Monday, March 14, 2011 | 1:55 a.m.
It was 1986 when an up-and-coming music TV network first touched down in Daytona Beach for its inaugural spring break special.
It was before anyone had ever heard of a reality TV show, but the throngs of inebriated college students and bikini-clad girls made an instant hit for MTV.
Twenty-five spring break seasons later, the network this year was in Las Vegas, where MTV chose the Palms as its base for spring break debauchery, a resort once home to the popular “Real World” series.
The party wrapped up Wednesday after four days of concerts, but Las Vegas resorts will be feeling the spring break buzz for the next few weeks. The season arrives in mid-March, when most college students have a weeklong break from academics, and it can last through April.
Spring-breakers braved cool temperatures and packed the pool at the Palms last week for performances from artists including PitBull, Ne-Yo, Wiz Khalifa and “Jersey Shore” star-turned-celebrity-DJ Pauly D.
“This helps solidify our brand as a place where people come to have fun and enjoy themselves, and it promotes our pool,” Palms owner George Maloof told the Sun last week.
It also generates revenue. Maloof said the four-day party surpassed the numbers the Palms initially projected.
Other Las Vegas resorts are hoping to do the same as the spring break season gets into full swing this week. MGM Resorts International is marketing spring break as “6 resorts. 1 party” at its mid-level Strip hotels.
“We expect this spring break to be a great one for our resorts. It’s difficult to track numbers since the break spans nearly a two-month period, but we anticipate an increase in visitors of about 20 percent over last year,” said Jenn Michaels, MGM Resorts' vice president of public relations.
Caesars Entertainment, on the other hand, has opted out of doing marketing or creating special offerings for spring-breakers. A spokeswoman for the company said the spring break crowd skews too young for the company’s target market.
At MGM Resorts, Michaels said the spring break period doesn’t just attract college students, but also families who have kids out of school and adults looking for a spring vacation. The company also expects to see some spillover from the party at the Palms.
“We know, on average, that people visit about three properties while in Las Vegas, so we would expect to see some of the visitors who came specifically for the MTV event come by our properties,” Michaels said.
Several MGM Resorts properties are offering vacation packages similar to all-inclusive spring break destinations like the Caribbean and Cancun with rooms, dining, nightclub passes and pool cabanas.
MGM Resorts has partnered with Angel Management Group, which operates several of its nightlife venues, for its spring break promotions, including room keys that can be used as passes into some of Angel’s venues.
Angel is operating nine more venues in Las Vegas than it was this time last year, mostly because of its acquisition of Pure Management Group in September.
“March is a great month for Vegas. There’s great weather and the pools are opening, so those things combined produces a great crowd. It’s not the craziness of the holiday weekends, but it’s two to three weeks of steady attendance numbers, so it’s probably one of the busiest periods for us,” said Nick McCabe, Angel's vice president of strategy.
On Friday, Angel opened its pool party venue, Wet Republic, at MGM Grand for the season. Its other venues are playing host to a slew of celebrities in the coming days, including Snookie, Kellan Lutz, Vanessa Hudgens and Kendra Wilkinson.
“It’s right there in the middle of our target. We’ve got reality TV stars, 'Twilight' stars,” McCabe said. “Everything we are doing around the next few weeks is geared towards the spring break, MTV generation crowd.”
But celebrities and nightclubs might not be the main draw for Las Vegas this spring break; Gabe Saglie, senior editor of travel website Travelzoo, said it’s the deals. The city topped a recent survey by the site for the top value destinations.
“From a value perspective, Las Vegas is an amazing vacation opportunity. The supply has been very, very healthy because there are so many rooms there,” Saglie said.
During the third and fourth week of March, Saglie said Travelzoo is seeing higher room rates because of the increased spring break demand. Average weekday rates this upcoming week at Strip hotels include $248 at Cosmopolitan, $192 at Caesars Palace, $129 at Planet Hollywood and $137 at MGM Grand.
Getting to Las Vegas is the expensive part. With fuel prices and airfares continuing to rise, procrastinators might not find the last-minute deals they were hoping for, Saglie said
“Staying there and having fun there is amazing value,” Saglie said. “But airfares aren’t Vegas’ best friend right now.”