Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Can Las Vegas Support an NHL Team?

The news that an NHL hockey team might be coming to Las Vegas has sparked much debate whether the city could support a professional sports franchise.

Usually the biggest obstacle for a city attracting a team is to have an arena. With the new MGM arena being built that major hurdle has already been jumped.

The arena's prime location on the Strip should attract both tourists and locals alike. I can imagine folks using a hockey game as another entertainment option on their vacation. It wouldn't surprise me to even see tickets for the NHL team being sold at ticket booths around the Strip alongside traditional shows.

So I think attendance will be reasonably strong when you combine tourists and locals. The larger concern would be whether a hockey team could thrive in the desert and gain a strong local TV following among a transient population. Phoenix has had similar struggles with their hockey team.

Whether the team is ultimately successful or not, bringing a pro sports team would be a victory in defining Las Vegas as a major city and would continue to diversify the city's entertainment portfolio beyond gaming.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lion's Share Jackpot Won at MGM Grand

August 23, 2014 will go down in Las Vegas history as the date when the legendary Lion's Share jackpot was won at MGM Grand.

MGM Grand tweeted: "We've waited over 20 years for this! Our famous Lion's Share slot machine finally hit for $2.4 million."

As the legend goes MGM Grand wanted to remove the Lion's Share machines a long time ago, but gaming regulations state that a progressive jackpot has to be won before that type of machine is removed from the casino floor.

It is being reported that the winners are a married couple from New Hampshire. No word on whether they are listeners to the Five Hundy By Midnight podcast, where the slot machine was made famous by weekly listener updates on the progressive amount total.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

MGM National Harbor is Expanding

MGM National Harbor in Maryland won't open until 2016, but expansion plans are already being put in place.

MGM Resorts International gave some details about the planned Washington DC area resort on their second quarter earnings conference call.

MGM recently received all the necessary government approvals, and has officially started construction. Maryland based Whiting-Turner has been selected as the general contractor. DC based HKS is the design architect. Smith Group is the architect of record.

The complex will be expanded from 2.8 million to 3.3 million square feet. MGM has also modified the plans to enable even further expansion in the future if demand calls for it.

Total budget for the project has increased from $1 billion to $1.2 billion.

MGM Resorts International has high hopes for MGM National Harbor. The company expects it to be one of the most successful US resorts outside of Las Vegas.

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Harmon is being Dismantled

The never-opened Harmon Hotel at CityCenter is finally coming down.

The tower was deemed unsafe because of construction flaws discovered in 2008. In 2010 I speculated the building would be imploded. Then in 2011 MGM made it official by submitting an implosion plan to Clark County.

For the next three years the building's fate was held up in the court room, as MGM sought approval to take the building down.

Ultimately it was determined that a piece-by-piece dismantling would be safer than an implosion. Recently the progress has become visible, as the glass windows are being removed.

The deconstruction is expected to be complete in the summer of 2015. MGM hasn't announced what they're going to do once the demolition is complete. I've always thought that space could be used as a grand entrance way to CityCenter and Aria.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

James Packer in North Strip Land Deal

Australian billionaire James Packer and his Crown Resorts company are looking at the Las Vegas market again. Packer has reportedly bought a piece of a loan attached to land once occupied by the New Frontier.

Crown Resorts has been successful in other markets around the world including Macau, but Las Vegas has not been as kind.

In 2007 Crown was in a partnership to build a super-tall skyscraper resort on the former Wet and Wild site, but FAA concerns and the tanking economy grounded the project.

Crown also had a minority stake in the failed Fontainebleau project. More recently Packer was said to have expressed interest in buying The Cosmopolitan. That hotel was later sold to Blackstone.

Despite the bad luck in Vegas so far, Crown is one of the largest gaming companies in the world. They need to get a piece of the Vegas market, and their success in Macau and elsewhere has put them in a position to expand.

This is more good news for the north Strip. It's becoming pretty apparent that there's going to be a resurgence in the next few years and companies are going to be jockeying for position to get in on the action.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Westgate Las Vegas Resort

The property recently known as LVH and Las Vegas Hilton before that has been sold and is now Westgate Las Vegas Resort.

Westgate is known as a timeshare company, but only a small part of the hotel will be reserved for timeshare use. The focus instead will be on improving the resort and the guest experience - according to this article.

I've always liked this property. They have the best sportsbook in Las Vegas, and the rooms are a good value. The biggest drawback is the location, but the monorail can get you to the Strip pretty easily.

With SLS opening soon (also along the monorail) and the north Strip potentially seeing an upswing with Resorts World - Westgate could be in decent position to take advantage down the line.

It will be an uphill battle though. Westgate's location next to the convention center might be their best selling point - but at the same time could be a weakness in attracting non-convention visitors. I think the hotel has a reputation of being for business people and not a fun place to party.

Hopefully the new ownership can revitalize the place and turn things around.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Resorts World Las Vegas

I haven't had a chance to blog about Resorts World Las Vegas - so here goes.

The Stardust was imploded in 2006 to make room for Echelon - a huge resort project with multiple hotel and condo elements. Simply put Echelon was going to be the north Strip's version of CityCenter. When construction started the economy crashed and Boyd had the foresight to halt the project early. The project sat dormant for a few years until March 2013 when Boyd announced they had sold the Echelon land to Genting Group for $350 million.

Genting is a large Malaysian company with properties all over the world. They do have a presence in the United States having opened Resorts World New York a few years ago at Aqueduct.

Resorts World Las Vegas is going to be built on the existing Echelon layout. It is expected to open in phases, starting out with 3,000 rooms with the potential to double that down the road. Some other family friendly features like an indoor water park and a panda exhibit have also been mentioned.

The resort is going to have a strong Asian theme, which is refreshing since most Vegas hotels are moving away from themed spaces. The family friendly aspect of the resort is also different, but makes sense considering it will be catering to international families on vacation.

Work behind the scenes is well underway, with visible construction set to begin any day now. I'm definitely looking forward to keeping tabs on the progress.

Rendering: Wikimedia.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Las Vegas grows International Visitation

Corey Sanders, COO of MGM Resorts International did an interview with Bloomberg Radio. It was a pretty standard interview talking about MGM's various resorts, but there were a few interesting tidbits.

Sanders mentioned that 20% of Las Vegas visitors come from outside the United States, an increase from 16% a few years ago. That number is expected to rise to 30% by 2020.

This growth in international visitors just shows how Las Vegas has become a complete vacation destination, and not just a gambling mecca. The ability for Vegas to reinvent itself over the years has been amazing and is in stark contrast to Atlantic City, which is struggling because of their inability to innovate and change.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

High Roller Photos and Thoughts

The High Roller observation wheel has been open for a few months. Reviews seem to be mixed. While most people enjoy the ride and say it has great views, ridership seems to be low. Prices started out high for the attraction, but coupons and comps are becoming more common now.

My parents went on recently and sent me these photos. They went during the day and were able to get a pod to themselves. While they had a good time I don't think they would go out of their way to ride again.

The High Roller is the centerpiece to The Linq development, which is a walkway between Flamingo and The Quad lined with restaurants and retail. I'm getting the same type of vibe from the Linq as the High Roller - it's a nice place but most people aren't making special plans to go there.

A recent trend for Caesars Entertainment is also to offer High Roller view rooms in their hotels. It does look pretty cool at night. Here's a shot of the July 4th fireworks from the Flamingo.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wynn Posts Strong Las Vegas Results

Usually when Wynn Resorts reports quarterly earnings results Las Vegas is hardly mentioned. Macau gets most of the attention these days, and for good reason - Wynn and Encore Macau account for more than double the revenue of their Sin City counterparts. The numbers will be skewed even more towards Asia when Wynn Palace opens on Cotai in 2016.

This time though Las Vegas stole back a bit of the spotlight. Second quarter 2014 revenue grew 12.5% which is robust for a Las Vegas market which has been fairly flat over the past few years. The success seems to be ongoing, as Steve Wynn revealed on the earnings conference call that July in Las Vegas could be the strongest he's ever seen.

The strong Vegas numbers even prompted one analyst to ask if certain high rollers were choosing Las Vegas over Macau, a notion that was seemingly dismissed by Steve and co.

Wynn isn't a great bellwether for the city as a whole since they cater to the very top end of the market. That being said it's nice to see some good numbers for Las Vegas and hopefully other hotels on the Strip will see some encouraging results as well.

Monday, July 28, 2014

MGM-AEG Arena and The Park

One of the more exciting development projects in Las Vegas is the new MGM-AEG Arena. The $350 million 20 thousand seat arena will be located directly west of (behind) New York New York. The joint partnership between MGM Resorts International and AEG Live is expected to attract top concerts, and possibly a pro sports team (although that's a long-shot).

Part of the arena development will be The Park, which will be a retail walkway between Monte Carlo and NYNY. The outdoor space is a similar concept to The Linq. We can expect lots of restaurants and bars on the way back to the arena. There will also be changes to the front of NYNY which will add more retail space.

I'm looking forward to the new arena (expected to open in 2016) and The Park, although I'm wondering if Las Vegas really needs more retail space. There seems to be a mall on every corner these days. It will also be interesting to see how visitors handle the hot weather in some of these outdoor spaces.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Quad name change to The Linq

The Quad will be changing names again. The hotel formerly known as Imperial Palace was re-named The Quad in December of 2012. Starting in fall 2014 it will be known as The Linq Hotel and Casino.

The question I have: Was this planned all along?

Since the early days of The Quad there have been rumors floating around of a possible second name change. I have a feeling parent company Caesars Entertainment intentionally used The Quad as a sacrificial placeholder until they were able to renovate the hotel rooms. Now with a $223 million renovation underway it only makes sense to remove the bad stigma (and reviews) of the old Quad/IP hotel rooms and go for a total re-brand.

From the Caesars Entertainment renderings it looks like the outside of the hotel will be getting a fresh new look. It's not really clear if the balconies will remain functional, or if they will be closed off and just for decoration. The splash of green and purple looks good, and I bet it will be even better at night.

The rooms look like a modern update that has become pretty standard among room renovations these days. The mural behind the bed is a unique touch, and what looks to be laminate flooring takes a cue from the Flamingo Fab rooms.

New rooms come with a new price. A quick search shows The Linq rooms going for 2-3 times the price of what The Quad rooms did. Considering the prime center Strip location that still might be a pretty good deal though. With a $223 million renovation budget it should be pretty nice.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Las Vegas in 2014

I've been away from the blog for a while. I'm always thinking about Las Vegas and it's about time I start posting again. Some of the topics I plan on covering soon are:

- The Cromwell
- Downtown Grand
- The Linq and the High Roller
- The Quad name change to The Linq
- SLS Las Vegas
- Resorts World
- MGM-AEG Arena
- Cosmopolitan sold
- Atlantic City

Las Vegas is constantly changing so there's a lot to write about.