Monthly Archives: September 2015

Checking In On the Las Vegas Arena

The MGM-AEG arena is coming along nicely, so we thought we’d stop by the check on the construction progress.

Las Vegas Arena

This is the west side of the MGM-AEG arena. Probably. We are a blog, not a compass.

The new Las Vegas Arena (not its official name, AEG says it will have a naming rights partner within the next couple of months) will seat about 20,000 people. Although, probably fewer if they load upon cotton candy and arena dogs.

MGM-AEG Arena Las Vegas

This is the view from the top level of New York-New York’s parking structure.

The owners of the $375 million arena, MGM Resorts, has high hopes it will house an NHL expansion team when the venue opens.

The ownership group pushing for an NHL team recently announced they’ve moved into the third, and presumably final, stage of the franchise approval process. If approved, the new club could begin play in the 2017-2018 season.

MGM Arena

They’ll probably move those trucks when the new arena opens. Although Dig This has done pretty well, so decent back-up plan if the hockey thing doesn’t go through.

The arena won’t be entirely dependent upon a hockey franchise, of course. It’s a “multi-purpose event center,” and is expected to host 110-150 events a year.

The Las Vegas Arena has already received a commitment from the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) to hold its World Finals event at the new venue starting in 2016 after 16 years at the city’s Thomas & Mack Center.

Las Vegas Arena

While the western face of the arena is gold, the eastern side (facing the Monte Carlo) is all about the glass.  The arena is going to have one hell of a squeegee bill.

The new Las Vegas Arena broke ground on May 1, 2014 and is expected to open in spring of 2016.

The arena will be connected to the Las Vegas Strip via The Park, a dining and entertainment district along the lines of the Linq promenade, between the Flamingo and Linq resorts.

Here’s a look at the area where The Park will sprout up in the months to come.

The Park Las Vegas

More, bigger, better. It’s Vegas, baby.

Several offerings have already been announced for The Park, including Bruxie, a gourmet waffle restaurant; Sake Rok, a Japanese restaurant; a Robert Mondavi Jr. restaurant and wine bar; and a beer garden. Oh, and Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, a country restaurant and bar sure to be voted “The Restaurant Name Most Likely to Annoy Your Spell Checker for Years to Come.”

One last look at the Las Vegas Arena before its exterior is finished off and polished up. Visit the official Las Vegas Arena site for more information, and there’s even a count-down clock ticking down the days and minutes to the arena opening.

Catch an awesome time-lapse video of the construction here.

Las Vegas arena

We have high hopes the MGM-AEG arena will serve as the home venue for the International Snark Awards, an event which doesn’t entirely exist yet, but should.

We propose a toast in honor of the Las Vegas Arena: “Here’s to the Las Vegas projects that come to pass, all the others can kiss our glass.”

Hard Rock Las Vegas Shows Off Pulsating New Center Bar

In seemingly record time, Hard Rock Las Vegas resort has unveiled its renovated Center Bar.

With its substantial investment in the new bar, Hard Rock hopes to regain the glory of its former Center Bar, seen by many as a groundbreaking innovation in the world of casinos. And possibly bars.

Hard Rock Center Bar

Formerly enclosed and a tad claustrophobic, the overhauled Center Bar is open and congruent with the Hard Rock’s milieu. Oh, like you’re reading these photo captions, anyway.

The new Center Bar boasts an expanded lounge area (see below), as well as a new array of cocktails, which we didn’t try because we wanted at least a couple of our photos to be in focus.

The ceiling of the expanded lounge features “metal-trimmed, hexagon-shaped coves.”

Hard Rock Center Bar lounge

It goes without saying we’ve got dibs on The Hexagon-Shaped Coves as a future band name.

Hard Rock’s Center Bar is circular and raised, as was the former Center Bar.

Renovations included the installation of an LED light fixture over the bar’s domed ceiling. The lights pulse with the music and echo the movement of videos playing on surrounding TVs.

Hard Rock Center Bar

Many a rock star has hooked up at Hard Rock’s Center Bar. Because when it comes to hooking up, rock stars need all the help they can get. Or maybe we’re thinking of bloggers. We get those mixed up a lot.

Speaking of blogs, see more (including a list of signature cocktails) at the Hard Rock’s blog, which we didn’t entirely know existed until 12 minutes ago.

The new Center Bar at Hard Rock also has a mix of banquettes, stone-top cocktail tables and couches.

Here’s a look at the new Center Bar at Hard Rock.

Center Bar’s cocktail menu comes from employees who began working at the original Center Bar in 1995. Hey, if it ain’t broke, drink it.

Hard Rock Center Bar

The original Center Bar closed on June 28, 2015. We wept. Because it was a bar. That closed. For a minute.

Center Bar is an impressive new addition to the casino floor at Hard Rock, although, at a cost of $3.4 million, one can’t help but wonder if Hard Rock is going to get enough bang for its buck to justify the hefty expense.

Worth noting is the fact the new Center Bar at Hard Rock takes up considerably more casino floor space than the previous Center Bar, illustrative of the fact bars are often more lucrative for casinos than games of chance.

Because times are crazy, that’s why! The next thing you know, Las Vegas showgirls will be replaced by pharmacies, entire hotels will be dismantled before they ever welcome a single guest and machines will replace bartenders. Kidding. The times will never be that crazy. Presumably.

Rainforest Cafe Restaurant Opens at Harmon Corner

The recently-closed Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand has found a new home.

A new Rainforest Cafe opened on Sep. 2, 2015 at Harmon Corner, a shopping center at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon, across from City Center.

Rainforest Cafe Las Vegas

It’s back, and more in need of a weed-whacker than ever.

As we’d never dined at the now-closed Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand, we didn’t know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised at the lush, jungle-themed interior complete with animatronic creatures, realistic sound effects and all.

Rainforest Cafe

Please resist the urge to lick the decor, thanks.

The menu features lots of comfort food, but the whole atmosphere is sort of comforting, actually. That’s probably due to the fact the decor and animals register as familiar to those who visited Disneyland in their youth. In other words, to everyone.

Here’s a look at a parade of elephants (yes, that’s what a group of elephants is called) doing their thing.

Other animatronic creatures include a talking tree, a boa constrictor (no comment on the name “Julius Squeezer”) and a 14-foot-long crocodile, pictured below.

Rainforest Cafe

When you see a crocodile with its mouth open, it’s not being aggressive. They sweat through their mouths.

We suspect one’s ability to enjoy the Rainforest Cafe experience will directly correlate to: 1) having kids, or 2) appreciating whimsy.

As an example, there’s a simulated thunderstorm every 20 minutes or so at Rainforest Cafe. Adults will either find this charming or incredibly annoying. Kids, universally, will deem it a blast.

Rainforest Cafe

Fans of Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand will notice the absence of aquariums. We’re relieved to report the displaced fish have been relocated, not flushed.

The new Rainforest Cafe Las Vegas at Harmon Corner sits in the space formerly occupied by the ambitious but financially disastrous Goretorium, a horror attraction from “Hostel” director Eli Roth.

The food we sampled at a preview event was delicious, as were the cocktails. We love sugary slushy drinks, and Rainforest Cafe has those down cold.

Rainforest Cafe

The tropical Tiki Punch cocktail says, “We’re in Vegas!” A half dozen say it even more effectively.

Find the full menu on the official Rainforest Cafe site.

Rainforest Cafe, while family-friendly, features a bar on its first floor, the Lava Lounge.

Rainforest Cafe Lava Lounge

How lava relates to a tropical forest, we have no idea. Just go with it, it’s a bar.

Also on the first floor of the two-level venue is a large gift shop.

A highlight of the restaurant is a balcony with plentiful seating.

Rainforest Cafe Las Vegas

This patio is going to catch on like gangbusters, despite the fact no one has used that word since 1974.

The patio offers one of the most spectacular views in all of Las Vegas. We should know, we compiled the definitive list of the 10 best views in Las Vegas.

View from Rainforest Cafe Vegas

You thought we were kidding about the view? Do we seem like the kind of Las Vegas blog that would kid?

The balcony adjoins its neighbors Twin Peaks, a “breastaurant” that’s home to the best chicken strips in the contiguous United States, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., owned by Landry’s Inc., the same folks who own and operate Rainforest Cafe and downtown’s Golden Nugget resort.

Rainforest Cafe’s restaurant and bar will operate from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, with the retail store open from 9:00 a.m. to midnight.

Enjoy more photos from the new Rainforest Cafe Las Vegas at Harmon Corner. And, please, work on the whimsy. Just saying.

Rainforest Cafe at Harmon Corner

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Mirage Las Vegas Tests Comped Drink Voucher System and Everything is Ruined

Seriously, Mirage, are you trying to make this blog’s head explode?

We recently sidled up to the Mirage’s Lobby Bar (yes, we’ve been known to sidle) and slipped $20 into a video poker machine. A very friendly bartender immediately took our order and comped our Captain and diet. (Yes, Captain Morgan from a bottle, not a gun. Long story.)

Mirage Lobby Bar

It’s actually called Lobby Bar. Because naming things is hard.

Here’s where things went exponentially south.

See, the Mirage is testing a new system for monitoring and dispensing comped drinks. Free drinks, of course, are one of the most hallowed of all Las Vegas casino traditions, despite recent trends where casinos swap out liquor brands without informing customers, but that’s a rant for a different time.

As with most casino bars, you’re comped your first drink at Mirage’s Lobby Bar, as long as you put at least $20 in the machine. After that, however, you have to earn your drinks, and the decision as to whether you’ve played enough to earn a comp is no longer in the hands of your bartender.

That’s right, your video poker machine decides when you deserve another drink. Not a person. Mirage now employs cocktail-deciding robots from Hell.

How often you earn a comp depends upon several factors. The denomination you’re playing is a key factor. We played quarters, but a higher denomination game spits out drink vouchers more frequently, allegedly.

Mirage Vegas comp drink voucher

“We gave our lives for this abomination?” ~Trees

Also, your length of play is part of the comped drink calculation. Take any kind of break while you’re playing (to Tweet or converse with a friend) and your comp is delayed further.

Brace yourself.

After our first free drink, we played more than an hour (one hour and five minutes, to be exact, with a couple of five minute breaks in play) before we got a voucher for another comped drink. In other words, an eternity in drinking years.

Yes, this happened in Las Vegas. The one in America.

It’s worth noting your drink voucher is valid for 24 hours from the time it’s issued. Big, meet whoop.

Not surprisingly, this new system is universally loathed, not just by customers, but also by bartenders.

Imagine being a Vegas bartender faced with customers who are gambling (holding up their end of the player-casino bargain), and you can’t serve a drink because a machine hasn’t deemed your customer worthy of one. Let the disgruntlement begin, assuming that’s an actual word.

Now, granted, most casinos have standing policies about how much you need to play to get comped drinks.

Bartenders know how much you’re playing, and they have some discretion as to when your next comped drink is allowed. Not at the Lobby Bar at Mirage. And it’s just a matter of time before this virus infects other casino bars, mark our words.

The drink voucher system at Mirage, if allowed to expand to other Mirage casino bars, or other resorts in the MGM Resorts family, is the beginning of the end of comped cocktails in Las Vegas as we know them.

Now, the good news! The video poker machines at the Mirage Lobby Bar are flipping loose. While waiting the hour for our second cocktail, we nailed two four-of-a-kinds and won more than $200. Suck it, The Man.

Video poker four aces

Mojo is the best revenge.

This comped drink voucher system has flown under the radar in Las Vegas, and we can only hope it goes the way of other short-lived, ill-considered penny-pinching strategies.

As with any misguided Las Vegas experiments, the best way to make sure it dies is to vote with your dollars. Ask your bartender if they’re on the voucher system, and if so, take your business somewhere else. You deserve better for your gambling spend.

Update (1/25/16): If you loathe the voucher system at Mirage, your brain’s going to explode when you see the Red Light, Green Light comp drink system at Caesars Palace.