Las Vegas 51s Renamed Las Vegas Aviators

The Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team has a new name, the Las Vegas Aviators.

The team was purchased by the Howard Hughes Corporation in March 2017.

Along with the announcement of the team’s name change, the company also unveiled a new logo.

Las Vegas Aviators logo

Just screams baseball, doesn’t it? And possibly Ant-Man. But mostly baseball.

While the Internet was underwhelmed by the logo, let’s face it, the Howard Hughes Corporation has a bajillion dollars and doesn’t need the Internet’s approval.

The Aviators are set to play in a shiny new stadium about 15 minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip, in the master planned community of Summerlin. Which, we should say, was a genius thing to call it, because just calling it a “community” wouldn’t have helped the marketing department one iota.

The new Aviators stadium, called the Las Vegas Ballpark, is set for completion in April 2019.

Upon reflection, they probably should’ve called it the Master Planned Las Vegas Ballpark. Because marketing.

According to a news release, the team’s name change pays homage to the company’s namesake, Howard Hughes.

Howard Hughes, of course, was a noted business magnate, pilot, film director, racist and crazy person. No, really, super racist.

Among his many accomplishments, Howard Hughes is credited with helping turn Las Vegas from a den of inequity run by organized crime to a den of inequity run by bean counters.

Hughes owned six Las Vegas casinos: Desert Inn, Castaways, Frontier, Sands, Silver Slipper and Landmark. Howard Hughes had an uncanny ability to choose casinos which would someday no longer exist.

There’s no word yet on what the Aviator’s mascot will be, so here’s our suggestion.

Las Vegas Aviators mascot

Note: If they don’t use “Wowie Howie” as a mascot name, cannabis is now legal in Las Vegas. Just saying.

The Las Vegas Aviators name was presumably chosen from “hundreds of names submitted by the general public.” David R. Weinreb, CEO of The Howard Hughes Corporation, said, “The Aviators was a popular name nominated by many Southern Nevadans.”

Back in Howard Hughes’ heyday, that assertion would’ve been described as “malarkey.” Or possibly “bunk.” Or even “hooey.” Adorable, nevertheless.

Still, it was time Las Vegas’ Triple-A baseball team got a makeover.

There’s been an inexplicable explosion of interest in sports in Las Vegas recently, including rumors of efforts to bring a Major League Baseball team to Sin City. We should know, they were our rumors.

Adios, Las Vegas 51s. Hello, Las Vegas Aviators.

Please get the hot dogs right.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 89: Reckless Speculation and “Winner Takes All”

It’s time for the podcast your mother would’ve warned you about were she not so busy trying to delete your browser history.

In this installment, we chat with someone who’s actually interesting: Christina Binkley, author of “Winner Takes All.”

“Winner Takes All” is a must-read, and Binkley indulges our inane questions about three titans of Las Vegas: Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman and Steve Wynn. But mostly that last guy.

Winner Takes All

A book so good, we read it twice, and we haven’t read a book since 1992.

If you’re going to buy the book, get it on Amazon using this link so we get a piece of the action and you can legitimately say you’re supporting someone’s Wheel of Fortune habit.

Christina Binkley is an award-winning journalist who’s been at The Wall Street Journal for more than two decades. A hefty portion of that was spent covering Las Vegas and its larger-than-life personalities.

We chat about the current state of Las Vegas, some of the people who made it what it is and what may be next for disgraced visionary Steve Wynn.

Naturally, we balance our our fascinating interview with an award-winning journalist by rambling incoherently about Wynn Plaza, being kicked out of SLS Las Vegas and how some Vegas resorts are bailing on resort fees.

Wynn Plaza

Wynn Plaza, being all “Grammable” and whatnot.

Mix in some rumors, speculation and hastily-slapped-together news updates, and you’ve got a solid way to kill an hour you might otherwise foolishly spend feeding the poor or helping elderly people across busy streets.

Take a listen and prove you don’t always do the smart thing, as if your brood of illegitimate children wasn’t already proof enough.

Wynn Plaza Shopping Complex Opens Sans Hoopla

After months of keeping us in suspense, Wynn Las Vegas has opened its Wynn Plaza shopping promenade with virtually no fanfare.

The 70,000-square-foot Wynn Plaza made its under-the-radar debut on Oct. 11, 2018.

It’s a beauty.

Wynn Plaza

Wynn Plaza has been teasing us for months, now we finally get to be all up inside it.

Wynn Plaza boasts a new must-see piece of artwork, Smiling King Bear by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel.

Smiling King Bear is 16 feet tall and is done in the artist’s signature prismatic style, which is definitely something we didn’t just copy and paste from a news release.

Wynn Plaza

Do not try this at home. We just told you the thing is 16 feet tall.

While Wynn Plaza is slated to have about 25 tenants, it’s worth noting the shopping center opened with about half that number. We trust that’s the reason for months of delays, and the aforementioned lack of flair around the mall launch.

Remember, Wynn Plaza is part of Wynn Las Vegas.

Back in the day, the former CEO would’ve not only insisted all the stores be in place when the mall opened, he’d have arranged for fireworks or a parade or something over-the top to mark the occasion.

Back when Steve Wynn opened Mirage, there was an erupting volcano.

When he opened Bellagio, there were dancing fountains.

When he opened Wynn Las Vegas, the whole world was watching.

But times have changed. Steve Wynn is no longer at the helm of Wynn Las Vegas due to a cavalcade of sexual misconduct allegations, and not only that, Wynn Plaza isn’t even the sole owner of Wynn Las Vegas.

Wynn Resorts sold half (49.9%) the ownership of Wynn Plaza (and other retail space at Wynn and Encore) to Crown Acquisitions in late 2016.

Wynn Plaza

Vegas is so cool, even our shopping malls are a feast for the eyes.

Does the co-ownership or half occupancy explain why there was no celebration around the opening of Wynn Plaza? Who knows. We’re not even entirely sure we care. It’s shopping.

Still, we love shiny new things in Las Vegas, and Wynn Plaza is certainly that.

Wynn Plaza

There’s even a nod to the Parasol Up and Parasol Down bars inside Wynn. We have no idea if it’s a nod, but using the word “nod” serves to make us sound smarter.

Beyond the multi-colored bear, there’s another piece of high-profile art at the other end of the mall, Arrows and Flower Neon Sign by Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh.

Takashi Murakami is known, of course, for revitalizing traditional narratives of transcendence and enlightenment. The Internet, it seems, has a lifesaving news release for every occasion.

Wynn Plaza

Three million bucks! With that, you could get upwards of six handbags at Wynn Plaza.

The security guard said the artwork is valued at $3 million. We are clearly in the wrong line of work.

Did we mention it moves?


There are currently two dining options at Wynn Plaza, the highly-regarded Cipriani and Urth Caffe.

Wynn Plaza

Urth Caffe is a top, Cipriani is a bottom.

We can’t wait to give Cipriani restaurant and bar a try, not only because of the warm, welcoming decor, but also because they didn’t kick us out for taking photos of the place.

Wynn Plaza Cipriani

There’s a lot to love about Cipriani, and we didn’t even look at a menu.

Urth Caffe looks appealing as well, and not just because it has a metric ass-ton of desserts on display.

Wynn Plaza

Urth is described as a “European-style coffee shop,” which we assume means it doesn’t shave its legs.

We weren’t kidding about the desserts.

Wynn Plaza

When you’re wealthy, you can just order the calories to not adhere to your thighs.

Wynn Plaza has a number of luxury brands, approximately zero of which we’re the target audience of. To make things even more awkward, no one that shops at Wynn Plaza would ever end a sentence with a preposition.

Wynn Plaza also has an indoor cycling center, SoulCycle. Which is just sort of weird. Partially because it’s in a mall. But also because it sounds like people may voluntarily exercise.

The folks at Wynn Plaza have obviously taken a lot of time and care in both designing the space (credit for that goes to longtime Steve Wynn collaborator Roger Thomas) and selecting tenants.

Here’s an interview with the Wynn Las Vegas retail guy.

While we’re not a shopping person (we own a total of one blazer), we suspect affluent shoppers will appreciate the stunning design of Wynn Plaza as well as the brands offered, a number of which are new to Las Vegas.

Wynn Plaza

It’s not that Celine, but the brand confusion could work in the store’s favor.

Despite the fact half of the stores aren’t open yet, things should pick up moving into the holiday season, and Wynn Plaza is well worth a stop.

Eventually, people are going to notice if you only have one blazer.

Wynn Plaza

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SLS Las Vegas Shares Peek at New Casino

SLS Las Vegas has taken down a construction wall enclosing a section of its casino, revealing a dramatically different look and feel the new owner and his management team hope will help change the fortunes of the long-struggling resort.

SLS casino renovation

SLS is getting it some fancy.

The new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has said he’ll invest $100 million in making over the former Sahara.

SLS Las Vegas

In Vegas, never don’t bling.

The new decor at SLS more closely aligns with what traditional casino patrons expect, veering away from a trendier look, including a fairly unpopular “unfinished” ceiling with exposed ducts.

SLS Las Vegas renovation

This was one of the few things in Vegas that didn’t benefit from exposure.

The new interior design at SLS will be familiar to those familiar with Meruelo’s other resort, the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno.

It’s expected SLS will be rebranded Grand Sahara Resort & Casino at some point.

The carpeting is also a distinct departure from the eclectic SLS design.

SLS renovation

New on the left, old on the right.

The new carpeting actually has a hypnotic effect if you look at it long enough.

SLS

It’s an urban myth casino carpeting is busy to force players to look up at the slot machines. They’re designed to camouflage stains.

One of our favorite features of the casino at SLS was the giant, high-resolution video screen over the center bar. The screen is known for featuring slick, 3-D animation.

The plug’s been pulled on the screen, but we’ve been informed it will be relocated elsewhere in the resort, near Bazaar Meat restaurant. So, there’s that.

SLS renovation

The screen showed 3-D legs, a duck and a human face.

Oh, like we were going to mention a freaky 3-D face and not actually show it to you? Do you know us at all?

We were going to spend more time talking about how much we like the direction of the SLS Las Vegas overhaul, but we were kicked out of the resort for taking photos. Buzzkill.

SLS

Look! It’s a photo we weren’t allowed to take! Suck it, The Man.

While overzealous casino security is an all-too-common phenomenon in Las Vegas, being kicked out of SLS raised some red flags for us.

See, SLS may not realize what it’s up against.

No matter what’s invested in the resort’s renovations (it won’t be $100 million), none of it will matter if SLS doesn’t differentiate itself with amazing service, a friendly, welcoming environment and a fun, lively casino.

Kicking out a casino guest for taking photos is a great example of the exact opposite of all that.

SLS renovation

A little compare-and-contrast action.

SLS needs word-of-mouth. SLS needs buzz. SLS needs to be a party. SLS needs to get its shit together.

SLS also needs to appeal to locals, and locals aren’t going to put up with poorly-trained staff or intrusive policies for one minute.

SLS needs to attract and retain every possible customer it can. If someone walks up to the casino cage and tries to rob it, SLS needs to offer the thief a line of credit.

We were taking photos. Of things the resort itself had shared in its social media channels earlier in the day. We posed no security risk. We weren’t taking photos of gamblers with their mistresses.

A simple request to discontinue taking photos would’ve been understood (yes, reluctantly, because such policies are outdated and idiotic) and accommodated. And we’d have gambled and had dinner at Cleo.

SLS

Spirals were engraved in Mayan temples. We’d show you a photo of one, but the Mayans had strict policies about such things. You see what happened to the ancient Mayans. Just saying.

Alienate guests without cause and word gets around.

Treat employees poorly, word gets around.

Breeze into our town (yes, it’s ours) and think you’ll succeed because you’re a big deal in Reno and you changed out some light fixtures—you’re destined to fail. And we’ll be there for a heaping helping of schadenfreude.

Give us a warm smile, decent odds, looser slots, great food (see the aforementioned Cleo) and make us feel welcome and respected and appreciated, you may just have a chance of success, slim as it is.

Slew of Vegas Resorts Dangle No Resort Fee Offers

It seems the tide is turning as several Las Vegas hotel-casinos have offered to waive resort fees, even if only for a limited time.

Cosmopolitan has joined the fray with a “resort fees on us” deal.

No resort fees Cosmopolitan

Cosmo is one of our favorite Las Vegas hotels, and no resort fees sweetens the pot.

Resort fees are a source of ongoing frustration for Las Vegas visitors, and many say the practice has contributed to changes in their perception of Sin City as a value destination. Ditto the frequency of their visits.

No resort fees Palms

Palms is doubling down on value, with no resort fees and always-free parking.

In recent months, Las Vegas visitation has dipped and casino stock prices have taken a tumble. Only now does it appear Las Vegas resorts are acknowledging nuisance charges like resort fees are doing more harm than good.

The two biggest casino companies, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, recently sent customer surveys specifically addressing the issue of fees, presumably with the goal of assessing how much damage has been done by the implementation of these charges.

Here’s another offer for waived resort fees, this time from SLS Las Vegas. This is the kind of trend we can get behind.

No resort fees SLS

Parking is always free at SLS as well. That’s our kind of Vegas.

Resort fees are just one of the fees we hear about daily from Las Vegas visitors.

Wynn Resorts recently rolled back its paid parking policy so guests can park free when they spend $50 at the resort. It’s a step in the right direction.

There are still quite a few Strip and Strip-adjacent casinos offering free parking:

  • Tropicana
  • Planet Hollywood
  • Treasure Island
  • Venetian and Palazzo
  • Casino Royale
  • Circus Circus
  • SLS Las Vegas
  • Stratosphere
  • Westgate
  • Hooters
  • Hard Rock
  • Tuscany
  • Silver Sevens
  • Ellis Island
  • Palace Station
  • Gold Coast
  • Rio
  • Palms
  • Orleans
  • South Point
  • M Resort

No, that’s not an exhaustive list, we ran out of dots. Also, alphabetization is clearly not happening in our current state of inebriation. You’ll manage.

There’s no telling if moves like offering no resort fees or free parking are enough to stem the tide of discontent. It could be too little too late.

Some visitors point out it’s little consolation resorts are waiving fees as they’re the ones who instituted them in the first place.

We thought it might be fun to draft an ad to help reverse the changing perceptions of Las Vegas. This open letter is a bit of a pipe dream, but Las Vegas was built on dreams. And tax evasion. But mainly that first thing.

Please enjoy our fake ad.

Make Vegas a Value Again

It’s time to make Vegas a value again.

Click here for a larger version, because having your eyes pop out isn’t a great look for you.

To-date, Las Vegas casino companies haven’t really come to grips with how the perception of nickel-and-diming has hurt the image of Las Vegas. They prefer to describe it as a “blip.”

Time, and RevPAR, will tell.

No resort fees Hard Rock

Let’s hope some of these seasonal deals turn into permanent ones.

From the flurry of recent “no resort fees” offers, it’s clear the hotels are starting to listen, but it remains to be seen what steps they’ll take to address what they hear.

Resorts World is Making Striking Progress

After seemingly endless delays, construction at Resorts World is picking up steam.

Not only are windows being installed, but sources familiar with the project report the main hotel tower at Resorts World is growing by about a floor per week.

Resorts World

Object in photo is larger than it appears. By a hell ton.

As a basis of comparison, here’s a look at Resorts World in March 2018.

Resorts World

Resorts World was adorable as a baby.

Here’s a closer look at the windows being installed at Resorts World. Break out the squeegees!

Resorts World

The first references to squeegees, in the mid-19th century, referred to deck-cleaning tools for sea-faring vessels. Related: Writing photo captions isn’t easy.

Observers have noted the similarity between the look of Resorts World and that of Wynn and Encore, just across the street (see below).

We’ve heard Genting Group, owners of Resorts World, may make a play to purchase Wynn Resorts, so the similarity because the hotels could very well be intentional. Read more reckless rumors.

Wynn Las Vegas

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Wynn should feel very flattered right about now.

We went around to the back of Resorts World for a rare look at the side of the hotel tower facing Circus Circus. Windows are also being installed on that side.

Resorts World

We could’ve called this the north side, but we’re going with backside. Because we are 12.

Construction at Resorts World is no longer a laughing matter, as the hotel looms large at about 35 floors.

It’s hard to imagine, but the plan is for the tower to have 60.

Resorts World

It’s not just the height of one’s hotel that matters, it’s also the girth of one’s lens.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Resorts World, it sits on the former Echelon Place site. Which, we’re assuming, helps you not at all. Resorts World is between Circus Circus and the site planned for the Alon resort. Also not helpful, we get it.

If you’re a shopper, it’s just north of Fashion Show mall.

If you like Mexican food, it’s across the street from Tacos El Gordo.

If you’re sentimental, Resorts World is across the street from the former Riviera casino. It’s also the site of the former, legendary Stardust.

If you’re into antipodes, it’s roughly on the opposite side of the Earth as Madagascar.

If you’re an optimist, it’s just south and across the street from the future Drew hotel.

Resorts World

Genting Group was founded by Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, a name inspired by the sound a saucepan makes falling down a  flight of stairs.

Resorts World is slated to open in 2020, and the odds of that happening seem to improve with each new floor and window.

Given our saucepan joke, we assume we’re not invited.