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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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Posted At : January 2, 2009 03:06 PM | Posted By : D McKee
Related Categories: The Strip
Photo © Erik Kabik/RETNA
In this case, a room on the 54th floor of Trump International. That's where I was on the morning after The Big Snow last month, and there's something about actually seeing the Strip laid out at your feet that concentrates the mind wonderfully.
Thanks to some prodding (and, more importantly, some $$) from Steve Wynn, workers were in the last stages of dismantling the New Frontier sign. Given the extent to which Phil Ruffin had been dominating -- no, owning -- the news cycle, it was apt that the last two letters to be removed were "T" and "I." Each of those suckers fills a large flatbed, too. Of El Ad Properties' presence, though, there continues to be not a trace.
Looking up toward the Fontainebleau, I could see why an attendee at G2E was prophesying that it was on an express route to Chapter 11 -- although I disagree. If the mantra of real estate is "location, location, location," in Fontainebleau's case it's like building a mansion in a trailer park. You can stare at maps all you want, but it really hits you between the eyes when you're staring at it, sussing out the lay of the land.
Three of the four closest casinos are Sahara, Riviera and Circus Circus. So you can see what's gonna happen. People will come to play at F'bleau, but -- no dummies they -- will more than likely stay at one of the bargain-niche properties in the "neighborhood." With the Wet 'n Wild site in perpetual limbo and MGM Mirage making noises to the effect that it won't do its North Strip project for anywhere from 5-10 years, F'bleau is going to have a tough row to hoe. If I'm in the casino or F&B departments, I'm liking my chances for getting heavy traffic. If I'm trying to fill hotel rooms ... not so much.
The latest issue of Las Vegas Advisor had sobering F'bleau statistics -- not compiled by me but by our hard-working Research Dept. When finished, F'bleau promises to offer a 3,815 rooms, 300K square feet of retail and 27 eateries. Egad! The mall I can understand: That end of the Strip is seriously underserved by retail, unless you count souvenir shops. But the rest of it? Even in a good economy I'd be trepidatious. In these times, it's like, "Titanic, meet iceberg. Iceberg, meet Titanic." If F'bleau doesn't see high-intensity game usage (as it probably will), a few lifeboat drills will be in order.
Or maybe it's karmic payback for all those Turnberry Place condo owners who purchased Strip views and are now staring into a big-ass parking garage instead. The affect is going to be odd for pedestrians, too, as the podium level comes thisclose to the street which, as seen in the model, is not only potentially oppressive, but you'll have to be a fair distance away to appreciate the overall look of the place.
Looking from almost directly above Echelon (maybe we should just call it "Chln"), I feel reinforced in my conviction that Boyd Gaming should either A) have finished the northern half of the project on its own, partners be damned, or, B) should re-start it with that portion only and phase in something (but not the Morgans Hotel Group/General Growth Properties "failsino") later on the south half of the lot.
Not only is much of the skeleton for Boyd's hotels and podium level in place, so too is the front half of the AEG auditorium, if my eye is to be trusted. It's missing a few little things yet ... like a stage, flyloft and some of the wings. But Boyd and AEG had a running start on their end of the project. Too bad their feckless partners left them in the lurch. Of GGP's mall, there's a retaining wall in place and not much else. Nary a trace of the mooted Delano and Mondrian hotels could be seen. Meanwhile, over on Harmon Ave., Morgans' midlife crisis -- aka the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino [& Condos & Umpteen Other Things] continues to grow like Topsy. The HRH worked beautifully in that spot as a boutique property. As a super-megaresort ... I dunno.
Oh, and during a somewhat sleepless night, brought on by an overindulgent wine tasting (kids, don't try this at home), I found myself staring at the hulk, er, bulk of Palazzo. Earlier that day, Anthony Curtis and I had gone racing over there on a seemingly crazy tip from a normally reliable source. Supposedly, Palazzo had summarily closed and sent everyone home. Nah. Nope. Nada. Nothing but business as usual, strange aromas and all.
But looking at it in the midnight hour, nearly all its external lighting extinguished and no other signs of life emanating therefrom, you'd think Palazzo really was closed. "Shock and awe" may work as a military tactic but the Sheldon Adelson Big-Is-More aesthetic has come a-cropper where megaresorts are concerned. Because, at bottom, Palazzo is a big pile of charmless boxes and customers have given it a raspberry by staying away in droves. Or by hanging out at the Venetian instead. I don't blame them: It's got more personality and even some charm. Palazzo works overtime to impress with its relentless grandiosity but I, for one, find the cumulative effect alienating ... though not to the extent to which the Green Monster (aka MGM Grand) makes one feel like the inhabitant of an ant farm.
As for Palazzo, the Las Vegas Sands mountain labored and brought forth a mouse. A honkin' big mouse, but a mouse all the same. If Adelson were forced to sell the Palazzo/Venetian complex, who would buy it? Palazzo's preposterous scale is going to remain an albatross around the neck of any owner, present or future.