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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Wynn Revels in Magic Moments

27 April 2005

Unlike Steve Wynn's previous hotel unveilings, when man-made volcanoes, dancing water fountains, pirate battles and pyrotechnic building implosions signaled a new beginning, the lifting of the wall of silence surrounding the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas won't be any more than a simple countdown on the resort's marquee.

Many of the features at the 2,716-room Wynn Las Vegas, which was built on the former Desert Inn site that Wynn purchased after selling Mirage Resorts, have been hidden and void of discussion during the construction phase.

Only in the past few weeks has Wynn begun to give more verbal descriptions about the resort's public amenities, which he often refers to as "experiences" or "moments."

After a design and construction period in which the Desert Inn was demolished and the golf course renovated, Wynn Las Vegas is ready to be judged by the public, opening five years to the date the casino developer completed the purchase of the Desert Inn on wife Elaine's birthday.

"Bobby Baldwin (Wynn's former chief executive) told me the beauty contest starts in April," Wynn said last week. "I didn't respond to his beauty contest comment because it's a beauty contest between me and me, and I don't intend to be the first runner-up."

The opening of Wynn Las Vegas marks his return to active casino ownership after a five-year hiatus since the sale of his company to MGM Grand.

Wynn, 63, will compete for market share against the three nearby Strip resorts -- the Bellagio, Treasure Island and The Mirage -- he designed and built, as well as other neighboring mega-resorts.

Nine days before the opening, Wynn gave the Review-Journal an impromptu hour-long tour of the new hotel.

Last minute construction on interior features throughout the public areas made walking the property with Wynn somewhat hazardous. Thick foam panels and plywood protected the marble flooring and delicate walkway tile work from damage, especially in the retail promenade. Undaunted, Wynn was determined to give a sneak peek of his favorite design features.

Wynn likes to describe how the new resort was created "from the inside looking out," with the intention of giving hotel guests, rather than passersby on the Strip, the best view of the features designed into the mountain.

"The mountain is the back of stage," Wynn said. "It's pretty, but it also creates a sense of intrigue."

The casino is hidden behind shops, restaurants and a sizeable garden illuminated with natural light by a large atrium, similar to the conservatory at the Bellagio. Wynn said the colorful flowering plants and vegetation in the his new garden would be changed out on a seasonal basis.

The mountain, decorated with a lush landscaping that includes numerous imported plants and trees and varying elevations, is the property's dominating feature. Several of the property's signature restaurants, the La Bete nightclub and the hotel lobby are accentuated by the mountain, that drops into a three-acre lake with different water levels.

Waterfalls, some as high as 100 feet, fountains and other animated highlights hide the sounds of the bustling Strip that is just over the mountain's opposite side. Other Strip resorts can not be seen, giving the guest a feeling of seclusion.

"We have created all these different moments, each one is a creation unto itself," Wynn said.

Wynn's favorite restaurant is Okada, the Japanese restaurant named for his partner and investor in Wynn Resorts Ltd., Kazuu Okada, the chairman of Aruze Corp. Several dining tables are available outside with the lake and mountain and a 75-foot waterfall as the backdrop.

"He hasn't seen it yet. I can't wait to show it to him personally on Wednesday," Wynn said.

Other features Wynn showed off were the convention space, which surrounds one side of the hotel's pool area. Each meeting room has its own balcony overlooking the pool deck.

Natural light flows into the public areas through a dozen skylights in the ceiling of the curved hotel walkways, especially in the Wynn Esplanade, the high-end shopping area.

The Ferrari-Maserati dealership sits in the main driveway entrance off the Strip. Not only can guests shop for an exotic vehicle, customers can take the high-performance cars out for a spin.

The design of the 111,000-square-foot casino is somewhat symmetrical, hiding its size through a design that allows easy passage for both gamblers and those trying to get from one side of the resort to the other.

The Wynn Theater, home to "Le Reve," a water-themed production by Franco Dragone, is presented in a 2,087-seat theater-in-the-round where the farthest seat from the 1 million-gallon pool/stage is just 42 feet.

"This building is more complex than any other structure in the history of the world," Wynn said. "This place is about an experiential moment. It's about evolvement. People are going to go into places that don't exist on earth."

During an interview in his airy Wynn Las Vegas office -- three sides of the space are wall-to-wall glass looking out onto a garden patio with a partial view of The Mirage and Treasure Island just over the wall -- Wynn said he couldn't have designed Wynn Las Vegas if he hadn't built Bellagio and The Mirage. Creativity, he said, is an evolved product.

"I'm involved with microscopic detail because that's how you do this," Wynn said. "When a director makes a movie, he pays attention to each scene. Each scene is what gives this place its vitality and its truth."

Still photography and video of the hotel's interior by the media is prohibited prior to next week's publication of an article on the property by Vanity Fair magazine. But first, the public will have its initial look.

Shortly after midnight tonight, average folks -- those not paying up to $7,500 for tonight's grand opening gala/charity fund-raiser -- will get to see what's behind the $130 million man-made mountain which conceals much of the newest Strip resort's features. The casino opens at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Other than the 24-hour coffee shop, the restaurants will be closed, opening sometime Thursday for normal business hours. The retail shops will also open sometime Thursday morning. Hotel guests can begin checking in during the day.

Wynn Revels in Magic Moments is republished from