Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2016

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OPINION:

CEO says MGM Resorts’ Park will be a busker-free zone

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

A man wearing a SpongeBob outfit waits in the shade to have his photo taken for tips on the Strip Saturday, June 29, 2013.

I remember well a prophetic comment from MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren: “This is where no SpongeBob is welcome.”

Murren said that in May 2014, while describing the proposed ambiance of the Park connecting New York-New York and Monte Carlo. The entertainment district leads to T-Mobile Arena and is set to open April 4, kicking off a week of action on the west side of the Strip highlighted by the April 6 opening of the arena with a show by the Killers and Wayne Newton.

On that day almost two years ago, I spoke with Murren about the strolling performers who once populated MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park, where Signature now stands. The theme park, which oddly enough was called the Park at MGM Grand in its latter years, was open from 1993 to 2002.

“We spawned a lot of careers out there,” Murren said, noting that Wayne Brady was a contracted performer at the attraction in the ’90s.

So do not expect to see at the Park the SpongeBob characters, showgirls, Iron Man, Batman, members of Kiss, the Flash or Johnny Depp as Captain Hook we see posing for photos and tips on the public sidewalks of the Strip. MGM Resorts plans a relaxed atmosphere at the Park, where people can unwind, dine and be entertained.

As the company said in a statement when asked about SpongeBob and his friends: “There will be entertainment programming, which will be inclusive of professional performers hired by the Park. However, as the Park is privately owned, street performers will not be permitted, just as with any property on the Strip.”

• In its February issue, Maxim magazine asked Steve Wynn: “What’s your read on the Las Vegas economy as we begin 2016?”

Said Wynn: “Let me ask you the same question I ask my board of directors when we’re meeting: Do you think there’s any doubt that for the next 10 or 20 years Las Vegas will be a major destination, with its 160,000 hotel rooms and its infrastructure?”

Answer has to be yes, right? Gotta be.

Also in the piece, Wynn said the person he never met whom he wishes he’d met was Nelson Mandela.

“I have friends who knew him, but I didn’t get to meet Mandela,” Wynn said. “I always thought he was a spectacular character.”

And about what’s on his bucket list: “What excites me the most is working on new projects. I spent all day yesterday, and I’m going to spend time today, working on some of these. Life is good. I’m having the time of my life with (my wife) Andrea; we just giggle throughout the day.”

• The Siegel Group is wagering $6.1 million on the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center at the site of the shuttered Riviera. The company’s purchase of the former Rodeway Inn Convention Center Hotel, finalized last week, is a move to prepare for growth on the northeast side of the Strip. The 102-unit building is half a block from the main Las Vegas Convention Center fortress and Las Vegas Boulevard on Convention Center Drive.

Company founder Steven Siegel says his plan is to rename that property Siegel Suites Select, under his extended-stay brand, and wait for the tide to roll in — in the form of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s $182 million development of the Riviera property.

Closed in May, the Riv is due to be demolished early next year. That implosion will be a crucial moment in the general development of both sides of Las Vegas Boulevard just south of Sahara Avenue. Alon Las Vegas and Resorts World Las Vegas still are being developed in that area, and the LVCVA’s overall $2.3 billion global business district is fueling optimism about the Strip’s northern redevelopment.

Siegel also is in a selling mode, listing the former Atrium Suites on Paradise Road for a minimum price of $16 million. The property is just north of Hard Rock Hotel. Siegel bought the building and 3.75 acres for $4.2 million in late 2011.

In the pre-recession days of 2008, the property reportedly was valued at $66 million.

In a statement announcing the listing, Siegel said: “Construction and renovation projects are back and so is local and foreign investment into the Las Vegas market. The economy is starting to thrive again, and we feel now is the right time to market this property for sale.”

And if you know anything about Siegel, he’s not done dealing.

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