Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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Columnist Jeff Simpson: On why, in Las Vegas, parking can be a not-so-sweet sorrow

Jeff Simpson is business editor of the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (702) 259-4083.

Every now and then I'm going to tackle some aspects of the resort business and write about what I like -- and what I don't -- and why.

Today's topic: parking and access to it.

Las Vegans rightfully demand convenience. And for the most part we get it. The best parking is at locals casinos. But some of the garages on the Strip and downtown are just terrible.

Starting on the Strip, newer doesn't necessarily mean better. Examples of newer garages with problems include:

And don't get me started on the Venetian. First, you might have to tell a security guard why you want to park in his precious garage. And then, if granted access, space is at a premium, especially during conventions.

Another garage without enough space is the MGM Grand. And that's not all. If you're attending an event at the property's arena, wear your running shoes. Your marathon shoes would be best because you'll be covering a lot of ground.

The best parking and access at the newer resorts is at Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. Well-designed, sufficient space and super-efficient banks of four elevators make these properties the best.

The best surface parking with quick access in and out of a Strip property used to be at Monte Carlo, but the lot was recently converted to employee parking. Stardust, New Frontier and Tropicana all have decent surface parking. Naturally, none of these properties is likely to survive the decade.

I almost feel bad picking the worst Strip parking garage, but it's really no contest, even if it's likely to be closed soon. Of course I'm referring to the Imperial Palace, with its corridors to nowhere, blind turns, and support poles separating already narrow parking spaces. And bring a paddle if it's raining, or a life-preserver. If Harrah's implodes it, hear my plea: Let me push the button that topples the garage.

Downtown casino garages are mostly old-school; many charge an hourly rate during the day to keep out the courthouse crowd and none has lots of space. The best is probably the Golden Nugget -- just make sure you don't step on the gas when you mean to brake, or you'll end up nose-first outside the garage, parked vertically. Among the worst is the Plaza, with its interior view of -- and diesel fumes from -- the Greyhound bus station.

The best locals casino parking combines plentiful surface and garage parking. Michael Gaughan's Gold Coast and Orleans were originally built with almost no non-valet garage parking, but Gaughan wised up and added nice garages at each. His South Coast is a masterpiece of parking, with tons of surface parking and an amazing seven-floor garage, easily the biggest locals garage in town.

Station Casinos generally has lots of parking at its properties. But Green Valley Ranch Station -- co-owned by Las Vegas Sun owners, the Greenspun family -- has one problem. The roof of its garage is on the casino level, an oddity, making it the most crowded level. That's a problem for me, because I always like to park on the garage roof wherever I go. As I get older, it's my method of remembering where I'm parked.

And Station is gradually changing what used to be -- hands down -- the strangest locals parking, at its Fiesta Henderson. When it opened as the Africa-themed Reserve, the former owners didn't build a garage and, in what I guess was an attempt to make the lot look like the Serengeti Plain, built a crazy-quilt parking lot surrounded by tall grass. Station quickly ripped out the grass and is now building a garage. Good call.

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