Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2016

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Pay-to-park in Las Vegas? We’re already doing it

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John Locher / AP

Cars enter MGM Grand on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. MGM Resorts International announced Friday that it plans to begin charging visitors for parking this year at some of its properties in Las Vegas.

Over the holidays, I twice attended Nevada Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts at Symphony Park in downtown Las Vegas.

On my way to the valet lane at Reynolds Hall, I passed a parking lot operated by the city of Las Vegas charging $5 to park.

When I pulled into valet, I handed the attendant my keys and $10, the fee for using that service at the venue.

Point is: We are already paying for parking in Las Vegas.

Of course, there is free self-parking offered at the Smith Center, but the use of valet and that big lot on the west side of the complex are not complimentary.

Downtown, the now-closed Las Vegas Club charged $5 to park in its garage (which does answer the question, “The Las Vegas Club had a parking garage?”), and the Plaza charges nonhotel guests $2 an hour after 90 minutes to park in its garage.

Similarly, nonhotel guests are charged to park at the Downtown Grand, Golden Nugget (the hotel offers three hours free with validation), and in the lot between Main Street Station and the California.

And on Fremont East, where all those outcroppings of bars and restaurants and entertainment venues are so organic and groovy, you pay into a city-operated metering system to park along the street.

Point is ... well, see above.

Today, MGM Resorts International announced a new parking structure to be built at the Excalibur on the northwest corner of the property on the corner of Trop and the Strip.

The facility will add 3,000 spaces at a cost of $54 million. The garage answers one of the most pressing questions centering on the development of T-Mobile Arena, the Theater at Monte Carlo and the Park entertainment-retail promenade leading to T-Mobile: Where do we park? Now we know.

Also, MGM Resorts is investing an additional $36 million into its existing garages on the Strip, spending that money on improved access, guidance systems, technology showing drivers where to find open spaces, lighting, elevator and escalator upgrades (amen to that) and cosmetic improvements.

In this $90 million outlay, MGM Resorts is spending money on the parking structures it operates at Circus Circus, Mirage, City Center/Aria, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, MGM Grand, Excalibur and Mandalay Bay. It will not charge a fee at Crystals shopping center, Mandalay Place and Signature Towers a MGM Grand.

At the core of this announcement: MGM Resorts officials will require a fee to park inside those garages.

Beginning this spring, as T-Mobile opens with a concert by Wayne Newton and The Killers, overnight parking will cost less than $10.

I’m also told that a valet fee, expected to be higher than what is implemented in self-park garages, is planned for those properties.

Las Vegas residents will be offered a “grace period” for free parking after the program rolls out this spring, and they can keep their uncharged parking status by earning points through the M Life customer-loyalty program.

There will be no hourly rate applied, and the fees will be issued for daytime parkers, though it will be less than what is charged for overnight.

This information seems to prompt as many questions as it answers, chiefly: What constitutes overnight in a city that has effectively marketed itself as a 24/7 experience?

Does it mean a person who arrives at MGM Grand for a 6 p.m. dinner, 9 p.m. concert, a bite afterward, then plays craps at MGM Grand until 3 a.m. is an overnight guest?

Is overnight the moment “God’s flashlight,” or sunrise, hits these hotel-casinos? These are real questions.

What we do know is that MGM Resorts is charging in the same way that such cities as Chicago, L.A., Orlando, Dallas and even Boise charge to park for lodging, shopping and entertainment. Examples abound — six years ago, I was charged $25 a night to valet park (as a hotel guest) at Gaylord Hotel in Arlington, Texas.

Las Vegas has served as an exception to that business model because it has long enjoyed a river of molten gold from the casinos’ gambling take. But those days are long gone — just ask any entertainer or producer who gets to rent a lounge to perform in a city that used to pay its performers top dollar from its gaming profits.

When this announcement finally came down this morning, my first thought was, “Great, let’s use the parking money to subsidize entertainment.”

That’s a pipe dream, but what is real is Las Vegas is following a trend already in place all over the country — and even here, if you look closely enough.

Consider it cover charge, and budget accordingly.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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