Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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The Mirage opens its doors

Four white tigers resort’s first ‘guests’

It was just about noon Wednesday when Steve Wynn, standing outside the entrance of his new The Mirage beside junk bondsman Michael Milken, radioed security to "Let those people in."

Both men watched as hundreds of people waiting on the Las Vegas Strip ran up the two driveways to the main entrance to be among the first to visit the elaborate, $630 million Mirage.

Security guards tried to discourage picture-taking inside, but the onslaught was too great, as people aimed "Instamatics" and camcorders at Wynn, who posed for a few photos while showing Milken a misty waterfall in the hotel's 60-foot-high glass atrium.

Earlier, Wynn had stood with Gov. Bob Miller and watched illusionists Siegfried and Roy escort The Mirage's first "guests" – four white tigers to be used in the magicians' showroom act at the hotel - into a glass-encased habitat built for public viewing.

After two years of planning and two years of construction, Wynn's Polynesian-styled resort finally was ready Wednesday: 6,400 employees, 2,300 slot machines, 115 table games, 29 floors, 3,049 hotel rooms, 1.1 million square feet of public space, 40,000 shrubs, 1,000 palm trees, a salt water tank behind the reception desk with sharks and tropical fish.

A "live" natural gas-burning volcano, on a 50-foot waterfall fronting the strip, erupts every 15 minutes from dusk to about 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. (it was to run about every seven minutes, but that caused too many traffic snarls on the Strip).

A quarter-mile-long swimming pool and a 1.5-million-gallon home for six bottlenosed dolphins are set to open in mid-1990.

In a late morning opening ceremony for local and national media attended by Miller, a beaming Wynn appeared relieved that resort's debut was only minutes away.

"I have been waiting four years going on 20 to say welcome to The Mirage," Wynn said. "We've been saying things like fantasy becomes reality. And in a sense, I guess you can say today fantasy becomes reality, really."

Wynn, 47, chairman of Golden Nugget Inc., The Mirage's parent company, said the firm's 1985 decision to build was "more than a business opportunity or a chance to make more bucks. This is a vote of confidence for Nevada and Las Vegas by people like ourselves who say: Here, such an investment, such an enterprise will be safe and secure for many, many, many, years in the future. "

Miller described the project as "Disney-esque," comparing Wynn to Disneyland amusement park creator Walt Disney.

"I define Wynn as a human phenomenon that creates illusions and jobs and tourism and economic development and success in all he does," Miller said.

"The fact that some $630 million was invested in this resort is no mirage," the governor said. "The fact that this resort will employ 6,400 Nevadans is no mirage."

Milkin, the famed financier who with the Wall Street brokerage firm Drexel Burnham Lambert arranged most of the $600 million in mortgage notes Golden Nugget used to construct The Mirage, said the new resort was "great for the community and good for all the hotels"

Wynn said the idea for The Mirage "took a giant leap toward becoming a reality" back in 1978, when he first met Milken.

He said the hotel's creation was " a long and complicated process... You can't be rushed. You've got to take time. You've got to compromise."

Wynn praised MarCor development Co., builder of the Caesars Palace and Circus Circus Strip casinos, for finishing the resort's 1.1 million square feet of public area in 13 months, and Sierra Construction Corp., which put up its highrise hotel building in 10 months.

Casino employees gave the media guided tours Wednesday of The Mirage's casino and restaurants, a pastel-colored suite, the casino's shopping mall and co-ed gym.

The tour included a glimpse at a private casino accepting only bets of $1,000 or more and one of six $1,250-a-night private bungalows that hotel officials say will cater to wealthy foreign gamblers.

After the doors opened to the public at midday, slot machine seats and craps and 21 tables near the entrance immediately started to fill up with both high and low rollers.

Daniel Mundinger, 33, a Las Vegas landscaper, was the first to play the Big 6 wheel nearest the glass atrium: He put down a $1 token on a 20-1 shot, and, incredibly, won. As he promised right before the wager, he gave half of $20 he won to the dealer.

Hugh Herman, 58, a retired electrician also from Las Vegas, said he welcomed the distractions of The Mirage's spacious, South Seas-themed interior.