Friday, May 29, 2020

RonnieAdventure #0414 - Las Vegas, The Ghost Town Part III, Nevada

Starting in 2016, the area between New York-New York and the Monte Carlo Hotel/Casino went through some major changes. Existing structures on the site were demolished and combined with portions of the historic Dunes Hotel/Casino Golf Club that had been vacant for a number of years.

Development plans were approved to make this a mixed-use project called "The Park." A pedestrian walkway with outdoor restaurants and retail shops was constructed along a serpentine street that led to the back of the site where the new T-Mobil Arena was built.

The T-Mobile Arena is now home of the Vegas Golden Knights, a National Hockey Team, and other entertainment events. The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) organizations also have long-term contracts to use the facility.

There are various works of art in "The Park" and a 40-foot tall art work entitled "Bliss Dance" by Marco Cochrane is located in front of the arena. A placard states "Bliss Dance celebrates the strength and energy of a woman who is safe, present...whose voice is clear...whose power, purpose and humanity shine." The placard goes on to state "Marco Cochrane was born to American artists in Venice, Italy in 1962. Raised in Northern California in the midst of the political and cultural movement of those times, he was imbued with a deep respect for balance, unity and the imperative to make the world a better place. If we are to find real, lasting solutions to the problems facing humanity, men and women must be able to work together as equals"

As part of The Park development plans, the Monte Carlo Hotel/Casino was refurbished and expanded. The hotel was renamed Park MGM and the expansion included the 5,200 seat Park Theater. Several entertainers were given residencies in the theater, including Janet Jackson and Lady Gaga.

The 2,992 room Monte Carlo Hotel/Casino was originally constructed in 1996 and was patterned after the neoclassical architecture of the Place du Casino in Monte Carlo, Monaco, with large chandelier domes, marble floors, ornate fountains, and gas promenades. After the renovation, the upper floors of the hotel were operated as an ultra-luxury boutique hotel called NoMad Las Vegas.

I happened to be at the Monte Carlo on opening night in June 1996, and all I can say is that they were fortunate the fire department was not there to count occupancy because the casino occupancy greatly exceeded the occupancy limit. I happened to be toward the front of the line and when the doors opened the crowd pushed me all of the way to the back of the casino without stopping. If anyone had stumbled and fallen down, they probably would have been trampled. (Casino openings are always a big draw because the slot machines are set really loose to attract patrons to the new property.)

T-Mobile Arena

"Bliss Dance"
Picture by Kolohe

Picture by Kolohe

CityCenter contains 16.8 million square feet of mixed-use space and is located north of Park MGM Hotel/Casino on a 76-acre tract of land. The site was originally part of the lands that contained the Dunes Golf Club, Boardwalk Hotel/Casino, and other commercial buildings. 

Construction cost for the project were originally budgeted at $4 billion, but after numerous construction problems the completed cost to build CityCenter ended up at $9.2 billion. When completed in 2009, CityCenter was the largest privately funded construction project in the history of the United States.

The Aria Resort and Casino is located in the center of CityCenter and contains over 4,000 hotel rooms in two towers - one 51-stories tall and one 61-stories tall. Aria operates the only casino in the CityCenter complex, which has a design that is highly unusual for a gaming property. Casinos typically do not have any windows, clocks, or natural light; however, the Aria Casino has exterior windows along the edges of the casino floor and skylights in the high-limit gaming area.

In addition to the Aria Resort and Casino, located in the CityCenter complex are the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Vdara Hotel, and Veer Towers Condominiums. Within the hotels there are various floors rented under other boutique hotel names. A three-story 400 foot long window overlooks the pool and is the largest glass curtain wall of its type ever constructed in a public building.

Over the past several years the CityCenter name has been used less frequently. More emphasis is now being placed on the "Aria" name because of the resort's placement as the central feature of CityCenter, and "arias are focal points in operas." Aria is not a themed hotel/casino, which is in contrast with historic Las Vegas properties.

When you first see the Veer Towers they appear to be leaning to the side rather than vertical. That is because the two towers really are leaning! The two towers were constructed to lean in opposite directions at 4.6 degrees each. Strange!

Aria operates the only casino in CityCenter and shopping is available at Crystals ultra-high-end retail mall, which provides a "unique shopping experience." CityCenter also contains one of the largest private art collections in the United States. Additional works of art are found at the Waldorf Astoria.

Popular Mechanics magazine described the Aria as "the most technologically advanced hotel ever built," specifically for the reduction of energy consumption. It is the largest hotel in the world to earn the LEED Gold Certification. Smart rooms have touch-screen automation systems that automatically adjust curtains, turn off unused lights and electronics, and regulate temperatures when guest enter or leave a room.

Panoramic Picture by Kolohe

Picture by Kolohe

The Cosmopolitan, or "The Cosmo," is a 3,027 room luxury resort hotel located just north of CityCenter at the northwest corner of "The Strip" and Harmon Avenue. In 2013 the hotel was rated "The Best Hotel in the World" by Goglbot and in 2015 the resort was named to the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List as one of the "Top Hotels in the World." Project construction costs were $3.9 billion. Located within The Cosmo is the Marquee Nightclub, which was the top grossing nightclub in the United States in 2012.

The Cosmo is unusual in that the site is U-shaped surrounding the Jockey Club Timeshare building. During construction an agreement was reached with the Jockey Club to remove their parking lot and replace it with a joint-use underground parking garage. This was only the second underground parking garage ever constructed on "The Strip."

Panoramic Picture by Kolohe

Bellagio Hotel/Casino, with its Fountains of Bellagio and Conservatory, was constructed on the historic Dunes Hotel/Casino site and is probably the most popular property on "The Strip." This is a "must see" property when visiting Las Vegas. 

The hotel contains 3,950 rooms and Dale Chihuly's Fiori di Como, which is composed of over 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers that adorn the lobby ceiling. It cost $1.6 billion to build the Bellagio in 1993 and the property sold in 2019 for $4.25 billion. 

Bellagio's grand opening ceremony was one of the most expensive openings ever in the history of Las Vegas, costing about $88 million. Since opening, Bellagio has received the AAA Five Diamond Award 15 times and it was the first Las Vegas hotel to win the award 10 years in a row.

In 1993 the Dunes Hotel/Casino was demolished in a celebration that was witnessed by over 200,000 people. There was a major fireworks display and to help in the demolition several "canon blasts" from the English ship HNS Britannia (located down "The Strip" in front of the Treasure Island Hotel/Casino) were used to help in the event. The Dunes outdoor sign read "No Vacancy" as though it were still open and then Steve Wynn said "Captain of the Britannia, are you ready Sir? Prepare broadside. Ready! Aim! Fire!" "Cannon shots" from the Britannia were synchronized with explosions at the Dunes property. At the same time, the large neon sign in front of the building was destroyed using 16,000 liters (4,226 gallons) of aviation fuel. The ignited fuel engulfed the sign and hotel before before the explosions and "amid a shower of fireworks never before equaled west of the Mississippi" everything came tumbling down.

Located in front of the hotel are The Fountains of Bellagio that contain a choreographed water feature set to music. A show takes place every 30 minutes in the afternoons and in the evenings every 15 minutes from 8 PM until Midnight. The fountains incorporate over 1,200 nozzles and 4,500 lights. When first opened, the fountains were the largest fountains in the world. On a recent visit when we were ridding our bikes past Bellagio, the maintenance crew was testing the equipment; so we were able to get some daylight pictures of the fountains.

The Bellagio Conservatory and themed botanical gardens are changed five times each year - Chinese New Year, Spring, Summer, Fall, and winter (Christmas). The Conservatory is open to the public free of charge.

Panoramic Picture by Kolohe
Panoramic Picture by Kolohe

Picture by Kolohe

Picture by Kolohe