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September 1, 2014

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For when you need to get away from the Strip, without actually having to leave it

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MGM Resorts International

An artist’s rendering of MGM Resorts International’s project the Park, which will connect New York-New York and Monte Carlo with an eight-acre outdoor experience.

The Park Artist Renderings

An artist’s rendering of MGM Resorts International’s project the Park, which will connect New York-New York and Monte Carlo with an eight-acre outdoor experience.  Launch slideshow »

The next Great Escape from the Strip is to be a vast, 8-acre park titled, conveniently, the Park. It will be a big walk-around experience for visitors and locals alike, replete with man-made pools and fountains, tall trees and towering sculptures built for art and shade.

In the Park, you’ll be invited to walk up to, and into, an array of such new businesses as Shake Shack, the gourmet waffle restaurant Bruxi, the “social dining experience” Sake Rok, the Robert Mondavi Jr. Wine Experience and Cuba Libre Restaurant. There is to be an open-air beer garden at the Park, where you can delight in strolling street performers who ply their craft for free.

The location of this wondrous Strip getaway?

The Strip.

“That’s exactly right,” MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren says. “When you have family come to Las Vegas, you might want to get away to Red Rock Canyon or Ash Meadow outside Pahrump, or something closer — maybe Springs Preserve would be an example, or downtown at Container Park. The Park is going to be that type of oasis, but it will be on the Strip.”

Announced April 28, the Park is to serve as a counter amenity to … well, most of what is available on the Strip. That counts the MGM Resorts properties, where visitors to such resorts as New York-New York and Monte Carlo (between which Tthe Park is being developed) will actually depart the casinos and head to a strictly non-gaming enclave.

As Murren says, through the history of Las Vegas until very recently, little attention has been paid to those who might want to walk along Las Vegas Boulevard. Massive resorts have sprung up, of course, and some dazzling outdoor designs are on display – the Bellagio fountains being the most obvious example. But far less a priority was delivering services to those outside. The idea has always been to pull in the masses and keep them inside to gamble.

“The tourists who are coming to Vegas are more experiential, more spontaneous, and also younger than they have been even five, 10 years ago,” Murren says. “They are not tied to itineraries, they are not going to be told where to go and what to do. They are wandering from place to place, and what we believe is, we need to open the doors and walls of our resorts and make them more porous. We do not expect people to spend 10 hours at a time in one of our resorts, and we’re not going to try to make that happen.”

Murren and his team insist they are not merely keeping pace with Caesars Entertainment’s Linq, the well-received (and, as many longtime locals attest, long overdue) pedestrian entertainment and retail promenade across the Strip from Caesars Palace.

The subtitle for The Park count be, Not the Linq, as MGM Resorts officials are swift to point out, “This is not the Linq!”

“I think the Linq is great, and I don’t want to compare the two,” Murren says. “But this is a very large park. It’s not a pedestrian promenade going down to the High Roller. This is a large gathering space in and of itself. It stands alone, on its own, without the necessity for an anchor, but it does have one — an arena right at the end of it. I’ll take a $350-plus-million arena as pretty good bait.”

Murren also pointed out that MGM Resorts plans Park-esque developments on underused parcels at Excalibur and Mandalay Bay. The concept of controlling what happens inside these privately owned parks is particularly appealing to Murren, who bemoans the populations of costumed posers and peddlers along the Strip.

“To walk the Strip today is to run the gauntlet of SpongeBobs and Minnie Mouses, the water-bottle peddlers and the smut peddlers, all protected under the concept of free speech,” he says. “But it creates a relatively unpleasant, messier and, in some cases, more hostile and intimidating environment than you’d like to see. This is our own privately owned land, where no SpongeBob will be welcome.”

The Park’s opening will precede yet another planned Strip attraction designed to draw people off the Strip: The mall the Tropicana is developing on its acreage on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue. Similar to how Linq chief Jon Gray eyeballed the 26 million annual pedestrians crossing the Quad, Harrah’s and Flamingo every day, Tropicana CEO Alex Yemenidjian has talked of funneling in a high volume of the 100,000 pedestrians crossing the Trop property each day.

Thus, by the end of 2016, an aerial view of the Strip might look like an ant farm, with these masses of pedestrians scurrying into and around these new enclaves.

“People who are like us, who live here, will want to come down,” Murren says, specifying the Parking garages at New York-New York, Bellagio and City Center as those available to anyone who looking to park and walk. “You can come in, hit Cuba Libra or the beer garden, and just hang out. It’s more locally attractive, like Town Square is, or The District, than what is now available.”

You can also throw Tivoli Village in Summerlin into that mix off off-Strip entertainment centers for Las Vegans. But MGM Resorts’ objective at the The Park is already evident: You don’t have to get away for a getaway.

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