Monthly Archives: February 2020

Bellagio Conservatory’s Chinese New Year Display Sidesteps Asian Elephant in the Room

The Bellagio Conservatory has rolled out yet another crowd-pleaser with its Chinese New Year display.

Bellagio Conservatory

Flowering plants are also known as “angiosperms,” or as we refer to them, “Oh, grow up.”

This year’s Chinese New Year display was all the more impressive because it faced a couple of challenges.

First, it’s the Year of the Rat.

Designing a visually appealing display around a much-maligned rodent is no mean feat. The Conservatory’s horticulture team has, not surprisingly, delivered the goods with their usual flair.

Bellagio Conservatory

Las Vegas rats sometimes travel in packs. We’ll wait.

The other challenge, of course, is it’s not just the Year of the Rat. It’s the Year of the Coronavirus. Awkward.

The freak-out about the coronavirus (which originated in Wuhan, China) is ongoing, with some concerned we could be in the midst of a full-blown pandemic. We don’t entirely know what a pandemic is, but it doesn’t sound like something we’d want to find in our salad.

While others might be inclined to shy away from a Chinese-themed attraction at this juncture, Bellagio has defiantly decided to stay the course and do a top-notch Chinese New Year display, anyway. And we love them for it.

Because if Vegas stops doing spectacle, the bug has already won.

Bellagio Conservatory

If you can’t enjoy some whimsy, you’re probably just jaded.

The Conservatory not only manages to make us forget about the elephant(s) in the room, it pulls out all the stops by including just about every lucky symbol imaginable in the display.

There are lucky coins and birds and lions (no, they’re not dragons, rube) and lanterns and ding pots and jade medallions (shout-out to the pun in that last photo caption) and gold ingots and citrus trees and cherry blossoms and, yes, even koi fish.

The Bellagio Conservatory is currently home to about 75 koi.

Bellagio Conservatory

Koi are very shy. At least that’s what they want you to think.

Naturally, there are metric ass-ton of flowers. We counted 31,980, although the official news release says there are 32,000. It’s possible Bellagio rounded up.

It’s worth noting they said the 2019 Chinese New Year display used 32,000. Somebody in Bellagio’s P.R. department is clearly tired of counting flowers.

In 2018, it was 22,000 flowers. You know, inflation. Oh, and in 2017, it was 22,000. Starting to see a pattern here? We should probably start following these flower counts from the Bellagio Conservatory with “ish.”

Here are some stats from the aforementioned news release:

googie Number of team members involved in building the display: 115-ish.

googie Height of the jade medallions: 20 feet-ish.

googie Height of the aforementioned rat: 14 feet-ish.

googie Number of changing Chinese lanterns: 6-ish.

googie Number of items included in this list to see if you’re still paying attention: 1-ish.

googie Number of cherry blossom trees: 6-ish.

googie Number of rats in the display: 5-ish.

The Bellagio Conservatory always draws a great crowd, despite the fact most of those people don’t spend a dime at Bellagio.

That’s probably the third elephant in the room.

And while we’re on the subject, China’s zodiac chart really could use an elephant. They could dump the goat. Goats can be jerks.

Bellagio Chinese New Year

Lion dance traditions are fascinating, so obviously would be out of place in this blog.

Not to be a buzzkill, but we recently reported Bellagio will have one fewer displays in 2020. Rather than the usual spring and summer displays, there will be a consolidated one with a Japanese theme.

The Chinese New Year display runs through March 14, 2020. The Japanese-themed “Japan Journey: Magical Kansai” runs from March 21 to Sep. 12, 2020.

Let us not dwell upon vermin or contagions or cost-cutting measures, though. Let us revel unabashedly in the boundless creativity of the geniuses at famed Bellagio Conservatory, photo gallerywise.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 106: Hard Rock’s Swan Song, Circa’s Restaurants and More

It’s been a minute, but we’re back with a shiny new episode of the Vital Vegas podcast. Sorry!

In this over-stuffed episode, we bid a fond farewell to Hard Rock casino. The resort closed on Feb. 3, 2020, and will soon become Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

We snagged an exclusive interview with Richard “Boz” Bosworth, President and CEO of JC Hospitality, co-owner of the resort, along with Richard Branson.

During our interview (at 13:05 in the podcast), you can actually the music go quiet at Hard Rock. The last song to play at Hard Rock closed: “Trouble” by Coldplay. That’s some badass Las Vegas trivia right there.

Hard Rock Las Vegas closed

We find ourselves between a Hard Rock and a Virgin place.

We also hear from Derek Stevens, owner of The D, Golden Gate and the under-construction Circa Las Vegas.

Stevens shares his thoughts about the new restaurants coming to his new downtown casino, set to open in Dec. 2020.

Circa

We already reserved a spot at the bar inside Barry’s Prime at Circa. We made the reservation with some construction guy walking by, but we figure that’s solid.

Because we procrastinated so long, the episode is jammed with not only exclusive scoop, as is our way, but also a cubic ass-ton of Las Vegas news.

We talk Elon Musk’s tunnel. The Sahara poker room. Battista’s Hole in the Wall. CEO Jim Murren’s upcoming departure from MGM Resorts. The end of “R.U.N.” at Luxor. Residency rumors at Resorts World. ATMs on casino table games. Nobu moves. Shark Reef’s virtual reality experience. Sex doll brothel problems. New shows. Wynn’s new convention center. Upgrades coming to The D. Chick-fil-A’s debut at Planet Hollywood. The Go-Go’s lip slip. Atari’s pipe dream. Bellagio Conservatory’s slimmer schedule. MSG Sphere’s budget bump.

All that and a controversial, hastily slapped-together “Listicle of the Week.”

It’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a podcast and less. Purge your earholes by taking a good, long listen!

Bellagio Conservatory Reduces Number of Displays in 2020

In what appears to be a cost-saving measure, the Bellagio Conservatory is reducing its number of seasonal displays in 2020. By one.

This year, rather than five seasonal displays, the Conservatory will have four.

Bellagio Conservatory

It’s just one fewer displays. Please remain clam.

Instead of its traditional Spring and Summer displays, there will be a consolidated one: “Japan Journey: Magical Kansai.” This display will span two seasons, spring and summer.

We are not a math person, but the move should shave 20% off the Conservatory’s annual budget.

In the past, the Bellagio Conservatory had five seasonal displays: Chinese New Year (Jan. to March), Spring (March to May), Summer (June to Sep.), Autumn (Sep. to Nov.) and Winter (Dec. to Jan.).

In 2020, there will be four displays:
googie Chinese New Year (Jan. 11 to March 14)
googie Japan Journey: Magical Kansai (Mar. 21 to Sep. 12)
googie Autumn (Sep. 19 to Nov. 28)
googie Holiday (Dec. 5 to Jan. 4, 2021)

Bellagio Conservatory winter 2015

Christmas isn’t going anywhere.

Recently, there’s been a growing Japanese presence in some seasonal displays because of the efforts of MGM Resorts, operator of Bellagio (the resort was recently sold to Blackstone Group in a lease-back deal), to land a potentially lucrative casino in Japan.

Las Vegas observers have long wondered how long Bellagio would be able sustain this free attraction. While such attractions draw crowds, it’s questionable whether such crowds translate into customers.

Other free attractions, such as “Sirens of TI” at Treasure Island and “Parade in the Sky” at Rio have been nixed to cut costs.

For the moment, Bellagio should get some cost savings without visitors noticing one fewer seasonal displays.

Bellagio Conservatory

Bellagio continues to be a major supplier of whimsy.

It’s unknown if the reduction in seasonal displays is related to the change of ownership of Bellagio, but time will tell if reductions continue or if Bellagio could (gasp) begin charging for the attraction to reduce costs further.

Here’s the official Bellagio Conservatory Web site, and thanks to eagle-eyed Ryan L. on Twitter for sending the tip on this story our way.

 

Hard Rock Las Vegas Closes for Renovation and Rebrand

It’s the end of an era. Hard Rock Las Vegas hotel-casino closed on Feb. 3, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.

Hard Rock will remain closed for renovations and will re-open as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in Nov. 2020.

We stopped by to say farewell to Hard Rock, a Vegas fixture since it opened on March 9, 1995.

Hard Rock hotel closed

The ceremonial lock and chain seal the deal. Dobs on one of those handles.

Virgin Hotels and a group of investors led by JC Hospitality purchased the Hard Rock in 2018.

By the time Hard Rock closed, it’s table games had been shut down (at 3:00 a.m. the night before), but a few stragglers were still playing slots.

The casino’s restaurants and retail shops were already packed up or in the process of doing so. Some will be back (MB Steak and Pizza Forte), some will not (Pink Taco and Mr. Lucky’s).

Hard Rock closed

Adios, Pink Taco.

It was surreal making the rounds at Hard Rock as it closed, and we experienced what others have, a flood of memories from this casino that at one time was one of the hottest spots in town.

Hard Rock closed

Whenever a craps pit closes in Las Vegas, an angel loses its hymen. Or something.

We get a lot of questions about the music memorabilia at Hard Rock. Thousands of pieces were part of the purchase. Some of the memorabilia has been sold off, some is going into storage, some has been donated to charity and it’s expected some will return in a retail shop at Virgin.

We also scooped the fact there will be a new hotel tower built as part of Virgin, with a Hard Rock presence, so expect to see memorabilia in that new offering as well.

Hard Rock closed

We’re not crying, you’re crying.

Now, all eyes will be on Virgin Hotels.

Estimates put the cost of the rebrand to Virgin at about $200 million.

The Virgin Las Vegas renderings so far have been pretty sweet. The new look and feel has been described as “modern desert resort oasis.”

Hard Rock closed

One last look.

Virgin will have 1,504 rooms and suites (called “chambers” in Virginland), as well as a 60,000-square-foot casino, new restaurants and 130,000-square-feet of meeting space.

As we were the first to share, because you expect nothing less, the casino at Virgin will be managed by Mohegan Gaming.

Hard Rock closed

Iconic wasn’t paying the bills. Next up, Virgin.

Because we are a badass, as Hard Rock was closing, we snagged an interview with the CEO of JC Hospitality, Richard “Boz” Bosworth.

As you listen, at 4:16, you’ll hear the very last song ever played on the P.A. at Hard Rock Las Vegas.

 

For posterity: The last song ever played at Hard Rock was “Trouble” by Coldplay.

Hard Rock

Thank you, Hard Rock, for a quarter century of party.

Enjoy some of the last photos ever taken inside Hard Rock Las Vegas, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Watch for a Celine Dion Residency at Resorts World

Brace yourself for our latest bombshell! We’ve long suspected Celine Dion wasn’t done with Vegas, now we’ve gotten exclusive scoop she’s signed for a new residency at Resorts World.

That sound you hear is your brain exploding. Same.

While details related to this juicy rumor are scant, we hear Celine will get a custom theater built to her specifications at Resorts World, just as she did at Caesars Palace (at a cost of $108 million back in 2003).

Celine Dion Resorts World

Has to be true. It’s on the Internet.

Celine’s run at Caesars Palace, of course, is the stuff of Las Vegas legend.

Her final show at Caesars was June 8, 2019, after two residences (“A New Day” from 2003 to 2007 and “Celine” from 2011 to 2019), 16 years and 1,141 shows.

Celine Dion’s residences reaped a record-crushing $681 million in ticket sales. That’s a mind-boggling 4.6 million tickets.

When her Caesars Palace residency ended, there was a lot of speculation about what Celine might do next. At the time, other top names were being snagged by lucrative offers at Park MGM.

Then came a mysterious errant Tweet from the LVCVA (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority), listing Celine among Park Theater’s roster of divas. The LVCVA said it was a mistake, but the stage was set for Celine’s return.

Around that time, we heard Celine had begun construction of a new home in Las Vegas, and knew she’d take a little time off and tour (artists are often contractually prevented from changing venues before a year has passed) before lining up another, even more profitable, gig in Las Vegas.

This might help put “profitable” into perspective: She made about $500,000 per show during her most recent Caesars Palace residency. It’s rumored Lady Gaga makes a million a show at Park MGM.

If the rumor proves true, Celine’s choice of Resorts World as her new home is huge for both the reigning queen of Las Vegas residencies and Resorts World, slated to open in summer 2021 following numerous delays.

Resorts World Las Vegas

Word is this will be Celine’s new stomping grounds on the Las Vegas Strip.

For Resorts World, Celine would add an immediate stamp of legitimacy, and would bode well for the resort’s bottom line.

Celine’s appeal to a casino isn’t as much about ticket sales as it is other revenue. She appeals to a casino’s ideal customer. They not only buy expensive show tickets, but also spend money in the casino and on non-gambling amenities like restaurants, shopping and nightlife venues.

Celine’s residency at Caesars Palace was a windfall, and Resorts World no doubt would love to have that scenario unfold all over again.

The tricky part, of course, is a lot of people have seen Celine. Also, Resorts World will be an unknown quantity, and it remains to be seen if Celine’s star power will be enough to lure fans to a stand-alone resort on the north end of The Strip.

At the very least, a Celine Dion residency could cement Resorts World as a major player in Las Vegas, and would get the new resort on the radar of other A-list performers seeking a big payday.

Celine Dion

Yes, that’s Celine. Your insolence is duly noted.

Competition for entertainment dollars is already cutthroat in Las Vegas, and even more seats are coming online with the MSG Sphere and Raiders stadium.

Questions abound about who’s filling all those seats, as visitation in Las Vegas has been flat for two years and a number of shows have tanked in a big way recently, including “Blanc de Blanc” at Sahara and “R.U.N.” at Luxor (to the tune of $60 million).

It would be great to see Celine Dion back where she belongs, on the Las Vegas Strip.

She paved the way for other Vegas residencies including Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and innumerable others.

The Celine Dion residency at Resorts World hasn’t been officially announced or confirmed, but our sources are awesome, official announcements are boring and dropping scoop first is just how we roll.