TI Banks on 'Sirens' Lure

Treasure Island's new 'Sirens' show is the culmination of efforts to update the hotel's image.

By: Kenneth Shapiro

LAS VEGAS The year was 1993, and Las Vegas was in the process of reinventing itself yet again. The boom was on and everywhere you looked on the Strip a new “mega-resort” was sprouting up from the Luxor to the Excalibur to the MGM Grand and finally to the swashbuckling Treasure Island.

Located next door to the Mirage Hotel, Treasure Island was an immediate success, and became much more than just “an overflow hotel on the Mirage footprint,” as some executives imagined it at the time. The pirate-themed resort with a large video-game arcade was especially popular with families. Maybe too popular, as it turns out.

Last month, Treasure Island celebrated its 10th anniversary and the culmination of its efforts to carve a new identity for the hotel, moving away from its image as a family resort.

Gone is the famous skull-and-crossed-swords marquee, along with the treasure chests that made up much of the old decorations. The video arcade is almost nonexistent now and the hotel is opting for a more sophisticated, “Caribbean flavor” decor.

But perhaps the biggest change has taken place outside the hotel, in the area called Pirate’s Cove, where a new pirate battle called “Sirens of TI” has replaced the staged battle that ran since the opening of the hotel.

“We mark TI’s 10th anniversary with the debut of ‘The Sirens of TI,’ not only to celebrate the 10 years that have past, but also the 10 years to come,” said Scott Sibella, Treasure Island’s president. “In recent years we’ve created a number of experiences that energize TI and give visitors reason to return again and again.”

But it’s unclear whether the move will in fact “energize” the hotel or simply alienate its core clientele.

The “Sirens of TI” production is a collaboration between Emmy-Award-winning director Kenny Ortega and producer and songwriter Emilio Estefan. The show features scantily clad sirens doing battle with hunky pirates with pyrotechnics, geysers of water shooting into the air, pirates high-diving into the water and sexy dance numbers all to a blaring rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop soundtrack.

The production attempts to promote the hotel’s new adult image, and in case anyone missed the point, despite the script’s innuendo and the dancers’ fish-net stockings, the show ends with the lead siren encouraging the audience to step inside the “new TI,” an “adult candy store.”

The show, performed three times nightly and running about half an hour, will seem a lot longer if clients have to arrive early to claim a good spot along the fence in order to see it. It’s also loud and a bit hokey.

The Las Vegas Sun reported that the show’s premiere drew a crowd of over 5,000. It also reported viewer reactions were mixed, with some in the crowd saying they enjoyed the show and others saying it was “stupid.”

After viewing a preview of the new “Sirens” production on a recent hosted visit, I asked a grandmother of six who refused to give her name what she thought. She gave the new production the thumb’s down.

“I don’t like it,” she said. “And I don’t see what was wrong with the old one.” The woman, who said she had been coming to the hotel regularly since it opened, was not happy with many of the recent changes.

“The people who work here are so nice, and they really look after their guests,” she said. “It is a family place, whether they (hotel executives) like it or not.”

Her opinion of the production seemed to run against the grain, however, at least on this night. Most people interviewed said the show was an improvement over the last one.

Not surprisingly, Vince Davidson, who plays one of the pirates in the show, thought it hit the mark.

“It’s got action, comedy and beautiful women,” Davidson said, “what else would you want?”

Another man in his 60s stated what the hotel executives were surely going for: “It’s like a Broadway show right out on the street,” he said. “And I think young people will love it.”

Thanks to technology that barely existed 10 years ago, visitors can decide for themselves what they think of the production without ever visiting TI. All performances of the show are being broadcast across the Web in live streaming video. The show and broadcast takes place nightly at 6, 8 and 10 p.m.

The effort by Treasure Island to spice up its image is often mentioned along with recent efforts to promote the “Sin City” side of Las Vegas. Not true, said Manny Cortez, president and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“Las Vegas has never claimed to be a family destination,” he said. “We never have children in our ads and we’ve always said we’re the place that will make you feel like a kid, not to bring them.”

It seems Treasure Island executives are banking on just this message for the hotel’s next decade.