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Gaming Guru

Mary Manning
 

Tourists Eager to Re-enter Bellagio

15 April 2004

and Dan Kulin

LAS VEGAS -- Bernard and Maxine Kopczynski of Spokane, Wash., had been planning Bernard's birthday party for weeks, and they refused to let a power failure at the Bellagio, one of the world's largest hotels, dampen their spirits.

"My 85th birthday was on Feb. 23, but we decided to celebrate in Las Vegas," Bernard said, leaning on a cane and waiting for the Bellagio's doors to re-open at 5 p.m. Wednesday

The Kopczynskis and 25 family members began arriving at the Bellagio early Wednesday afternoon, standing in line outside the resort along with hundreds of other guests.

As the guest line snaked forward, Maxine Kopczynski held her hands in the air and cried, "The doors just opened." A collective cheer arose from the waiting guests.

It took two hours for the Kopczynskis and other family members to check in to their rooms, as hotel clerks had no access to computers and were registering and billing guests by hand.

The Bellagio reopened Wednesday evening after being shut due to a power outage. Power went out around 2 a.m. Sunday morning due to a failure in a main supply line. The casino was closed and the hotel was cleared the next day as crews worked to repair the damaged and restore power. Bellagio officials are still investigating the cause of the outage.

Crews had to repair the line and restore power, which took time given the systems that needed to be tested and restarted.

On Wednesday night, a few thousand people waited for the Bellagio to reopen and for its trademark dancing fountains to come to life.

When the Bellagio reopened, it was a slow start with most of the restaurants closed and set to reopen today.

Still, guests and visitors lined up to get inside.

It has been awhile since the Kopczynskis visited Las Vegas.

"We stayed with friends as the Flamingo Hotel was just under construction in 1945," Maxine Kopczynski said. Her husband was fresh from piloting B-17s and B-29s in the Army Air Corps.

The Bellagio staff ushered the Kopczynskis into the lobby, Bernard in a wheelchair for the trip.

One of their daughters, Dawn Drake, praised the hotel staff. "They are making such an effort to be pleasant," she said, but after arriving on a flight from New York, she said she was tired.

"As soon as we get keys, we're planning to go upstairs and empty the mini-bar," Drake said.

The family had tickets to see a performance of the Cirque du Soleil show "O." The show performance went on at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night.

The family ended up ordering room service, as the major restaurants in the hotel were still closed Wednesday night.

Room service, Cafe Bellagio and the lounges and bars re-opened Wednesday night.

The Bellagio expected to have guests in 800 rooms Wednesday night, 1,000 rooms tonight, and to be in full operation by Friday, said Alan Feldman, spokesman for MGM MIRAGE, Bellagio's owner.

Wednesday night an ice cream shop was open and hotel staff served a free buffet of scrambled eggs, smoke salmon, fruits, desserts and a chocolate fountain Wednesday night in the Bellagio's convention area.

Hotel staff members smiled and greeted the guests.

"I couldn't believe it when I heard about the power being out," Maxine Kopczynski said. Terrorism was on her mind, she said. "It was the first thing I thought of."

Hotel officials said they didn't think there was sabotage, and county officials said there had been some work on the power system in the area where the outage occurred before the outage.

However, Clark County officials said "it remains premature to speculate" on what caused the outage that left the 3,005-room resort in the dark for three days.

Feldman said 2,000 Bellagio workers were in the hotel Wednesday preparing for the 5 p.m. re-opening.

The art gallery with a Monet exhibit and its gift shop remained closed Wednesday night. They were expected to re-open today.

Having Bellagio closed probably cost $2.5 million to $3 million a day in lost revenue, and $750,000 to $1 million a day in lost profit, Feldman said.

But those estimates do not include the cost of relocating guests when the power went out, he said.

The company does have insurance to cover such loses, but Feldman said he was not sure what may ultimately be covered by the insurance policy.

When the Hashimoto family arrived at the Bellagio on Sunday, they said they stood in line for two hours and then ended up at another hotel.

"We stood in line for two hours and they said, no exceptions, you have to go to Treasure Island," Tatiana Hashimoto of New York City said.

The family came to Las Vegas to celebrate their mother's 86th birthday. The mother, Alexandra Hashimoto, is from Bellevue, Wash., and smiled as the family toured a flower exhibit with butterflies in the Bellagio's conservatory.

"We came all this way here and didn't even see the gardens," Natasha Morita of Greenwich, Conn., said. Their luggage was packed and stored as they strolled the Bellagio. They were leaving Las Vegas Wednesday night.

First-time visitors John and Andrea Loucks from Detroit, Mich., were wandering the busy hallways on their first day here.

"It's so beautiful, we'll always remember it," Andrea Loucks said.

"Even if you're not a high roller, they treat you well," John Loucks said.

When Shawn and Stephanie Carroll arrived at the hotel from Sarasota, Fla., to celebrate Shawn's 40th birthday, they were prepared because a friend had called them Tuesday to tell them the Bellagio's power was out.

"You're kidding, was my first reaction," Stephanie Carroll said. The couple wandered the Las Vegas Strip Wednesday, waiting for the hotel's reopening.

"It's not quite the Bellagio I expected," Shawn Carroll said.