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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

MGM aims to make a bit of the Strip a more interesting place to walk and play

29 April 2014

MGM Resorts International today will unveil detailed plans for an eight-acre outdoor destination on the Strip that will connect the New York-New York Hotel & Casino and Monte Carlo Resort and Casino with a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Simply dubbed The Park, the space on the Strip’s west side will include landscaped areas, casual eateries, bars, restaurants and retail attractions. The outdoor district is designed to draw pedestrians from the Strip into the various offerings.

The open-air attraction also will be the gateway from the Strip to MGM Resorts’ 20,000-seat sports arena and event center behind New York-New York. Groundbreaking for the $350 million facility, a joint venture between MGM Resorts and entertainment powerhouse AEG, takes place Thursday.

MGM Resorts nearly a year ago announced plans to redevelop the acreage between the two resorts.

Work has been ongoing much of the past 10 months to transform the Strip-facing frontage of New York-New York and Monte Carlo. Restaurants, such as Double Barrel Roadhouse at the Monte Carlo from SBE Entertainment, have opened. A 13,000-square-foot Hershey’s Chocolate World, a candy-themed retail store at New York-New York, is expected to open next month.

Meanwhile, designers worked the past year on the development’s major component, the entry to the site’s centerpiece sports arena.

MGM Resorts Chairman Jim Murren said The Park gives the Strip a feature found in most major cities but rare on the Strip — an outdoor public space in an urban environment.

“This space allows people to wander in and out of areas and collect experiences,” Murren said. “Beautiful public places are highlights of many of the world’s finest cities, and Las Vegas shouldn’t be the exception.”

The Park will have natural landscaping, which includes 75 mature trees, a variety of desert plants, water features and water walls. Throughout the space, 50-foot-tall tuliplike structures will provide shaded areas during the day and light up with colorful displays at night.

Live entertainment will be featured, and benches will be located throughout the grounds.

The Park and the renovations to the hotel-casinos will cost more than $100 million. Murren said components of The Park will open this year and throughout 2015, leading up to the opening of the arena in 2016.

“We’re not putting in one new slot machine or one new table game,” Murren said. “This space is designed for people to have a social experience, and it appeals to a broader demographic.”

Murren said he’s a fan of The Linq, the outdoor retail, dining and entertainment attraction Caesars Entertainment Corp. opened this year between the Flamingo and Quad resorts. The Linq’s centerpiece is the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel.

“These are the type of attractions that will keep Las Vegas vibrant,” Murren said.

Rue De Monte Carlo, which provides vehicle access from the Strip to parking behind the hotel-casino, will be realigned as a serpentine, tree-lined parkway to slow automobile traffic. It’s expected that tourists attending events at the arena will walk there, while locals will access parking garages off Frank Sinatra Drive.

Enhancements will include cobblestone walkways in front of the Monte Carlo and New York-New York that will lead guests into The Park from both directions. It’s expected the Monte Carlo and New York-New York will build new entrances.

Murren has discussed changing customer expectations in Las Vegas. Guests, he said, don’t want to be tied to a single hotel-casino or an itinerary. Offering attractions such as The Park and The Linq allow tourists to explore.

It also continues the trend in visitor spending, which favors nongaming amenities, such as restaurants, retail and entertainment.

According to the fiscal year 2013 gaming abstract, compiled by the Gaming Control Board, gaming revenue collected by Strip hotel-casinos was $5.75 billion, roughly 37 percent of the $15.538 billion in overall revenue.

“The Park is designed to draw people coming to town for the social experience,” Murren said. “We are taking down the walls and opening the doors at our resorts.”

MGM Resorts announced the first seven restaurants, bars and casual cafes — all with patio seating — that will line the outside of The Park. Shake Shack, a New York-based roadside hamburger stand, was announced last year for the site. MGM Resorts said the eatery will open by year’s end with patios overlooking The Park and New York-New York’s Brooklyn Bridge feature.

Newly announced dining and drinking attractions include Bruxie, an Orange County, Calif.-based gourmet waffle restaurant; Sake Rok, a Japanese restaurant; Beer Garden, a German-style restaurant; Robert Mondavi Jr. Wine Experience, a restaurant, lounge and wine bar from Napa Valley, Calif.; country music star Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row; and Cuba Libre Restaurant &Rum Bar, from James Beard Award-winning Chef Guillermo Pernot.

MGM Resorts said other venues in the The Park will be announced later.
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