Monthly Archives: August 2017

New York-New York’s Roller Coaster Set to Be a VR Coaster

Virtual reality seems to be taking over Las Vegas, and the iconic roller coaster at New York-New York is rumored to be converting to a VR Coaster soon.

Virtual reality roller coasters, or VR Coasters, have been in existence since 2015, and there are currently about 20 operating at theme parks throughout the U.S.

On VR Coasters, riders don virtual reality headsets, and animations inside the headsets are synchronized to the movements of the real world roller coaster.

New York-New York VR coaster

Hold onto your virtual moobs.

The conversion of the Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York to a VR Coaster is a brilliant business move. It provides a unique experience, it encourages those who have ridden the coaster before to do it again, and it also gives the resort an opportunity to bump up the ticket price to enhance the bottom line.

At the moment, tickets for the Big Apple Coaster are a very reasonable $15.

Once the coaster becomes a virtual reality roller coaster, the price could be bumped up to $25 or more. Multiply that $10 increase over the approximately 1.4 million customers each year, and New York-New York and its parent company, MGM Resorts, are in for a windfall.

Here’s a look at a promotional video for VR Coasters, although, from what we hear, there’s no video that can really show the exhilaration guests experience on a VR-equipped ride.

There’s been no official announcement yet, but our philosophy is if it’s in a news release, it’s too damned late.™

Word is New York-New York is partnering with a German company to bring the VR Coaster experience to the Strip resort.

We haven’t ferreted out the name of the company yet, but a company called VR Coaster seems a likely candidate. They got the VR Coaster ball rolling, and describe themselves as “pioneers of the augmented thrill ride.”

New York-New York casino

You’re so pretty.

While can be some perils with VR Coasters, mostly related to motion sickness when VR units are out of sync with the movement of the ride, a VR Coaster at New York-New York has virtually limitless potential.

We are not a roller coaster person (mainly because we tend to be a motion sickness and terrified-of-heights person), but give us an animation that includes some stunning Las Vegas effects or a Las Vegas-themed adventure, and we’d be all over it.

From what we understand, the VR feature on the New York-New York roller coaster will be an optional element, and guests can still ride the coaster in the traditional manner.

To be clear, the Big Apple coaster isn’t going anywhere! The ride will just be “enhanced” to include the virtual reality capability, also known as an “upsell.”

Our inside scoop about the New York-New York’s coaster becoming a VR Coaster follows on the heels of another virtual reality-related announcement, which we reported nearly two months before it came out in a news release, of course.

The first multi-player, free-roam VR experience in Las Vegas is set to open at Level Up inside MGM Grand on Sep. 8, 2017.

Up to eight players will navigate a 2,000-square-foot arena and play one of three, 30-minute experiences at a cost of about $50 a pop.

Here’s a look at what it’s like to get your VR nerd on.

The three VR experiences are Zombie Survival (blast zombies, already), Singularity (blast rogue robits, already) and Engineerium (solve physics-based puzzles, already).

The new VR experience at Level Up, from a company called Zero Latency, seems to be a response to a failed attempt to get approval for its arena-style gaming area (from a company called Interblock) that was supposed to “revolutionize the casino player culture.” We are not making this up.

Level Up has struggled since it opened at the end of 2016, but a virtual reality arena could give it a much-needed boost.

Level Up MGM Grand

MGM Grand’s Level Up hasn’t found a foothold yet, but it may just find a virtual one.

Other VR experiments have been showing up around Las Vegas, including a VR lounge at Alto Bar at Caesars Palace, and we even spotted a virtual reality kiosk at Harmon Corner.

There’s also a VR Adventures location at the Linq promenade.

VR Adventures Linq

Warning: Virtual reality headsets do not prevent pregnancy, but they do prevent sex, which is sort of the same thing.

At one point, there were rumblings about a “virtual reality theme park” coming to town, but we haven’t heard anything more about it. Don’t hold your breath.

Virtual reality seems a good fit for Las Vegas, as the city constantly strives to evolve its entertainment offerings. There’s even been talk of strip clubs integrating virtual reality.

In a way, Las Vegas is a city built on virtual reality, or at least an alternate one.

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Fontainebleau Las Vegas Sold for $600 Million Clams

As we first shared on Aug. 21, 2017, it’s now been officially announced Fontainebleau Las Vegas has been sold for $600 million.

The abandoned project was sold by bajillionaire Carl Icahn to two real estate firms, Witkoff, a “global real estate development and investment firm,” and New Valley, an investment company.

A rep from Witkoff said the purchase marks his company’s foray into “the supply-constrained and fundamentally strong Las Vegas market,” which makes it sound so much more sexy than it really is.

Fontainebleau

Aw, man, this might be our last chance to use this photo. Oh, well.

In a news release, Steve Witkoff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Witkoff, said, “2755 Las Vegas Boulevard South is one of the best physical assets in the country, which is one of the reasons we were attracted to it. Furthermore, the resort is ideally located on the Las Vegas Strip, directly across from the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is in the midst of a $1.4 billion expansion and renovation. At the basis, we acquired a well-designed, structurally sound integrated resort at a significant discount to both replacement cost and the implied public market valuations of comparable Las Vegas Strip resorts.”

Witkoff continued, “Las Vegas is one of the strongest lodging markets in the country given its highly favorable dynamics. RevPAR and EBITDA growth continue to accelerate and there has been no new supply since 2010.”

RevPAR is “revenue per available room,” and EBITDA is “earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization,” a measure of a company’s operating performance.

During the economic downturn, Carl Icahn purchased Fontainebleau, pronounced “fountain blue,” for $150 million ($148 million, to be precise).

We are no math expert, but that means Icahn made $450 millionish on the deal. Or roughly double what he’s carrying in his pants pockets right now. (Realistically, though, there are costs associated with maintaining even an empty building, so his actual profit on the deal was less.)

Fontainebleau wrap

At the moment, Fontainebleau is less shimmer, more meh.

Specific plans for the former Fontainebleu Las Vegas haven’t been articulated yet, but it’s likely it will be rebranded and open as a hotel or (fingers crossed) shimmering “new” hotel-casino.

It’s been suggested this won’t happen for at least 2-3 years, so manage those expectations.

Deep thanks to our tipster who helped us break this story before the rest of the world.

We remain giddy about this news, and look forward to seeing what’s ahead for Fontainebleau, the tallest non-Stratosphere building in Las Vegas and a monument to WTF.

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Golden Gate Casino Unveils Multi-Million Dollar Expansion

Downtown’s Golden Gate has revealed an expansion that nearly doubles the size of its casino floor, including the addition of about 100 new slot machines.

Golden Gate’s expansion encompasses the space formerly occupied by the La Bayou casino and an alley. You’ll want to see our “before” photos of the construction, of course.

Golden Gate casino

Three’s nothing quite like that new slot machine smell.

The centerpiece of the multi-million dollar expansion is a 24-foot tall fountain of TVs around a spiral chandelier.

Golden Gate expansion

Universal remote, much?

The TV fountain is made all the more dramatic by 468 mirrors lining a arced wall that frames the decorative piece. Yes, we asked. And, yes, we know we have issues.

The tower of televisions sits just inside a brand new entrance to the Golden Gate.

The Golden Gate’s expansion includes a new loyalty club desk.

Golden Gate loyalty desk

The loyalty desk was previously tucked away near the hotel’s registration desk. Now, it’s front and center. By the way, 1906 is the year the hotel opened, originally as Hotel Nevada. Technically, the Miller Hotel. Long story.

The previous loyalty club desk has vanished through some kind of Las Vegas magic.

Golden Gate casino

“Las Vegas magic” is, technically, redundant.

Golden Gate’s interior design was done by Dez Motif, the architecture by Moser Architecture Studio.

The Golden Gate took the opportunity during its expansion to entirely replace and upgrade its sound system throughout the existing casino.

A good deal of the expansion won’t be readily visible to guests. On the casino’s second floor, a new beer distribution room is a sight to behold.

Golden Gate beer room

Golden Gate’s new beer chilling room distributes suds to the casino’s Prohibition Bar, as well as the casino’s outdoor bars, now with the help of gravity.

Still in the works is an upgraded outdoor bar, One Bar. When completed, the bar will be 20 feet longer. Translation: More slushy drinks for us.

Golden Gate casino

You can never have too much bar. It’s Vegas.

While the new casino area at Golden Gate made its debut on Aug. 25, 2017, the expansion’s official opening takes place Sep. 1, 2017, with the requisite hoopla.

Golden Gate has done a great job of creating a new space that feels modern (so many TVs), but which stays true to its old-school roots (dark wood and marble).

When you check it out, let us know what you think. We’ll be at the end of Prohibition Bar, not noticing the dancing dealers. At all.

Golden Gate Expansion Reveal

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 59: “Circus 1903,” Weekend Box and a Cavalcade of Scoop

In this installment of the Vital Vegas Podcast, we do what we do best. We apologize for putting out such a mediocre podcast!

While we’re at it, we slap together our thoughts about Circus 1903 at Paris, the new Golden Gate expansion, rumors the Fontainebleu is sold, the passing of Jerry Lewis, Richard Marx at Flamingo, changes at Cromwell and so much less.

Golden Gate expansion

Golden Gate’s new casino area features a tower of TVs reflected by 468 mirrors.

We also dive headlong into The Weekend Box, a virtual buffet of products aimed at “cannabis tourists.”

The fun continues with a plethora of insider skinny and news about all things Las Vegas.

This episode is redeemed by an interview with Rick Spurlock, Director of Slot Operations at Binion’s. The classic casino has relocated its live poker area, and Spurlock shares some intriguing plans for the casino’s former poker room.

Binion's poker room

Take a listen for exclusive details about plans for the former poker room at Binion’s.

You won’t want to miss this meandering, Captain Morgan-fueled episode of the podcast once described as “unlistenable” by an unbelievably astute iTunes reviewer.

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“Circus 1903” at Paris is Family-Friendly Spectacle With Thrills and Laughs Galore

“Circus 1903” at Paris Las Vegas is the newest show to open on the Las Vegas Strip, and it’s full of family-friendly variety acts, belly laughs and mesmerizing elephant puppetry.

In fact, the show’s so good, you might say it’s “Absinthe,” but without the dirty jokes. Given “Absinthe” is one of the best shows in Las Vegas, that’s saying something.

Circus 1903

Something you need to know about early circuses is they were intense. We’ll wait. (Thanks to “Circus 1903” for all the pics, by the way.)

The anchor of “Circus 1903” is its host and ringmaster, Willy Whipsnade, played to perfection by David Williamson. Williamson commands the stage, and his whip-smart jokes are the perfect through line for the show.

Williamson masterfully creates the old-timey circus vibe, while occasionally winking to the audience with references to iPhones and current pop culture accompanied with the aside, “Which wasn’t a thing in 1903.”

Williamson not only cues up each variety act, he also supplies ample comic relief while interacting with kids from the audience for several segments of the show. The humor is never corny or strained. It’s spot on throughout the evening, and provides a great contrast to the thrills in the show.

And thrills there are.

Circus 1903

No circus would be complete without a high-wire. Previously, it was just a wire, but recreational marijuana is now legal in Las Vegas.

Good circus-style variety acts are hard to come by. The popularity of circuses has flagged in recent years because audiences have so many more entertainment options, many involving CGI.

But “Circus 1903” has pulled together a diverse collection of acts, each with a distinct personality.

Right out of the gate, audiences are left breathless thanks to The Flying Finns, Artur Ivankovich, Ilya Kotenyov and Petter Linsky. As you might have guessed, they’re not from around here.

These three fearless performers from Finland are masters of the teeterboard, and soar above the stage at Paris untethered and without a net.

Circus 1903

The technical term is “Sproing!” Well, that’s our word for it.

The Flying Finns are followed by an equally dazzling performer, The Sensational Sozonov, with a “rola bola” act.

A rola bola is a balancing board set atop a variety of things its impossible to balance upon. The Paris Theater may need to reinforce its seats because we were on the edge of ours the whole time The Sensational Sozonov was atop his pillar of OMFG. (Probably not its official name.)

Circus 1903

We didn’t entirely know equilibristics were a thing until this very minute. Oh, like you did.

The variety acts come fast and furious, some gripping (Los Lopez on the high-wire), some awkwardly entertaining (contortionist Senayet Assefa Amara), some whimsical (acrobatic cyclist Florian Blummel) and some just downright impressive (juggler Francois Borie).

Circus 1903

Our pal Jeff Civillico seems to be on a bit of a hiatus from performing on The Strip, so “Circus 1903” gave us our juggling fix.

The final act, Les Incredibles (Anny Laplante and Andrei Kalesnikau), was a show-stopper.

Essentially, a petite woman is lofted into the air repeatedly, with each catch more heart-stopping than the last. The “human trapeze,” or Russian cradle, has a long history with the circus which we do not have time to look up because we are drinking heavily as we write this.

The couple previously performed in Cirque Du Soleil’s touring show, “Corteo.”

Circus 1903

We did find out the woman being tossed is called the “flyer,” her partner is called the “catcher” or “caster.”

These two made quite a splash on “America’s Got Talent.” Here’s a look at why this couple (yes, they’re a married couple) has such massive chiropractor bills.

Not all the acts in the program appeared in the show we saw (arialist Lucky Moon and acrobats Fratelli Rossi took the night off), so presumably the performers can be swapped out without the quality of the show suffering.

In addition to the comedy and variety acts, the big draw of “Circus 1903” is the life-size, lifelike pair of elephants, Queenie and Karanga (or Peanut).

Circus 1903

Karanga means “peanut” in Swahili. Yes, we sometimes take notes.

The adult elephant takes three puppeteers to operate, and the smaller takes one. In the program, credit is given to the three Queenie puppeteers as operating her “Head,” “Heart” and “Hind.”

Imagine having “Puppeteer, Elephant Hind” on your resume.

Circus 1903

It took awhile, but circuses finally figured out you don’t need to make animals do tricks to have a good time.

The movements of the elephants are majestic and uncannily realistic, brought to life by the same folks who made the stage version of “War Horse” a hit. Here’s a look at these remarkable creations.

“Circus 1903” is a lavish production, and the Paris Theater, formerly home to “Jersey Boys,” feels like a great fit.

The production feels like a fine fit for Las Vegas overall, as the visual nature of the show lends itself to appealing to international visitors. That’s why Cirque du Soleil is so popular in Sin City, by the way. You don’t have to understand English to enjoy the eye-popping visuals, and there’s no plot to follow.

“Circus 1903” cleverly side-steps a couple of potential pitfalls. Since there are no live animals, there are no protests. Also, the show’s music is pre-recorded, so it’s saving big bucks by not having to pay for union musicians.

“Circus 1903” is scheduled to be at Paris Las Vegas through Dec. 31, 2017, although we trust there’s an option to extend if the show does well.

Circus 1903

All the performers in “Circus 1903” bend over backwards to entertain audiences. Hey, you try writing a million photo captions.

Tickets start at $49, and the show is suitable for all ages. The show is at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with two shows on Saturday and Sunday, 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. (dark on Mondays).

If you take in “Circus 1903” at Paris, let us know what you think. And give Peanut a big, wet kiss on the trunk for us. Which, for once, isn’t a euphemism for anything.

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Fontainebleau Las Vegas is Finally Sold, Source Says Official Announcement Imminent

We have the best sources, ever, and our inside guy has confirmed the abandoned Fontainebleau Las Vegas has finally been sold.

Note: Our story was officially confirmed on Aug. 29, 2017. Fontainebleau was sold for $600 million. See below for more.

After months of repeated false rumors about the sale, we hear an official announcement of the Fontainebleau sale is expected soon.

Not “within 60 days” soon this time, but actually soon. Several days from now soon. Oh, just go with it.

Our source claims the purchase is a done deal, and the parties involved are “finalizing the financing package and operational details.”

Information about the buyer is light on details, but signs point to the buyer being a “sizable Eastern real estate investment company.” Our source adds the buyer is also “very politically connected.”

Fontainebleau wrap

Yeah, the wrap doesn’t help so much.

Carl Icahn is the current owner of Fontainebleau (pronounced “fountain blue”).

Icahn purchased the bankrupt project in January 2010 for $150 million. The bajillionaire was looking to sell it for $650 million, and he may just have gotten his asking price.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas was previously listed by a Las Vegas-cased commercial real estate firm, CBRE Las Vegas, but that’s no longer the case, according to a company rep.

Bolstering the rumor Fontainebleau has been sold, CBRE says the company submitted the property to “the purported buyer” during their listing, “but he wasn’t in the market at that time.”

Recent buzz about Fontainebleau has centered mainly around the building getting a wrap to help cover up its hulking awfulness. The sale of Fontainebleau Las Vegas sets the stage for the buyer to complete the project and pump some new life into the north end of The Strip.

Fontainebleau

We pretty much do stories about Fontainebleau just to share this photo we made.

There have been other intriguing rumors associated with the sale of Fontainebleau Las Vegas as well.

Our friend on Twitter, Adam S., shares that the fate of Fontainebleau could be intertwined with that of SLS Las Vegas. The SLS was recently sold, and it’s believed the new owners of SLS could buy out the existing Starwood/Marriott deal to take back control of its luxury tower, currently branded as W Las Vegas.

That scenario could position Starwood/Marriott to be involved with Fontainebleau.

When we floated the idea the buyer could be Barry Sternlicht and his Starwood Capital Group, a key source said “no,” but suggested it’s another “New York buyer.”

No matter how things unfold, it’s a great relief to hear there’s finally some movement at Fontainebleau Las Vegas.

Downtown Grand

Fun fact. These escalators at Downtown Grand were purchased for a song when Fontainebleau tanked.

It should be noted, though, not everyone will be thrilled with the prospect of the Fontainebleau sale.

Our tipster, an hospitality industry insider, points out many in Las Vegas resort circles feel like Las Vegas doesn’t need an influx of room, convention, restaurant and nightclub inventory.

After the sale, even MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren says it’ll be between two-and-a-half and three years before the Fountainebleau could open.

Thankfully, as a blog, we need not be concerned with things like ADRs (average daily rates). We’re excited The Strip may soon rid itself of an eyesore, and we may very well get a shiny new resort wherein we can eat, drink and cavort.

If rumors of a sale are true, our hope is Fontainebleau Las Vegas will soon play host to a metric hell-ton of cavorts.

Updated (8/29/17): Our story has been confirmed by multiple media outlets. Fontainebleau has been sold for $600 million to two real estate investment firms, The Witkoff Group and New Valley. Read more.

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