Monday, April 18, 2016 | 2 a.m.
It was a conversation about a new show, to be called “Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers.” But as is the case with so many conversations with Wynn, this one required every club in the bag.
It was Halloween 2014 at Wynn’s office at Wynn Las Vegas. He was happily talking about this new show at Encore Theater, but he answered to speculation about plans for the famous Wynn Golf Club golf course behind Wynn and Encore.
It had been reported across the country that Wynn considered developing the land and turning it into a fabulous entertainment, recreation and retail destination. As he said that afternoon, “We did think of building out to the country club, and we did a lot of planning drawings and models. But we decided that what we gained did not compensate for what we lost. In this case, we lost our suburban environment, that wonderful, wonderful experience that allows you to feel as if you’re not in a steel-and-concrete city.”
Wynn continued: “I made a decision that I was going to use the golf course and its wonderful environment to continually raise my prices and exploit the uniqueness of these 4,800 rooms. While I’m alive, I will never, ever develop the golf course. It is there to stay.”
OK, well suffice to say Wynn has taken the resort equivalent of a mulligan. He’s teeing up plans once more to develop land to the east of Wynn and Encore for a development called (for now) Wynn Paradise Park. Wynn’s descriptions and renderings reveal a third Wynn tower on the Strip, which will not be delivered simply as a third tower but a resort that could well stand on its own.
Wynn created the same sister-property model with Treasure Island alongside the Mirage — T.I. originally was considered a second Mirage tower until Wynn decided to create a separate, themed hotel — and Encore next to Wynn.
Reportedly, Wynn Paradise Park will open in 2020 (pending approval by Wynn board of directors) and feature a 1,000-room tower, restaurants, meeting and convention rooms, and a casino overlooking a lagoon with white sand and an island. Guests would be able to parasail, water ski and paddleboat around the 38-acre lake, and the grand designs would include nightly fireworks shows. In other words, it's the sort of glorious resort attraction Wynn had mulled and tabled two years ago.
What about the golf course? Gone by this fall. There is a nine-hole course in the plans, but it is not the same 72-hole, championship course laid out behind the Desert Inn in 1952.
This is not the first time Wynn has shifted strategies at his hotels, not by a long shot. His original blueprints for Wynn Las Vegas included a third theater to join the two existing venues, now known as Encore Theater and Wynn Theater. The third was to host the production show “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” as Broadway-styled musicals are a passion of Wynn’s (“Showstoppers” being the manifestation of that passion).
But Wynn nixed those plans, saying at the time that building a third theater at $85 million didn’t make a lot of sense if he could renovate the theater that already was home to “Avenue Q” (which closed after five months in 2006) for just $10 million. That dropped the number of ticketed entertainment venues at Wynn and Encore from three to two and was another instance when Wynn’s business sense trumped his personal passion.
This type of shift in strategy obviously is not a snap decision. Wynn also alluded to building out to the country club’s 130 acres in February’s fourth-quarter earnings report call with investors, so these advancements are not a total surprise.
Still, in taking out the country club, Wynn effectively is ending the last link between his property and the old D.I. That hotel was host to the most famous entertainers of the day; members of the Rat Pack, Liza Minnelli, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett, Jimmy Durante and Abbott and Costello headlined there. Those celebs played the renowned country club, too, whose tournament champions included Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead. Old-timers will remember that resort overlord Moe Dalitz broke the Desert Inn Country Club’s color barrier by allowing Sammy Davis Jr. to play the course.
When Wynn bought the D.I. in 2000, there was the expected hue and cry from golfers — especially rich golfers — concerned that Wynn would build out over the country club. It’s happening now, and as water skiers cut through the waves at Wynn Paradise Park, they can be reminded that the lake once was a great golf course and another Vegas treasure lost to progress.