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November 22, 2014

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What’s being said about CityCenter

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Leila Navidi

Guests enter the Aria hotel-casino for the first time on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009.

CityCenter grand opening

Guests enter the Aria hotel-casino for the first time Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Aria opens its doors to the public

CityCenter's Aria has opened its doors to the public. Fireworks exploded over the centerpiece of the $8.5 billion CityCenter project, and people eagerly awaited to be the first inside Aria, which is a partnership between MGM Mirage and Dubai World.

From East Coast to West Coast, from syndicated columnists to bloggers, from the national networks to local TV affiliates, the news media have been buzzing about the Strip's newest visitor attraction, CityCenter. The reviews were mixed, with some keying on entertainment and the shopping, while some critics dug a little deeper into the architecture and the wisdom of it opening in a recession. Here's an overview of those opinions, gleaned from Web sites.

• "With its crescent of intersecting wings and oval glass tower, the Aria casino hotel is the crown jewel of CityCenter, the Dubai-scale, $8.5 billion, celebrity-architect mega-development by MGM Mirage that's dumping a casino and 6,000 unwanted hotel rooms on Las Vegas. Locals hope it will save their foreclosure-hobbled city." — Bloomberg's architecture critic James S. Russell in that wire service's story. Russell went on to say he liked Aria, but the design for the Harmon was "phoned in" and the Mandarin Oriental hotel is "stiff." But, he said, the Crystals shopping area "is a fun antidote to the smothering fairy-tale pomp that has become the Las Vegas norm."

• "'If you build it, they will come,' is a famous line from the movie 'Field of Dreams.' In CityCenter's case, that's not guaranteed. And this is no cornfield in Iowa." — National Public Radio's Ted Robbins, questioning whether CityCenter's unofficial themes of urbanism, architecture and art, and the work of architects Pelli, Rafael Vinoly, Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster and Helmut Jahn, and artists Maya Lin, Frank Stella and Henry Moore, will draw tourists.

• "CityCenter's true theme is leverage. Ranking as the largest private development in American history, big enough to fill the tallest building in Los Angeles, the U.S. Bank Tower, roughly a dozen times over, the complex is a palace — a series of connected palaces, actually — for the age of towering debt and easy credit. They should have put Alan Greenspan's face on the poker chips." — Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne.

• Despite problems, CityCenter "is opening, something many didn't think was possible a few months ago after Wall Street stopped lending and MGM Mirage was sued by its partner in the project, Dubai World, amid debt troubles." — Forbes.com in a story that shouted "CityCenter Lives!" in its headline.

• "I do not believe we should be held accountable, or that the success of CityCenter should be measured, by the numbers we put up in the first week or month." — MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren's explanation to Forbes about his desire for the early measures of CityCenter to be based on the experience it provides.

• "MGM Mirage's CityCenter is possibly the biggest bet in Las Vegas' history. With four towering hotels, a casino, a high-end shopping complex and 42 restaurants and bars, it's an $8.5 billion, 18-million-square-foot behemoth and the crown jewel of the Strip." — ABC's "Nightline," as part of a Wednesday night report showing the flagship hotel Aria as it was readied for its grand opening.

• "Its soaring glass towers and world-class sculptures are eye-popping centerpieces. But for Maria Gaines (a new CityCenter employee), it represents a life preserver, a job that saved her from drowning in debt." — Dan Simons' video report on CNN.

• "Skeptics say it could be tough to get recession-battered consumers to pay up for the new resort." — Reuters' writer Deena Beasley.

• "The market is breathing a sigh of relief about CityCenter opening. I think (MGM) management is very competent. If they can manage nine Strip properties, why can't they manage yet another one?" — Gabelli & Co. analyst Amit Kapoor in Beasley's Reuters story.

• "The good thing for the stock is that expectations are reasonably low." — Sterne Agee analyst David Bain in Beasley's Reuters story.

• "I'm at market (value) and I'm very happy about it. For the price and the quality and what I'm getting, I'm very content." — David Tuttleman, a local restaurant owner, in a CNBC video report about his purchase of a Veer penthouse, the price of which dropped 30 percent to $1.8 million.

• "This is really 21st-century Las Vegas. This is really setting up very high standards that will be very hard to match — but I hope they will try." — Architect Cesar Pelli, whose team designed Aria, in a national Associated Press story.

• "For the first time in the lodging business at this kind of a scale, a company set out to incorporate wide-ranging green efforts in order to create some of the most environmentally friendly structures that have ever been constructed." — Glenn Haussman in a Hotel Interactive story on the project's sustainability effort.

• "Analysts have already warned that high-scaled CityCenter will be very attractive in the near term, thus providing major competition for Wynn Resorts Ltd. and the two properties – The Venetian and the Palazzo – owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp. The competition could also affect MGM’s Bellagio and Mirage." — Gaming Today in a story about the future of gaming.

• "On the west coast, the MGM Mirage CityCenter project has recycled more than 130,000 tons of recyclable materials generated since its inception, with 95 percent of the material diverted from landfills" — Environmental Leader writes, citing a report in Recycling Today.

• "It's a huge leap forward. It's clearly a departure from everything that has been built in Las Vegas. It's not themed. It's very contemporary, sexy, and fluid. It's totally different. I believe it will create a new standard in how people enjoy and view the casino life here." — interior designer Adam D. Tihany in Las Vegas Business Press, discussing CityCenter's long-reaching effects on Las Vegas. Tihany was the interior designer for Mandarin Oriental.

• "I just entered the new Emerald City. The proprietor here, however, isn't The Wizard of Oz, and this sure ain't Kansas. This is the MGM Grand's City Center, located on the Las Vegas Strip." — Jennifer Schwab for Huffington Post

• "Las Vegas's newest shopping mall is more Guggenheim than Six Flags, with its Daniel Libeskind-designed exterior and glass-and-steel canopy" — Michael Martin discussing Crystals for The Street

• "CityCenter is different in style from other Las Vegas resorts. It is a contemporary style with a lot of glass. Love it or hate it, there is no denying that Las Vegas has a lot riding on the project." — Richard Warren for Bigger Pockets real-estate blog.

• "But it’s only a part—albeit a big part—of how Las Vegas is going to add 10,000 guestrooms to a supply of 140,000 that’s already steeply discounted. When I was there a couple of weeks ago, the talk among the common folk—the cabbies, blackjack dealers and restaurant waiters and waitresses—was about CityCenter siphoning existing demand from hotels." — Jeff Higley for Hotel News Now

• "Has a state's psyche ever rested so completely on a single resort complex? In recession-ravaged Las Vegas, the flashy opening last week of Aria — the hotel-casino centerpiece of CityCenter — was regarded as either a sign of the Strip's economic rebound or another symptom of its ailments. Most Nevadans are praying for the rebound." — Los Angeles Times reporter Ashley Powers

• "Well, time alone will tell whether Crystals proves a lasting contribution to the world of modern urban design, but right now, it’s dazzling the crowds in Las Vegas, which is what it’s supposed to do." — Richard Ouzounian for the Toronto Star.

• "Instead of a lobby the size of two football fields bathed by the glow of slot machines, I found one that could easily be crossed in seconds and was filled with natural light and comfy-looking furniture. No flashing marquees and not even a hint of cigarette smoke. Outside, small parks replaced parking lots. Where cheesy faux European monuments should have been were sculptures by world-renowned artists. It felt serene — even secluded. For a second, I panicked. Was I really in Las Vegas?" — Eliza Hussman of the San Francisco Chronicle

Compiled by Sun reporter Dave Toplikar

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