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April 17, 2014

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Las Vegas Strip to get New York-style public park

Image

MGM Resorts International / AP

This illustration released by the MGM Resorts International shows a rendering of an announced $100 million public park at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Rue de Monte Carlo in Las Vegas outside the MGM Grand, New York New York and Monte Carlo.

Updated Thursday, April 18, 2013 | 8:02 a.m.

Vegas Strip Park

This illustration released by the MGM Resorts International shows the intersection of Las Vegas Blvd. and Rue de Monte Carlo in Las Vegas. MGM will announce Tuesday April 16,2013 that it is spending $100 million to overhaul the area outside MGM Grand, New York New York and Monte Carlo. The casino will add a public park to the famous intersection of Las Vegas Blvd and Rue de Monte Carlo. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas is trying to beat its reputation as a shut-in.

MGM Resorts International announced Thursday that it will sink $100 million into building a park and public promenade outside of its New York-New York and Monte Carlo casinos.

The project runs counter to casinos' long-held strategy of trying to keep people inside, losing track of time as they buy more chips and flit from one pricey attraction to the next.

"It's what customers were really excited about in the '80s and '90s- the convenience of being in a single environment when you could sample so many different kinds of entertainment," MGM CEO Jim Murren said in a telephone interview. "Tomorrow's consumer doesn't want that limitation. They are far more spontaneous."

To that end, MGM is transforming the congested sidewalks in front of its New York City and European-themed casinos into an outdoor plaza featuring trees, benches, food trucks and shops. Construction is expected to begin in the coming weeks and last through 2014.

Murren said he was inspired by New York City's small and cosmopolitan Madison Square Park, as opposed to the more sprawling Central Park.

"We're not going to play Frisbee on the Great Lawn, but I would describe it as a city park with a dramatic boulevard," he said.

Tourists will be able to stroll over a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, relax in a beer garden, and enjoy a cone of frozen custard from Shake Shack, an upscale burger stand that has become a New York favorite.

Artist's renderings depict Gen Xers fiddling with smartphones under shade trees.

The plaza on the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard near Tropicana Avenue is intended to lead into a 20,000-seat arena MGM plans to build behind the two casinos.

The park and arena will stretch across 10 acres; that's 20 percent more land than the lake in front of the Bellagio hotel-casino.

MGM already controls the Strip's largest venue, the 17,000-seat MGM Grand Garden, located across the street at the MGM Grand.

Strip casinos have traditionally invested in grand facades and outdoor gimmicks including exploding volcanoes and dancing fountains in the service of luring people inside.

This is the town that has perfected the art of painting clouds, sun, and changing light onto the ceilings of malls and hotels to give visitors the illusion of being outside.

Visitors to Las Vegas craving desert breezes, outdoor concerts and a sense time passing have traditionally had to travel a few miles north of the Strip to Freemont Street downtown, where lower-rent casinos open onto a promenade covered by an arching LED-screen canopy.

Now, casino bosses are starting to believe their patrons might enjoy a bit of fresh air.

The rise of pool parties and the success of the statue-filled plaza at Caesars Palace illustrate people's willingness to tolerate the 117 degree desert afternoons for a bit of people-watching and leg-stretching, Murren said.

Caesars Entertainment Corp., which operates Caesars Palace, is planning its own outdoor shopping and dining "district" on the Strip. That project, Linq, is anchored by a 550-foot-tall observation wheel slated to open in 2014.

Murren said he expects to see more casinos pursuing this tack as companies look to entice a new kind of patron. Modern visitors simply will not tolerate being confined to a single space anymore, he said.

"They like darting in and out of events, bars, lounges, clubs," he said. "That's an encouraging sign for us, because in the old days, Las Vegas was a place where gamblers went on vacation. Now it's a place where people may go on vacation and not gamble at all."

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  1. "Modern visitors simply will not tolerate being confined to a single space anymore, he said."

    That's what they'll say. But once they go outside the sun will convince them otherwise. Freedom is the greatest illusion one can achieve to provide.

    In all honesty though, I like where this is going:

    Step 1: Build a "public looking" area out front (best facade yet).
    Step 2: Since you retain ownership, you can control it yourself.
    Step 3: Trespass any and all canvassers, homeless, prostitutes, protestors, or anyone else you like.
    Step 4: Profit! Finally shut down the people outside whom the ACLU, Culinary Union, Courts, and everyone else have told you you had to allow out front!

    Nice move, MGM!

  2. Provide filtered sunlight & cooling shade and you have a winner. Find a way to improve air quality by creating a gentle breeze of dust free air while protecting those enjoying it from unwanted harassment and it will be a winner.

  3. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how this pans out. I've felt for a long time that the Strip needs a place where one can sit down and just hang out without having to deal with casinos, booze, people hassling you, and smoke filled air. The closest thing the strip has right now is the area in front of Bally's, which isn't saying much. I think if MGM does this right, it could be a very cool place to mingle and relax.

  4. I would just like to see a water fountain in a casino, you know the drinking kind! Why do I have to buy bottled water from a place that's supposed to be a 4 or 5 star resort?

  5. "Step 2: Since you retain ownership, you can control it yourself."

    "while protecting those enjoying it from unwanted harassment"

    Given that the story states this will be a public park, neither of the above will be true.

  6. @ James_P_Reza (James Reza)

    IF this truly is a "Public" area actually owned by the city, that would indeed be true and you'd be absolutely correct.

    Sidewalks themselves are protected by free speech, etc. However I don't see anything in this story about easements (meaning MGM gave away prime real estate for free), nor public funding which would indeed constitute any sort of public ownership. We'll have to see how this goes. But given how this is a 3rd party press release and not an actual legal document with any direct liabilities, I wouldn't hold my breath here. But hey, who knows, right?

    @flyermart74 (Martin bee)

    Over by the toilets. Same place drinking fountains are at public parks, Wal Mart, and every other place on earth where plumbing is accessible.

  7. This will end up being the entrance to their new stadium.

    Great idea. Relaxing, shopping and food and keeps them on their property.