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October 30, 2014

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Design challenges leave passers-by passing CityCenter by

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Steve Marcus

Some say the entrance to CityCenter is not inviting to pedestrians.

Entrance to CityCenter (11-23-10)

A pair of tourists cross illegally at the entrance to CityCenter on Wednesday, November 23, 2010. Launch slideshow »

While defending their financially troubled development as a forward-thinking enterprise yet to hit its stride, CityCenter’s developers acknowledge a problem with the landmark, $8.5 billion project: Many pedestrians are simply passing it by.

Passers-by may not be seeing the many attractions it has to offer, CityCenter officials told their peers at this month’s Global Gaming Expo, the industry’s premier conference and trade show.

Over the next couple of months, owner MGM Resorts International will add landscaping and signs to make the entrance more inviting and guide pedestrians to CityCenter’s Aria through its Strip-facing Crystals mall, among other entry points.

The issue highlights an age-old challenge along the colossal carnival midway that is the Las Vegas Strip and one that has grown crucial in the tough economy: How to lure customers inside your casino.

There’s no magic formula. Some casinos open to the sidewalk on Las Vegas Boulevard while others sit back. The poorly designed entrance of the former Aladdin — even though it was at the sidewalk — contributed to the property’s eventual bankruptcy and its continued struggle as a Planet Hollywood resort. Customers ascend stairs and escalators to reach Planet Hollywood, fronted by a separately owned mall. The resort’s latest owner is further improving the Strip entrance to ease casino access.

CityCenter’s main entrance funnels pedestrians onto meandering, overhead walkways and a footbridge extending over a multilane entrance for traffic. Aria’s entrance is about 800 feet from the Strip — farther back than many competitors and a deliberate attempt to create an interior, urban setting for people to explore at their own pace.

CityCenter CEO Bobby Baldwin downplays his colleagues’ dour comments, saying the development’s pedestrian traffic is respectable and will improve once the neighboring Cosmopolitan resort opens Dec. 15. Owners routinely tweak major resorts once they are open and problem areas reveal themselves, Baldwin said.

Being closer to the street may attract more looky-loos, but they aren’t the sort of spenders who can make or break a casino, he added.

The criticism of Aria echoes what was heard when Steve Wynn opened Bellagio, nested behind an eight-acre lake that seemed to be a pedestrian barrier to the casino. The resort has become a financial success and an international icon for its dancing waters. Bellagio’s entrance is about the same distance by foot from Las Vegas Boulevard as Aria’s.

Architecture critics say CityCenter has another drawback: They say it falls short of being an authentic urban setting, with tourists feeling intimidated by its cluster of high-rise towers.

Some architects not involved with the project say the main entrance is a significant problem for pedestrians who have to negotiate narrow walkways with unattractive views of traffic. Additional signs and landscaping won’t help much, they say. Pedestrians have the alternative of approaching Aria through Crystals, the high-end retail mall that opens onto Las Vegas Boulevard.

CityCenter lacks enough of an appealing streetscape to draw pedestrians, Las Vegas urban planner Robert Fielden said.

“Most people aren’t willing to walk more than 200 feet to get to where they want to go,” he said. “They move like livestock. They follow a leader and if you don’t have something to grab their attention, the leader will find another watering hole someplace else.”

Las Vegas architect Joel Bergman calls the driveway entrance “cold” and “uninviting” for pedestrians, unlike the fanciful facades that have enticed tourists over the years.

Bergman, a creator and proponent of some of Las Vegas’ most well-known resort themes, was an early critic of CityCenter’s modern exterior.

“They got what they wanted,” he said: An entrance “that is not what a Las Vegas (casino) operator would have done.”

Click to enlarge photo

A couple climbs stairs to a pedestrian walkway at the entrance of CityCenter on Wednesday, November 23, 2010.

Three sets of master planners studied the placement of buildings on CityCenter’s 76-acre campus by analyzing and comparing vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow at the entrances of other properties along the Strip.

Squeezing six towers and 18 million square feet of space onto a footprint not much larger than a single Las Vegas resort presented a design challenge for CityCenter developers. In particular, the entrance had to accommodate a large volume of vehicles, requiring a different approach, executives said.

Incorporating conveniences for pedestrians such as ground-level walkways and crosswalks would have backed up cars on the Strip, as it does at other major resorts, they said.

“People crossing the street creates huge traffic problems and the county was adamant that these problems be solved,” said J.F. Finn, principal and managing director of Gensler in Las Vegas — the firm that led the design team crafting CityCenter. “You have to move people away from those vehicles.”

CityCenter may have created another problem in the process, architect and Las Vegas design critic Alan Hess said.

“The entrance has all the pleasantness of an airport terminal,” he said. “There’s a lot of concrete and ramps and other things that turn pedestrians off, and a sense of being channeled into an entryway.”

It’s too early to pass judgment, CityCenter’s developers say.

It hasn’t yet become the pedestrian “gathering place” its creators sought. That goal has been hampered by construction at Cosmopolitan; the gradual opening of new retail stores at Crystals, which is now mostly full, and the “devastating” loss of Harmon — an empty building with a crucial construction defect — as an operating hotel, Finn said.

According to Hess, CityCenter can do better than its bland entrance.

“There are so many good examples along the Strip of how to get people into a resort easily and willingly,” he said. “They threw the baby out with the bath water.”

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  1. The Aria sits 1/6th of a mile from Las Vegas Boulevard. The Vdara is almost 1/2 of a mile from Las Vegas Boulevard. Tourist say it is a nice complex but nothing special. Tourist also say the inside is cold and sterile.

    "It's too early to pass judgment, CityCenter's developers say."

    What do you expect them to say ? We messed up.

    Someone should go to the Home Depot and pick up some of the Porn Slappers cousins. Print some Aria Slapper Cards. Strategically place these folks on the City Center's sidewalks.

    http://www.urbanphotos.net/images/LVCD2/...

    Harry Reed can take the credit for bringing jobs to Nevada.

  2. Porn Slappers? I noticed that is all over the net, interviews with porn slapper, you tubes of porn slappers, porn slapper T-shirts.

    What they need is to take that "indoor skydive" facility turbine and turn it on its side and suck the customers into the facility.

    I thought the urbanism stuff went out with Buckminster Fuller. I think the trend is more natural settings for resorts, like in Arizona, Wyoming and Montana. Rooms with natural materials and nature views, not concrete. People spend too much time in sterile concrete cubicles to begin with, they want to vacation in one?? Give me a break.

    I think lots of people driving in from California or Arizona are more bargain tourists, Get a deal on a room, see a show, etc. do some shopping. People are not going to spend $12 on a drink, they bring there own bottle. The cooler crowd is all your getting for some time to come.

    They're predicting another 13# drop in home prices this year. The HOA fees are going to continue to rise, given the vacancy rate, and that will push sales down even more.

  3. The City Center Architecture, the sterile mirrored glass exteriors without personality are the odd group on the Strip. Devoid of vegetation, it takes on the appearances of a Dystopia: Fritz Lang reborn.

  4. A true white elephant, and a monstrosity.
    Rename this boondoggle "The Heights Of Arrogance".

  5. looky-loos, that's your problem. overbuilt vegas is the problem, to much for the to much people. how's that workin for ya

  6. Dude, IBM called and needs it's office park back!

  7. I liked the old CAL-Nev lodge in Tahoe was a good example of an ideal gambling facility. Small, nice view, fresh air, good staff.

    Should they implode City Center?

  8. Whenever someone says, "People aren't going to pay $12 for a drink," what they are saying is, "I am not going to pay $12 for a drink." Whenever people say, "Tourists say it is cold and sterile," what they mean to say is, "I think it is cold and sterile."

    As someone who spent a weekend actually visiting and enjoying CityCenter, and then writing about it, I can attest through accountable, first-hand experience that it is an impressive complex from many perspectives

    I spent some time watching Strip pedestrian traffic on the pedestrian bridge entrance, and more than "cold" or "sterile," my observation is that the T-shirt, flip-flops and yard-long-margarita crowd is simply intimidated by CityCenter's obvious departure from that aesthetic. One simply wouldn't feel comfortable strolling up to CityCenter carrying a plastic football full of beer.

    Just because we are in a recession doesn't mean we have to dress and behave like paupers. CityCenter is popular with overseas tourists. Not everywhere is for everyone. People should stop projecting their insecurities, and MGM should think twice about dumbing-down what they've accomplished before giving it time.

  9. Just re-name the facility "Harry's Folly" and give it to the homeless as a shelter.

  10. LOL!

  11. I have to disagree with Baldwin. How does he know that ALL the looky-loos will not spend? Most will not but there will always be a few that spend much more than imaginable when they stop in and maybe see a slot machine or a table-game that they otherwise would never have if they didn't step into CC. This is Gaming 101 folks!

  12. We just got back from Vegas. We hadn't had a chance to visit this complex because there is so much to see and visit in Vegas we ran out of time on previous trips. Made time to see it and loved it. Thought Aria was gorgeous, loved the shops. Was an easy walk through the mall to the Vegas strip and walked down to Planet Hollywood and those malls and casinos. We definitely plan to stay at Aria on our next trip. Can't wait for the Cosmopolitan to open.

  13. CityCenter is the Neonopolis of the Strip.

  14. The first time I was in the Aria, within a week of its grand-opening, the BJ dealer asked my "what I thought" about the place.

    I replied; "It's nice, but too industrial"

    That is raw data - for those Exec's who are willing to accept some real feedback that Aria is "cold" and "uninviting" and not get cranky and start the name calling - looky loo might just be what you need to keep the place from looking like a bio-research lab.

    Las Vegas is not the sister city to Copenhagen where cold, grey concrete is the preference of modern architecture and cold grey people.

  15. it is cold uninviting and if you dont like heights forget it...

  16. Unless you're the Sultan of Brunei, you can't afford to shop in any of their shops in Crystals! Aria looks like the 'M' resort or Red Rock, nothing WONDERFUL and SENSUAL like Bellagio. But of course Steve Wynn had nothing to do with the design of 'CityCenter'.
    The Vdara is the MOST boring of 'em all. Don't waste your time! No wonder they're losing a million or more a month, or at the VERY least continue to operate at a LOSS! The whole thing needs to be imploded and turned back into the paved Bellagio employee parking lot!

  17. Give the tourists a free light show and squirting water show and a fake volcano and they will come in droves to the property..Will they spend any money there? I doubt it.This is the kind of marching slobs the powers be have attracted here over the years do to their greed and wanting more volume over quality people..Live with it..

  18. When I visited shortly after it opened, I was rather impressed. Of course, I'm from NYC and in many ways, I miss that type of architecture. Sterile? Yes, but I don't know that that detracts from it; I believe it's SUPPOSED to look and feel that way. After all, the name IS "City Center". I loved the place. The galleries were particularly impressive and the shows they had at the time were amazing.

    I wasn't terribly impressed with Aria aside from the sheer size. Oh the staff was friendly enough but the gaming, well, not so much. The walkways throughout the complex seem to throw a new "something" at you no matter where you go. I'm not really into the designer meme so I doubt I'd do much actual shopping in that area, but the overall design of the shopping area is rather architecturally bold.

    Perhaps people who travel here from the glass-steel-concrete cities don't want the look and feel of nature. Maybe they want the look and feel of comfort and what's more comforting than home?

    City Center is not FOR the flip-flops and yard-long-margarita crowd; they pretty much have most other places on the Strip to go. IMO, CC was built to attract the more urban traveler - those from (e.g.) NYC and Chicago.

    (Aside: Who decided "flip-flops" were footwear anyway? They're shower shoes; beach shoes; poolside shoes; wear-at-home-in-your-own-backyard shoes. They are NOT wear-outside footwear. Again, JMHO.)

    One suggestion I would make (and this goes to all the Strip resorts and the downtown area) is to decorate a bit more extensively for the holidays. Growing up in Brooklyn, our local shopping area (at the time, 5th Avenue Brooklyn) was always decorated with the garlands/lights/swags extending over the street. The lamposts were also decorated and the whole feel was wonderful. The store/business owners all paid for this and every year you looked forward to it. Seems to me we have the perfect environment for this type of display.

    This complex opened at a bad time; nothing more, nothing less. And to those who insist on turning this into a bash-Harry-Reid political discussion, please remember that this complex DOES employ thousands of people, many of whom might otherwise be out of work.

  19. For those of you who remember, Bally's used to have a similar problem. At 110 in the shade (and there wasn't any shade) who was about to take the trek from LVBS into the resort while frying? Then Bally's spent big bucks and installed people movers, overheads and landscaping from LVBS into & out of the resort and that took care of that. CityCenter will have to something similar. Maybe a moving sidewalk.

  20. Whether it was Kerkorians idea, or Lanni or someone else within the company...they screwed up. It's a very very cold entry. Lots of pavement, too far from the Strip, overwhelmed with a high rise, NYC type of feel.

    Too many steps at the Mandarin, Crystals has a hospital sterile feel to it. No landscaping, overpriced condos (still!) and an entry like driving up to McCarran.

    If you take a second and compare it to The Bellagio, you know there is no comparison. I don't ever see the condos being sold out.

    Don't even get me started on the abandoned Harmon.

  21. City center is ugly and has no character. The hotels on the strip have a theme and are attractive. This monstrosity looks like an office park.

    The last thing people want to see is something that reminds them of WORK!

    These developers and architect were just stupid. They thought they could hype their way in too lots more money.

    Ha!

  22. City Center just doesn't seem to fit in on the strip! I started coming to Las Vegas during the theme hotels times, it was like being at different places in the world without leaving the strip, it was fun to visit and casino hop during that time. Now the corporations have taken all that away and wonder why people aren't excited about coming to Las Vegas anymore. A lot of the Hotels are still warm friendly and the atmosphere good, City Center looks cold the atmosphere not what the middle class people like, only upper class people will visit and feel at home there! I think MGM got what they ask for!

  23. I'm always amazed by people who apparently are "happy" to see something fail. Case in point: "Bob635" and his "Ha!" comment.

    Hey, Bob? If City Center fails, it just puts yet another nail in Las Vegas' coffin. Assuming you live here, do you really want that?

  24. The bottom line is that it just isn't worth the trouble to get there.

  25. It seems they got exactly what they designed. They believed it would be a destination complex, so making it nearly impossible to get into (single self-parking garage only accessible via the Strip, challenging valet placements) didn't matter because "people WILL come so let's make it incredibly inconvenient to leave".

    Then they find out that while some people like the complex, most don't. So the money they might get from curious folks staying at Caesars, Wynn, et al doesn't happen because it's so incredibly difficult (and unattractive) to get to.

  26. The high end consumers are there. $1.6 trillion in corporate profits, new bonuses to Wall Streeters and others...so the $12 a drink drinkers are out there, they aren't coming to Vegas and SPEND (gamble) ... they go to the Caribbean..etc.

    Maybe Metro can upgrade their cells with some modern furniture (put in some electric drapes) and rent them out on weekends to pick-up some extra cash?

  27. I have been to City Center a few times and love the Crystals center's bold architecture, as well as the outdoor architecture of the whole complex. However, I do agree the pedestrian entrance is really, really bad.

    One clue to why this is the case, from the article, a quote from an executive: 'Incorporating conveniences for pedestrians such as ground-level walkways and crosswalks would have backed up cars on the Strip...'. So he sees pedestrians as secondary, and their access is considered a convenience rather than a primary design goal. Then later the article quotes a developer: 'It hasn't yet become the pedestrian "gathering place" its creators sought.' Gosh, I wonder why!

    My suggestion is to build a roof over the driveway, and on top of the roof create a park / grand entrance for pedestrians, an inviting environment with plenty of plants and shade, with access paths / stairs all along the way where people can walk down to or up from the existing sidewalks. Make it a place that fits in with the "urban environment" theme, make it an urban park that is very inviting, that draws people in.

    I enjoy the City Center but it could use more inviting outdoor space.

  28. Somehow entering City Center on foot, from the Strip, feels like your coming in the back door or service entrance.

  29. As a professional curator in Las Vegas I have been careful not to opine much on City Center but I think with this article I have some liberty in suggesting a simple solution.

    Though the placement of much of the artwork at City Center can be left up for debate, especially among my colleagues, I would simply suggest moving Nancy Rubens Big Edge artwork away from the front of Vdara and place it in front of Aria where you can actually see it from the Strip.

    The placement of such an important work of art in basically what is an alley way is most disheartening both for the artwork and for the artist herself. With Aria having this large entrance that overlooks the Strip, what it lacks is something whimsical with lots of color. Big Edge offers the whimsical, the color and of course the drama that draws the eye. Properly lit at night it will offer much the same drama and allow the buildings around it to be part of the spectacle with the shadows it creates.

  30. Not a comment on the entire City Center but just Aria. OK, it's not right next to the Strip but for me I just don't find the Casino area very pleasing once I'm in it. It's too dark. That's all I've got.

  31. Nancy Rubins "Edge" is nice..moving it is not going to help bring in more pedestrian traffic. CC's issues go much much deeper than moving some artwork or planting some trees and bushes. There is a design flaw in the complex that is inherent in its basic composition.

    Set too far off the strip
    Entry was built for cars, not people
    Veer and Mandarin overwhelm the site
    Modern architecture is nice..but this one stretches too far from Las Vegas' roots of fun..
    There is no attraction (Bellagio fountain, Mirage volcano, TI show. They needed something to "attract the masses". Something visually stunning where people say "this is a must see"

  32. A sad commentary to an otherwise brilliant business career of Mr. K.

  33. I think the comment "supra" is correct, "the bottom line is that it just isn't worth the trouble to get there". As a former resident on an extended 2 month stay here, I still haven't gone over there. Most of the locals I know say it's no big deal and you have to be an engineer to figure out where to park or how to enter. Maybe next year when I come back, the entrance will be more inviting.

  34. Well all I can say is, I told you so. If you look at my comments prior to this debacle opening you'll see what I mean.

    It doesn't take an expert or an analyst to figure out what makes a failure. As for the Bellagio, there was one big difference. That property is inviting and as always was. You could see it above the lake and you knew that there were interesting things to see inside. Aria is buried in the bowels of an outdoor Deathstar and there's nothing in particular that would make you hike back there that you couldn't see or do somewhere else.

    The proof of MGM's complete negligence and failure is that it's now been a year since people began complaining about this stuff and they're still debating it rather than trying to do something about it.

    My favorite example of completely idiotic thinking is that that several of their premier shopping outlets are right smack up against Las Vegas Boulevard. You can pop right into Prada or YSL without ever knowing that there was anything else a mile behind it. Of course, then again, there's always Jim Murren's "park" that he still has orgasms about that is nothing more than a 10 x 10 cement slab with a tree and a bench.

  35. I have never found the moniker "cold and sterile" to be true it's magnetic draw on the senses a visually dramatic departure from the ordinary from every vantage point, pedestrian traffic flows internally from gateways circularly designed linkage beginning at Monte Carlo specifically to ease the uncomfortable crush at street level allowing a greater degree passenger/taxi access.Over the course of multiple visits day, evening observing the chatter of multiple languages and demographics the consensus was always one of wonder that it's design was reminiscent of the childlike delight found in a Saturday morning episode of "The Jetsons" (distinctly American) to the more subtle (European) restraint of expecting nothing less (what took you so long)Many locals find it a frightening and imperious and are not open to the modern interpretative Las Vegas is becoming and resort or retreat to the familiar I would gently remind them that the time the hearken to was one of glamor when people did dress for diner and cocktails if anything they should not be intimidated as City Center is a revival of just such a notion. My heart beats there also.

  36. passing it by?

    or just deciding it's ugly and skipping it?

  37. That he (bobby baldwin) used the term "looky loo" says alot about what they think of the las vegas visitor. I guess all us looky loos will have to spend our money on other restaurants and casinos on the strip.....

  38. Good post James R.

  39. The trouble with City Center is that, just as it's name implies, it looks like a "city" - big imposing buildings, glass, & concrete. Anyone can see that kind of architecture in New York, Chicago, London or Tokyo. But you probably would not find a place that looks like Caesars, Bellagio or Paris in most cities.

  40. At the prices they charge, who needs to go there. I have not gone to the strip in years as many of my friends have not also. When I come to Vegas I get a car and visit the off strip Casinos much friendlier atmosphere and much more comfortable with better odds. When you really get down to it the strip has lostt its character as in no character. Too bad that the Casinos lost their character and atmosphere. In the old days you could walk down the strip and easily walk into any casino these days you need a road map and assistance. The new casinos have destroyed the strip. City Center leading the way.

  41. I think the industrial look, with some wood beams, etc. looks good sometimes on a hillside in Switzerland or the Rockies.

    Gee, there is a bunch of interesting feedback here. Did Murine do any focus groups? or was it all his idea? Maybe the Sun should copyright this feedback and sell it to City Center through a side company called: "Lefthaven"

  42. An urban setting that isn't pedestrian friendly. A mall without benches. Cutting edge architecture and the Vdara death ray. What were they thinking?

  43. It was never meant to be a casino for the walking Vegas tourists.Instead, it was build to create an entertainment facility for all the thousands of citizends living in their condos. Dummies. The problem is that these condos remain empty, and that's why the casino is empty.
    It was never the idea to drag in the Vegas weekend tourists! However, it turns out that now they're obviously looking for reasons to generate revenues. Perhaps a super long walkway would do the job. And by doing so, offer free beverages for the patient people standing on the 2 mile long automatic walkway while these people are being moved into the lion's cage.

    From Switzerland

  44. MGM made a collosal mistake of monumental proportions and now trying to rationalize their planning. The problem was too many architects. Most of the Casino's have one Firm and work in unison, but in Aria,there were just too many,who were just paid to build. And build they did catering to their individual ego, with no clue as to how the tourist traffic inflow works in a Las Vegas Casino. Individually they were brilliant-collectively they were a failure!

  45. Not even the poker room can pull my attention to it. I play a lot of poker when in Vegas, but can herewith officially confirm that there are other poker rooms with much better conditions than this one. The Venetian and the Wynn games are good and the rooms are nice, too. And it's not a hassle walk until you finally get there. Remember, the old Alladin went bankrupt for their parking issues. Nobody liked to have to walk through the shopping mall before getting into the casino. And the arrogant CitiCenter developpers thought "We don't want and we don't need these suckers of walking tourists on the Strip.Instead, let's build thousands of condos and an army of hotels around it and you will se that our casino will be filled with generous tourists all the time". How wrong they were. They probably thought the housing bubble was never going to burst, eh?

    MGM will have to issue more stocks and more stocks and issue new notes, and some ignorant investors will fall into this trap. The CEO will collect the fat bonus until the day there's no return. He will then walk away with millions in cash bonusses and all the investors will have lost their money by then. It's a shame to see what's happening there.

    From Switzerland

    From Switzerland

  46. "The new casinos have destroyed the strip. City Center leading the way."

    People said the exact same thing 21 years ago about the Mirage, which was "destroying" the mid-century Modern desert resort aesthetic of Las Vegas and replacing it with the themed resorts that so many of you are holding up today as the so-called "real Las Vegas."

    Ironic, huh?

  47. I can't argue against any of the comments made so far because I agree with them. It's not just one thing that people are harping on, but rather a bunch of design flaws and the Harmon is in a class by itself! How sad that so much time and money has created very little to be proud of. I've been to City Center several times since its opening and have tried to be open and objective, but I can't. The following article quote from Las Vegas design critic Alan Hess sums it up for me as well: "The entrance has all the pleasantness of an airport terminal".

  48. A shame to know that billions were spent by educated people and this is what they come up with. It looks like the back side of a corporate complex.

    If you want me to come I need to be able to see the entrance, preferably an inviting one and I need to have easily accessible free parking.

    If you want my money don't make it too inconvenient, too expensive or too unattractive. I have plenty of choices that don't.

    Safe, easy and enjoyable. I do not want to feel like I'm sneaking my wife in the back door at a shaky location that I had to work too hard for.

  49. One comment:

    Las Vegas Sands spend $6 billion to build a truly iconic building in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands (and it would have cost much less the build here). People come from all across Asia to see the property, to stay in it and to experience a 7 acre pool deck 55 stories above the ground.

    MGM spend $9 billion on a collection of forgettable designs that are connected (or not connected) by a series of confusing and misleading corridors and/or passages.

    Which one is successful? You guessed it.

  50. Keyboard quarterbacks ... The great American tradition continues.

  51. Wow, I agree with most of mred's comments on here. As a California visitor, we come for inexpensive rooms, and to see shows, shop, dine and do some gambling. While I'm not the flip-flop or yard long margarita type, (never owned flip flops or consumed a yard long margarita), but see a lot of those folks there. They're really not the "City Center crowd" The place isn't "prdestrian friendly" and I've heard parking is a hassle over there too. I personally don't mind the long walk, all of those stairs to climb negate the need to go to a gym and work out. But most folks are the "gotta have it NOW" type. The name "City Center" confuses some. I've heard more people comment that it's the new City Hall or a Government office complex. In a drive across the U.S. or Canada, you will a sign on the interstate in about every sizable city for "City Center" which is basically where the City Hall, courthouse, office buildings, etc. are.
    We visited Aria a week after it opened. I remember a guy at the entry to the sports book who'se sole job was to tell every passer by to "watch your step". There were also low. wide bases on the columns outside that we saw several people trip on while we were there. I imagine they've fixed that by now. Architectural details that should have been obvious to the designers as potential hazards, but were allowed anyway.

  52. My wife and I visit Las Vegas as often as 4 times a year. We will come to the City Center complex at least one time to see if they have any silver strikes in their slot machines. After that they probably won't see us again. If we wanted concrete and glass we would have gone to Los Angeles. The designers should have visited the Bass Pro Shop, or Sam's Town before they designed the complex..

  53. The reason I pass it by is because it is an overly trendy club going center. With Aria, you get a bunch of in-debt twentysomethings in their expensive dresses and shirts coming to dance and pay for overpriced drinks. I am not into that kind of thing. I go for value and the free drinks at the machines, for which City Center's Aria is lacking. Much better to me is across the street at Tropicana, which doesn't have all the fancy stuff and isn't going into further debt than they have to, which is a problem at the north end of the Strip as well as City Center. MGM had to sell Treasure Island to pay bills for City Center. I am sick of the scaffolding and cranes obstructing what is supposed to be a nice view.

  54. "With Aria, you get a bunch of in-debt twentysomethings in their expensive dresses and shirts coming to dance and pay for overpriced drinks"

    When someone says something like this, they reveal much more about themselves than those they criticize.

  55. For anyone who desires a first-person account of a weekend at CityCenter:

    http://bit.ly/igBPYm

  56. That is an anonymous one-sentence opinion without context, not a first-person account of an experience.

  57. Let's be fair: In Singapore it's pretty easy to be successful if you can control the market. There are only 2 casinos allowed by the government and these 2 operators are forced to operate under extremel high restrictions. Singapore citizens for instance must pay 100 SGD to get admission, and they will come and play. I don't think anybody would pay only 1 dollar entry fee to get admission to places such as Bellagio or the Aria. Would they?

    This is one thing. And the other thing, of course, Las Vegas Sands never builds small and middle class casinos. they go all the way and only build the biggest and the best. From this point of view you cannot compare these 2 kinds of operations but you could have questioned whether or not the entire CitiCenter project would make any sense. Today, clearly not. But in the boom years from 2001 and following with all the cheap money available nobody would see an end of the Vegas construction boom. Would you?

    From Switzerland

  58. Wait! I wear flip flops and have been known to consume a yard long margarita and I stayed at the City Center for a week in October..... Wow, I didn't know that a loser slob like me wasn't welcome there. Guess I'll have to go back to staying at the Wynn and Venetian.

  59. The poorly designed entrance of the former Aladdin -- even though it was at the sidewalk -- contributed to the property's eventual bankruptcy and its continued struggle.

    Bull the entrance had nothing to do with it's failure, that's just like these so called consultants would say, What brought down the Aladdin was it was over encumbered and the owners passed that onto to it's customers through high room rates high price food and unaffordable forum shops, not to mention the unfriendly games.

    Being closer to the street may attract more looky-loos, but they aren't the sort of spenders who can make or break a casino, he added.

    These looky-loos were former Aladdin customers, When I look at a place like that I think to my self how can they pay for that?
    Pedestrians have the alternative of approaching Aria through Crystals, the high-end retail mall that opens onto Las Vegas Boulevard.
    Bingo! that's why some wont go they act as if the casino is a utopia and you must first go through a gauntlet of over priced foreign made merchandise.

    Recycle the American dollar through Patriotic spending.

  60. I've gone out of my way to go in to Aria/City Center. I played craps. It was dark in there. I didn't like that. Drinks were very slow. Nobody likes that. It's not the walk that would stop me. I walk the entire strip. I just never found a good reason to stay in or go back. I'm hoping they fix that. With Harrahs doing 6:5 blackjack and MGM getting off on resort fees I just need to find a place where I don't feel like they want me to hand me my wallet at the door. I believe we are dying because nobody sincerely says "welcome" anymore. Not even the Sands. They'd rather have expedia guests than gamblers....

  61. Hand "them" my wallet. I'm sure you all caught that...

  62. A couple of weeks ago I came up Harmon just as the sun was setting and seeing City Center ablaze with the golden hues of sunset was breathtaking.

    Now, have I been in the joint yet? Nope, someday, sometime, but not yet.

    Do I wish it well? Yep, why not? Why would I like to see a business fail and lose all the jobs that go with it?

    Just my two cents, if anyone really cared, one way or the other.

  63. How does someone become a "Looky-Loo"

    I see a new place with all it's splendor and design and then I say to my self, Self let's go inside and check it out and I do so and find that in the shops that shoes sale for $250.00 a pair and Sweaters sale for $450.00 and a Men's three piece suit may go for $900.00 bucks so at this point I stroll over to the gaming area and what do I find there $25.00 min. 6:5 Blackjack w/eight deck shoe and most of the games are $25.00 dollar min. so I stroll out the door as the guy's watching on there monitors saying he's not spending his money and they label me a Looky-loo.
    When they should have asked them selves what can we do to get this "customer" in the door to spend money.
    Maybe just maybe the upper management will call a meeting in the morning and tell all attendants to read these comments before lunch, To find out which ones will try to explain away that the comments are not valid because that person is the one that has failed the test. If you don't believe me just look at the cash flow problem.

  64. To Mr. James Reza: Your comment about what people 'said about The Mirage' when it opened, doesn't quite match, what I recall in history. When it opened, it opened to RAVE REVIEWS. People were talking about it ALL OVER the country and the world. The first time I saw The Mirage I was BLOWN AWAY! So I don't know quite where you get your facts from. Not to kiss Steve Wynn's a$$ or anything, but he kept getting right, up until Bellagio opened, which kind of blew the he lid off of Las Vegas, and changed this town forever! I'll give you Treasure Island was a bit of a stumble, but he recovered with Bellagio!
    His newest products are not quite the same product, new, elegant, GREAT service, but no, no Bellagio.
    At least Mr. Wynn's beverage models are lovely, polite, and kind. Sort of the way airline stewardesses were back in the 60's and 70's BEFORE airline deregulation, for those of you old enough to remember the golden days of air travel. Thank God the hotel industry has NOT been deregulated! Otherwise you'd have to have size 16 beverage models, who are pushing 60, working at the Wynn Resorts too, like at Bally's and Imperial Palace. Nothing wrong with those ladies, just don't think they should be allowed to be cocktail servers with their thunder thighs! Come on, if your belly is bigger than your breasts, isn't it time to get a job in the cage, or hostess in the coffee shop or something. I still want the glamour of Las Vegas on the casino floor, not some chick who used to be a size 2/4 forty years ago and now she's a size 24!

  65. One problem in going into City Center, is that is often cold as the dickens by the entrance, with winds and little cover when going in from the south entrance on Harmon, and somewhat at the North Entrance, which is somewhat unpleasant with the construction. Those are the main reasons I hardly go into the complex.

    And also, there is little compelling reason to drive there.

  66. The navigation of city center is like the spaghetti bowel. It's probably too late now, but more attention should have benign spent on the flow of traffic... Both cars and people.

    The flow of town square is ideal. Walking that whole area is easy and inviting. I agree with comments regarding navigating the heard. They need to make it simple to walk up and through the buildings.

    I've been there several times and I couldn't tell you what building is where. Create a natal walking flow and the herds will follow it.

    This isn't the first time the MGM messed up an entrance. Remember walking into the lions mouth? They got through that one. Just needs some attention.

  67. When Cosmopolitan opens, many tourists will go there and think they are at City Center. Only then will management realize the extent of the design flaw.

  68. I also don't remember the Mirage getting anything but rave reviews.

    CC might have 2000+ empty condos. That in itself is killing its customer base/business.

    The accounting tricks say the property is profitable. I would love to know how that is possible with all the empty condos and a building which cost in the neighborhood of 700 million ready for demolition before it's even occupied.

  69. Uh, Cosmopolitan is *part* of CityCenter.

  70. Megan, Don't know if you were responding to my comments on a previous post regarding flip-flops and yard long margaritas or not? But trust me, I'm not the City Center type either, nothing to do with being a "slob", I'm just not the rich "snob" type who is willing to pay the high prices (and looks down on guys like me as "slobs"). I may visit places like City Center, But at the end of the day, I walk back to my $35 room at the Imperial Palace (where "poor" slobs like me are known to frequent!).
    I'm just not the flip flop type and I don't drink margaritas, although I am in no way trying to pass judgement on those who do, to each his or her own!

  71. CityCenter is the Neonopolis of the Strip
    Truer words have never been spoken. The strip casinos need to go back to individual operators instead of these corporate idiots. Both harrahs and mgm bying up every casino in sight then running them into the ground has many of us longing for the days of mob ruled casinos.

  72. Mr. Baldwin says "It's yet to hit it's stride."

    In my opinion, there is no stride to hit.

    It's all a miss.

    I've been there once and see no reason to go back.

  73. Here are a couple of things to think about. To begin with, time and again the conversation gets diverted from the facts and people start taking personal offense to things that have nothing to do with reality. So here's a dose of practicality for everyone.

    If you've stayed at CityCenter and had a wonderful time, that's great. No one should doubt that you did. However, your personal experience has little to do with general consenus. The facts are plain. CityCenter's condo program was a failure. Whether due to the economy or overpricing, the bottom line is they have a lot of empty residences that they don't know what to do with. And to disagree for once with Boris, who I think is only one of a handful of sensible adults who regularly comment here, the residences were the worst possible idea as a business model for a gaming organization. How much gambling could they possibly have thought their residents would do in a year? And furthermore they had to have realized from the outset that these would not be year-round residents by and large, which would make it pretty difficult to have an intelligent way of predicting future revenues from gambling, dining and so forth.

    By and large the commentary on the place as a whole is consistent: expensive, cold, not very interesting and inconvenient on a many levels. That's a problem. A BIG problem. Now the James P. Rezas of the world will tell you that opinions don't matter and so on and so forth. Well opinions do matter and the general commentary is reflected in the overall performance of MGM Resorts, which is being brought down by this very expensive debacle.

    These are plain facts. You can accuse someone of being too rich or too poor or too elite or too uneducated but something isn't working there and it needs to be looked at, understood, and fixed as quickly as possible. I am of the opinion that there's not much they can do as the corporation simply does not have the money to undertake major changes to fix something that should have been given more thought from the outset.

    There are two kinds of ideas in the world, good ones and bad ones. And this was a really bad one. So James we're happy you're having a ball drinking and shopping and doing whatever it is you do at CityCenter but you're in the minority clearly. Don't get your proverbial panties in a twist because people generally don't like something you do. Your arguments are shallow at best and border on childishness. To quote the immortal Bard, "Methinks thou dost protest too much!" Give it a rest. Stop praising a disaster and do what you can to help fix it or you won't have an ultra hip playground to fool around in very long.

  74. Oh and one other thing I forgot to mention that is a bit off the original topic - flip flops and slurping on yard long margaritas, unless you're at home in your own backyard, is slob culture. And just because you're rich doesn't mean you can't be an uncouth slob. Money doesn't buy class or manners. Paris Hilton anyone?

  75. Mr Merliss said, "Tourist also say the inside is cold and sterile."

    Mr REZAsaid, "Whenever people say, "Tourists say it is cold and sterile," what they mean to say is, "I think it is cold and sterile."

    Mr REZAsaid, Please don't put words in my mouth. I deal with Las Vegas tourist daily. I typed what the majority of tourist I have spoken with told me. You don't know me. I do not mince words. If there is anything I want to say I will type it and I will not put the blame on others.

    I do agree with your statement about the way people dress except I would use the words, they dress like PIG FARMERS instead of paupers.Your choice of words is too kind.

  76. sportyyetptractical, I still have to repeat myself: I think the concept was to build a citicenter as a place for longterm visitors that actually owned their condos. As long as the value of the condos was going up, the business model could in fact have worked out and the people that owned these condos could even of gambled their share from the home equity loans they would get from the banks. I think this was the plan. It would even have worked out for people buying condos as their 2nd or 3rd residency in Las Vegas and therefore leaving them empty most of the year. There are so many condos so even if 20 per cent of these condos are sold and in use and these people would dine and gamble right in the ARIA casino, it would be a good deal for MGM.

    Unfortunately, the most inevitable event happened. The housing bubble burst and the condos could not be sold at the right time any longer. Even the time share scam ideas turned out to be a bad investment model and people don't trust in buying condos or houses anymore. Who would blame them?

    Now what's the worst nightmare for the big MGM corporation is the fact that they were too deep in construction already when it happened. They passed the point of no return when they became aware that it would be a long term money loser finishing all these projects. I still have my personal doubts that the Harmon "construction failure" was indeed a matter of miss-placed rebar (is this the right word for these steel enhancers, sorry about my English at this time), but rather a good excuse to cut off constructing of a building that would eat up additional money never generating a good return...
    So, they decided to go all the way and see how bad it will be for the next 10 years. Fortunately, they got additional funds form the Arabs, but if this was a good idea, after all, will show...

    Now that they get a grasp on how much revenue is coming in and what the expenses are, they can start figuring out if there's a way to increase business or find a solution out of the miserable financial situation. First, they didn't want the walking crowd from the Strip (why else would they have built the ARIA so far away from it?) and now they think it might still be a good idea to get at least 1 out of 20 walking tourists into the joint and have them gamble a little bit.
    But, that's my opinion, perhaps I am wrong. I just don't like CitiCenter because it's too big and too much NYNY style. If I like skyscrapers, I go to New York, for anything else, I go to Las Vegas :)

    From Switzerland

  77. It is dark inside (too much elegant wood, looks like a library).
    You do not feel the light and joy from all the other Casinos. It is elegant but it is not Las Vegas style
    Their own MGM and New York are much better than City Center.

    I stayed at Aria and the hotel rooms are perfect, the rooms have incredible views over Las Vegas, everything is computerized (curtains, lights ...)
    Viva Elvis is also perfect

    The rest is strange. There is a 24/7 restaurant with a perfect architecture and view to the street but very bad food. I had to eat at other casinos
    They should close it and change everything toward Bellagio or Paris or Cesar or Encore ......or better of course. They will do it after they will see all the clients moved to Cosmopolitan and Bellagio
    My friend called me from his apartment at Wynn and asked me about a visit to see City Center. It was his first visit in Las Vegas so I had to help him and tell him the truth - I told him to stay there and I will come to him.

  78. There is a nice fountain in front of the entrance, with colored lights and water but you are not allowed to get close because of the cars. The gate keepers are escorting you out of there

  79. Uh, no James, Cosmopolitan is NOT *part* of CityCenter.

    It's a separate project, separate funding, separate ownership. While it might *LOOK* like CityCenter, it is not.

  80. I agree with BorisR, it was never meant to be a casino and shopping area for the walking Vegas tourists. It was supposed to be a residential center for the multimillionaires that were going to buy their condos. It's not an inviting walk and while the Aria is nice, the City Center not a destination that provides multiple forms of entertainment like the other casinos. We've been there twice- after we spend a little in the slot machines what else is there to do? Look at the expensive stuff in the shop windows on our way out.
    They wanted a city within a city and they got one.

  81. I love Las Vegas and visited CityCenter in June on my last trip and do not care to ever go back to CityCenter.

  82. My idea: use the citicenter for the future world congresses, UN headquarters, or whatever, but not as a casino destination resort.... :D

  83. I must say i was impressed but keep in mind i won about $400 bucks there and that influnce my review. the casino was empty (which I love) but it was way to far from the strip if i had not wanted to go threr i would not of wondered in...very nice place though....

  84. They wanted a citi within a city, so they built the citycenter. They never wanted the drunk tourists toddling around on the Strip, that's why they built the casino far away from it. With all the thousands of condos around they would have got enough gambling customers at all times. In theory, the business model was extra-class. However, they didn't think it all through and couldn't stop when it was to late to do so. No they're looking for altnernatives to keep the disaster in certain limits, but I don't think they will be able to handle this problem without Superman.

    From Switzerland

  85. Boris you are right on! I could not agree more.

  86. At best, "sportyyetpracfical," you read way foo much into my objective observations. At least I have the accontability to put my name on my opinions.

  87. Hi everyone! I've been busy saving people over Thanksgiving, so haven't been keeping up on the
    latest comments in this column. I do like CityCenter. It reminds of my home town on Krypton.
    Remember, I get my inspiration in the Fortress of Solitude. Crystals at CC makes me homesick for my crystal ice cold Fortress in the North Pole.

    As the Man of Steel, I love the sterile feel of a great steel building. CC has so many steel towers, I'm ecstatic. With all the glass walls, I don't even have to use my X-ray vision to
    check on how folks are getting along as a fly by.

    As for helping out MGM with their financial problems, I'd have to rob a bank to do that. And that's not up my ally.

    Gotta Fly. I'll be around!

    -Superman

  88. Dave, your point about Cosmopolitan and CityCenter being unique projects with unique ownership is taken, but I doubt that in practice, it makes much difference to the visitor, considering their physical proximity and similar image-based marketing. Those who won't venture into CityCenter won't likely venture into Cosmopolitan.

    As for some being "offended" by the implication that CityCenter was intended for a different crowd than the bargain hunters and flip-flop wearers, I just don't understand the intense projected insecurity.

    Comments here defend a desire for cheap food, cheap booze, and cheap rooms, which is fine -- to each his own -- but when someone builds something for those who want something less, uh, cheap, then it's somehow a personal affront.

    Life is a stage; you dress for the part you want, not the part you have. For those who are comfortable with the part of an extremely casual dresser, I would infer that anywhere that makes you feel inherently uncomfortable because of how you are dressed is probably not your venue.

    As for grousing about $12 cocktails (which have been around Vegas for a decade, long before CityCenter arrived), there is a significant difference between a properly mixed Manhattan and a Jack-and-Coke. As someone who enjoys both, I only wonder when my Manhattan costs the same as my Jack-and-Coke!

    The schadenfreude in Vegas is sometimes too much to handle. Ah, well.

  89. MGM should be kissing the feet of their Dubai partners.

    Were it not for Dubai having stepped in as a financial partner, this project would have been shut down during construction.

    Plus Dubai got all that stock at a ridiculously high price.

    I never liked this project from day one. It's too big and too much, and I also get they never would have imagined what was to happen in the economy.

    It's all very mind boggling.

  90. I have always thought that it was a mistake for City Center to rely so much on incredibly overpriced and relatively tiny condos rather than casinos. How could the the myriad financial experts involved not have forseen the problems?

    Hotels and casinos are Las Vegas; condos are Miami.

  91. The Dubai partners may well end up having full ownership in time. I would not be surprised.

  92. ok, it's all right if there's a casino looking for the upper class clients. But then they should not whine around when there are simply not enough big spenders around...... I wonder what they will do if they still think that the normal Vegas visitors are not welcome and appreciated at the ice cold citicenter. Will they simply start charging 45 dollars resort fee and 39 dollars for the breakfast buffet and 21 dollars for a Corona at the bar? Maybe they will, but I doubt that many of these super rich customers will pay this without getting a headache...

    Greetings from Switzerland

  93. Would be nice buying one of these luxury condos there for 50,000 dollars. I might also think about if the price is right. Call me if there is one available with a nice view of Bellagio, and not lower than the 45th floor please :)

    From Switzerland