Vegas4Visitors.com Weekly Column by Rick Garman

Want to know what's happening in Las Vegas? You've come to the right place.

Each week you can come here to get the latest news, the juiciest gossip, and the best reviews for the most fabulous city in the world, Las Vegas. Hey... it says "fabulous" right on the welcome sign!

The latest weekly column will always be on this page, but you can go back through the archives (all the way back to 1999!) or take a look ahead and what's coming up next for Vegas by using the navigation on the left hand sidebar.

Thanks for visiting! Enjoy!

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Legends in Concert Closing at Harrah's

After nearly 30 years of entertaining Las Vegas Strip visitors, the tribute show Legends in Concert is closing but perhaps not for long.

A spokesperson for the show announced that the four-year engagement at Harrah's, where it moved after 25 years at Imperial Palace, is coming to an end on December 30th. Where the show is going from there is a mystery.

Incorporated into the announcement about the closure is the statement that they are "finalizing plans for a new Las Vegas home" where they can celebrate their Pearl Anniversary. Where that home will be was not announced, which could all be about timing but still seems a little odd.

The last time the show moved, the announcement was about the move - closing at Imperial Palace, opening at Harrah's. This time it is very vague, meaning if they do actually have a new home the deal isn't done yet.

So where could a show like Legends in Concert move? Although still popular after all these years, the ticket prices are comparatively low and the age of the audience is comparatively high. I have a hard time coming up with a hotel on The Strip that has a showroom that would be a good fit. The Flamingo's would probably work but Donny & Marie aren't going anywhere. The Tropicana has a showroom space that would work but a show like Legends does not fit in with the audience they are trying to attract so I doubt that would happen. The Riviera is a possibility as is the LVH, both of which have "classic" showrooms and audiences.

Downtown Las Vegas is also a definite possibility. The Plaza, Golden Nugget, and Four Queens all have showrooms that could work for a production like this and there is a definite lack of production show style entertainment in the neighborhood.

As far as what will replace Imperial Palace, there have been unconfirmed rumors that the Australian doo-wop group Human Nature will move their show from Imperial Palace into the Harrah's showroom after the first of the year.

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Leaving...


 


The Building


Hunger for Knowledge: Food University Comes to Vegas

Are you one of those people who spend way too much time watching cooking shows? Can you spot a spicy Cajun remoulade at 50 paces? Do you have drawers full of utensils that are used for exactly one thing and therefore almost never see the light of day? Well, have I got news for you.

The inaugural Food University at Caesars Palace, taking place December 11-13, is an event designed to transform fun-loving foodies from across the country from spectators into competition-ready chefs by providing unprecedented instruction and access to some of the culinary world's biggest stars.

Food University is collaboration among Caesars Palace, philanthropist and hospitality industry leader Larry Ruvo, Food Network co-founder Robin Leach and veteran culinary entertainment producer Richard Gore. Food University's culinary faculty will include James Beard Award-winning Chef Alex Stratta; acclaimed cheese expert Laura Werlin, author of the James Beard Award-winning "All-American Cheese and Wine Book"; chef and TV personality Claudine Pepin; and Anne Dolce, cook editor, The Daily Meal. Chef Bradford Thompson, winner of Food and Wine magazine's Best New Chef Award and the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest, will serve as Food University's culinary director.

Unlike any other food festival or culinary event, Food University offers food lovers a chance to rub elbows with top chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, cheese experts, fine food purveyors and even farmers who will serve as "faculty," guiding students as they learn from celebrity chef "professors."

In addition to the three-day schedule covering every essential cooking technique, there will be private, VIP "field seminars." These off-site seminars will include an opening-week, behind-the-scenes tour of Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, as well as the Southern Wine and Spirits Hospitality Mixology program with Mixologist Francesco LaFranconi, normally available only to hotel and restaurant executives.

The inaugural event will culminate in a graduation ceremony where students will receive the Food University "Enlightened Palate" diploma. In addition, each student enrolled for the first classes will receive a private VIP invitation for a never-before-seen prestigious wineries tour in Napa Valley previously off-limits to the public.

The first Food University session will accommodate up to 80 culinary scholars. "Tuition" is $1,995 per person for the three day sessions and includes all food and beverages, course instruction.

Proceeds from Food University "admissions" will go to Keep Memory Alive, dedicated to finding cures for brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, and ALS.

For those needing hotel accommodations, Caesars Palace is offering a special rate for guests using booking code ACFOODU online or by calling (866) 227-5938. For more information visit FoodUniversitylasvegas.com or, to purchase tickets, call (866) 840-8822.

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Food U Faculty & Founders


 


Caesars Palace


Shipping Container Project Approved for Downtown

The Downtown Las Vegas renaissance got another boost last week with the city council approving a fascinating and unique new project: a retail, office, and entertainment complex made almost entirely out of recycled shipping containers.

Oh, and it will feature a giant, fire-breathing praying mantis also. More on that in a moment.

Central Container Park will be located at the corner of Fremont Street and 7th Avenue, a block east of El Cortez and a short walk from the Fremont Street Experience. The Fremont East District, as it is known, is bustling with new activity including lots of fun and funky bars like Insert Coin(s), The Vanguard, The Griffin, and Beauty Bar with more on the way.

The complex will feature retail stores, offices, a children's playground, a theater, and the aforementioned praying mantis. The latter is a massive steel sculpture that was used at the annual Burning Man festival.

Building the facility will be relatively easy because it's sort of like stacking Lego blocks, so the construction time is short. Developers say it will be up and running by the late spring of 2013.

You can see more artist renderings on the Central Container Park page on Vegas4Visitors.com.

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Oh Ship!

 

Echelon to Get Wrapped

Work is going to recommence on one of The Strip's biggest mothballed projects but unfortunately its not to finish it but rather to put it under wraps.

When Echelon was originally announced, the property was going to have five hotels: a 2,300 room main hotel with a 140,000 square-foot casino; a 650 all-suite hotel; a Las Vegas branch of high-end Asian hotelier Shangri-La with 350 rooms; an 860 room Mondrian (a big name in Los Angeles); and a 550 room Delano. In addition there was going to be more than 30 restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and lounges; two theaters; and a 300,000 square-foot shopping mall. It was going to replace The Stardust on the North end of The Strip.

Construction began in 2007 but then the economy tanked and Boyd Gaming, the company behind the big idea, sent the crews home in 2008 leaving 87 acres of dirt, cranes, and the steel shells of what was to come. They keep saying they will finish it someday, they just don't know when. Four years later the dusty lot remains an eyesore on The Strip.

Hence the new work. A project is underway to "wrap" the partially built structures and landscape the Strip facing portion of the lot to try to conceal the fact that it's a big, empty construction zone. The effort is expected to be complete by next spring.

Will Echelon ever really get completed? Certainly not in the form in which it was originally envisioned. One of the hotels, the Delano, is now taking over THEhotel at Mandalay Bay so it won't be involved. The deals on the other two big-name partners have also lapsed. The company that was going to manage the big mall has gone bankrupt. If and when Boyd Gaming starts to seriously look at starting up this project again they are probably going to have to start from scratch.

Recently Boyd asked for an extension on their permits that would basically allow them to leave the big dusty lot a big dusty lot until 2018. Since it would take years for them to complete the project once construction starts again, Echelon - or whatever it will be called should it ever actually get built - will not open until the next decade.

But in the meantime at least it will have some pretty building wraps around it. That's almost as good, right?

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It's a Wrap


 

Weekly Awards

The Light 'Em Up Award of the Week goes to Sam's Town Mystic Falls, which will have its annual tree lighting ceremony on November 21st. The event will transform the atrium where the light and sound show is held into a winter wonderland complete with holiday lights, landscaping, sculptures of polar bears and the like, and a Cowboy Santa who will hear kids' wishes daily. The holiday theme will run through the end of the year.

The Cuff 'Em Up Award of the Week goes to visitors to The Strip who will get arrested if they break the county's new law banning "dangerous objects" such as long-blade knives, fireworks, and things that can shoot flame. The fact that these things weren't illegal before is troubling but the law is aimed to curb some of the more outrageous street performer acts that are crowding the sidewalks up and down The Strip.

The Zip 'Em Up Award of the Week goes to the Vanity Nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel, or more specifically their ladies room, which has been nominated for Cintas' America's Best Bathroom Contest. The luxe space has mirrored makeup tables, a $40,000 chandelier, and its own cocktail waitress. You can see all the finalists and vote here.

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Yeehaw Holidays


 

A Look Back: 600 Weekly Columns

In a few weeks I will be writing my 600th Vegas4Visitors.com Weekly Column!

The Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column debuted in September of 1999 and I have been averaging about 45 of them a year, every year since. The one you are reading today is the 590th so if things go according to plan we'll see 600 right after the start of 2013 (which, by the way, marks the 15th Anniversary of Vegas4Visitors.com).

Every week from now until 600, I'm going to rerun some of my favorite pieces from columns of days gone bye. Let's start with the first year, 1999.

August 30, 1999
The French are coming! The French are coming! It's been several years and $785 million in the making but the opening of the all-new Paris Las Vegas is finally upon us. Wednesday, September 1st is the due date for the Parisian themed resort that has replicas of famous French landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, The Paris Opera House, The Louvre, and a 50-story Eiffel Tower right on the Strip. Speaking of the latter, the lights on the real Eiffel Tower in Paris will actually be turned off (briefly) at the exact moment they are turned on in Las Vegas. The ceremony, scheduled to begin at about 10pm, will be broadcast to the waiting crowds on giant video screens fronting The Strip. Expect fireworks, entertainment, and lots of people!

September 6, 1999
Plans have been "re-announced" to finish construction on uncompleted portions of The Stratosphere. The resort, whose primary attraction is the 106-story observation tower, went bankrupt several years ago and although still open, much of the property was never finished. Billionaire businessman Carl Icahn purchased The Stratosphere about a year ago and announced ambitious and expensive plans for the hotel but little was ever done. Now Mr. Icahn has submitted plans to finish off the half-completed guest tower that will add an additional 1,000 rooms.

October 4, 1999
The first ever New Year's Eve Room Rate Report...

I checked the various hotels several months ago and found an average price of $818.00 per night with a four-night minimum standard. That means over $3200.00 just for a place to lay down. Now, a three-night minimum is offered at most hotels and the average price is about $750 per night, bringing your "lay-down" total to $2250.00. Still quite dear but not as bad as it was.

October 25, 1999
Moving all those people around the city has become a hot topic of discussion lately. For years, angry home and business owners have been fighting a proposal to build a monorail that would link most of the Strip with the Convention Center and eventually Downtown. However, a vote in the coming weeks by the Regional Transportation Commission will probably give the final go ahead for the $600 million project.

The route would extend the existing MGM Grand to Bally's monorail north to Harrah's, then meander east to the Convention Center, and eventually end at the Sahara, with seven stations along the route. Once this portion is up and running, perhaps by the year 2006, many envision expanding the line north through Downtown to Cashman Field, and south to the airport.

Of course, you're going to have to help pay for the privilege of this convenience. Although the existing monorail line is free to ride now, once it is expanded the city plans on charging riders $2.00 per trip.

November 8, 1999
Last week I mentioned that Mr. Wayne Newton had signed an exclusive 10-year deal to perform at The Stardust and that said deal was reportedly the richest ever for a Vegas entertainer: about $25 million annually. It turns out that may have been a bit of an exaggeration on the part of the company and the entertainer.

The Las Vegas Review Journal ran some numbers with a gaming executive and figured that the $25 million would be about twice what the hotel could reasonably expect to rake in at the box office every year. In fact, it's more than the entire casino makes every year.

When confronted with the errant numbers, officials refused to comment except to say thank you in German. Take your time, I'll wait.

November 22, 1999
An unpaid electric bill caused the local Las Vegas power company to shut down electricity to the famed "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign that greets visitors driving in on Las Vegas Blvd.

Confusion over who was responsible for paying the bill sent the account on the sign into delinquency and so the power was shut off in October. Since the whole procedure is computerized, the electric company says they had no idea they were darkening the landmark.

When someone finally noticed the problem in mid-November all the of the myriad companies and organizations involved in leasing and maintaining the sign, including the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, have been scrambling to get the problem fixed. As you read this, the sign should be welcoming visitors with a warm glow once again.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the delinquent amount was $58.76.

November 29, 1999
A battle is brewing between two Las Vegas developers over the rights to build a Titanic themed hotel/casino.

In one corner is the infamous Bob Stupak, a colorful Las Vegas character who was behind the Stratosphere. His plans to build a 1,000-room replica of the ship on Las Vegas Boulevard, complete with a shopping area designed to look like an iceberg, were thwarted when the city council refused to give him the zoning variance necessary for construction.

Although the project is dead in the proverbial water for now, Stupak is still using the Titanic name on one wing of his Thunderbird Motel in the seedier part of The Strip.

Enter Allen Rubin, CEO of Titanic Resort, who is now claiming that Stupak has infringed on his trademark rights. Rubin, who claims to have registered the Titanic name in 1997, is alleging that Stupak illegally used the Titanic theme to attract investors away from Rubin's own plans to build a resort based on the doomed ocean liner.

Rubin's plans are for a $1.8 billion resort with over 3,500 rooms in both a ship and iceberg replicas on over 170 acres south of Mandalay Bay.

Rubin says he sent Stupak his plans in an effort to get investors and that Stupak stole the idea. Stupak is denying the charges.

Just so long as they both promise not to play that Celine Dion song in the lobby, I'll be happy.

December 6, 1999
Mirage Resorts will be building a new hotel on the land currently occupied by the Boardwalk Holiday Inn on The Strip (between Monte Carlo and Bellagio) and one possible theme for the property may honor super-spy James Bond.

Although there are several concepts still under consideration, Mirage chairman Steve Wynn has reportedly mentioned the Bond theme in conversations with investors. The hotel would featuring a live-action stunt show based on the Ian Fleming character similar to the Pirate Battle at Mirage Resort's Treasure Island, with the spy theme continuing throughout the property.

December 20, 1999
A high-speed train will begin runs between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in September of 2000, the first time in over three years that such travel has been possible. But this won't be your ordinary Amtrak train. The luxurious new Talgo trains feature amenities and service not found on typical US commuter routes.

In addition to the gourmet dining, world-class wine selections, and fresh flowers the new train will offer gaming instruction via overhead video monitors and possibly live gaming classes in the dining car.

Amtrak officials held a ceremony last week to announce the new service and the new technology, which allows the train to tilt with the bends in the track. This will allow the train to travel at speeds of up to 80 mph, making the trip in about five and 1/2 hours.

Top 10s of 1999


Top 10 Hotels
  1. Mirage
  2. Paris Las Vegas
  3. Harrah's Las Vegas
  4. New York-New York
  5. Mandalay Bay
  6. Luxor
  7. Treasure Island
  8. Bellagio
  9. The Golden Nugget
  10. Caesars Palace
Top 10 Attractions
  1. Pirate Battle at Treasure Island
  2. Caesars Magical Empire
  3. Mirage Dolphin Habitat
  4. Fremont Street Experience
  5. Eiffel Tower Experience
  6. Casino Legends Hall of Fame
  7. Liberace Museum/Elvis-a-Rama Museum
  8. Bellagio Fountains
  9. Bellagio Conservatory
  10. Speedworld at Sahara
Top 10 Shows
  1. Mystere
  2. Lance Burton
  3. O
  4. Jubilee!
  5. Chicago
  6. Siegfried & Roy
  7. EFX
  8. Danny Gans
  9. Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular
  10. Legends in Concert

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Poster for the Paris Opening


 


It Got Finished Eventually


 


It Got Finished Eventually, Also


 


That's Mr. Las Vegas To You


 


Ideas That Sank


 


From Boardwalk to Bond?


 


#1 Hotel of 1999


 


Missing the Pirates


 


Still Magic

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