out of Green Valley Ranch, Sam's Town, or The M to venture to The Strip to see City Center?

I guess if he's really not all that upset if locals never visit Aria, Tony Marnell will really appreciate keeping more local business at The M.

But really, this is just one of the many concerns MGM Mirage should still have about City Center. I toured Crystals with my dad last weekend after I gave him an intimate "birthday celebration" at Aureole at Mandalay Bay. (By the way, I'm obviously NOT one of those Strip-hating locals!)

Now let me say that I just LOVE the design of this place! It's very "eco-chic", and I'm digging it. However, my dad wasn't...

That is, he wasn't finding Crystals all that attractive. For one, not all the stores are open yet. Furthermore, most of the ones that are open have already set foot in Southern California (where Dad still lives), in exclusive "shopping resorts" there like Orange County's South Coast Plaza and LA/Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive. So not only might Jim Murren have a problem with Vegas locals, but he may also have trouble finding Californians to jump up the 15 to see something that they think they've already seen in LA and OC.

So what's his plan to lure in travelers who aren't all that into postmodern architecture and/or high-end designer label shopping? Does he have one?

I hope he does... And he thinks of one fast. I really think City Center can be a huge success, but only if it actually entices people to come and spend money in it.

And guess what? This means making it easy to move around City Center. This means making gamblers feel comfortable gambling in Aria. This means not alienating locals and SoCal weekenders. Oh yeah, and this means keeping up with the competition! I'll let Steve Friess explain that last bit some more.

Whoa, whoa, WHOA! [City Center President Bobby] Baldwin said Aria's casino is the economic engine of the whole she-bang and Murren knows that. But Murren doesn't even care if his neighbors ever see it and, if he didn't have to because he gets millions to do so, he might never bother either! This is not a ringing endorsement of the most significant financial element of your new endeavor, is it?

So let's remove Aria from CityCenter. Without it, you're left with four buildings containing private residences, two of which are also hotels that contain no shows or casinos. And you have a 500,000-square-foot "retail and entertainment district" with some of the most expensive products anyone can sell anywhere in the world, not exactly a locals-friendly shopping experience. Plus a whole lot of terrific art and an oft-mentioned pocket park that Murren recommends as a neat place to sit even though there's no place (yet) to sit. [...]

Again, there are lots of elements of CityCenter I love. But it is worrisome when a massive gaming company is being piloted by someone who isn't personally aware of his competition and seems so personally uncomfortable with the heart of his business.

Again, don't get me wrong, City Center is a great concept. I'm even liking the new ad campaign for Aria.

I just think MGM Mirage needs to remember that this needs to offer great products, great comfort, and great service for this to be a real success.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, to make a joke, with all of the women in the commercial, I think Tiger Woods will probably be a frequent guest to City Center. And on a more serious note, I am anxious to see how much business it bleeds from other properties on the strip. I think City Center will initially get a lot of looky-lou's but will suffer in the long run,especially since it has nothing facing the property that will draw visitors in such as the fountains at Bellagio. Meanwhile, employees at their other properties have been made to suffer by such piddly things as being able to get supplies as small as rubber bands and staples. I understand their employee dining rooms quality has suffered tenfold, and supposedly Murren nixed all employee christmas parties and christmas gifts this year. I am guessing there will be a lot more in the way of cuts as business fails to pan out at this behemoth.