Changing the Face of Vegas

This issue’s cover story, “Coming Full Circle” (page 10), is a tribute to innovation.

 Kenneth Shapiro
This issue’s cover story, “Coming Full Circle” (page 10), is a tribute to innovation. When The Mirage opened in 1989, Las Vegas had gone 15 years without a new hotel, the city’s tourism numbers were on the decline and the hotels seemed stuck in a bygone era. Enter Steve Wynn. He set out to not only build a new hotel, but to build an entirely new kind of Vegas paradigm. The Mirage was one of the most expensive construction projects of its time, and in order to finance it, Wynn tapped into Wall Street’s junk bonds. By the time it opened, the hotel had such high debt that people said it couldn’t possibly succeed. Of course, it was a major success — it seemed to make Vegas hip again overnight and it created a whole new model for the next generation of resorts. Even the entertainment at the hotel was innovative: A tent in The Mirage parking lot was the first home in the city for a quirky little entertainment group called Cirque du Soleil.

Fast forward 20 years and the hotel’s parent company, MGM Mirage, is about to open another landmark project that seems destined to be the next turning point in the city’s history. Once again, the economy is slumping and Las Vegas is seeing a dip in visitor numbers. Some people expected the multi-building, multi-architect, multibillion-dollar CityCenter to be shelved or at least scaled back as a victim of the recession. A month or so away from the opening of Vdara, the first of CityCenter’s hotels, all reports are that the project is on track. In fact, CityCenter has even defied skeptics already by getting Gold LEED certification — putting it on track to become one of the largest sustainable projects in the world.

In an industry where out-of-the-box thinking is more often touted than demonstrated, it’s only right to acknowledge when a company truly does stick to a bold and creative vision. Also, it’s great to see that MGM Mirage is making a commitment to travel agents by opening Vdara, and Aria Resort, with special agent rates. Company executives have often said that they know how important it is to get agents to visit the center and, once again, they are backing up their words with actions.

If this is how business will be done in Las Vegas in the future, the next chapter of the city’s history should be exciting and inspiring to watch. — K.S.