MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
December 17, 2012
Shooting at Excalibur Leaves 2 Dead
Two people are dead after a shooting Friday night at Excalibur. Coming hours after the a gunman killed 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school, the incident touched off panic at the hotel with people fearing another horrific rampage was unfolding, but while details are still being investigated it appears to have been a domestic murder-suicide.
30 year old Jessica Kenny worked at the Vegas.com concierge desk near the front desk at the hotel. At around 8:30pm a man approached Kenny, shot her multiple times, and then shot himself. The gunshots sent panicked guests fleeing out of the hotel and into hiding places until it was clear that the shooting was over.
Kenny was transported to a local hospital where she was declared dead.
The shooter has not been identified but is believed to be Kenny's ex-boyfriend.
This was not the first shooting inside a Las Vegas casino. In 1999 a blackjack dealer at The Golden Gate was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend; a 2000 shooting at the Stardust sports book left one man dead; also in 2000 a woman was shot at Harrah's when she was caught in the crossfire of a robbery gone wrong; and in 2007 a man with a high-powered rifle opened fire from a balcony overlooking the casino at New York-New York, but while five people were injured, miraculously, no one was killed.
Las Vegas by the Numbers
That's the number of years that Legends in Concert will be playing in Las Vegas now that the tribute show has found a new home at The Flamingo. The big difference is that it will be an afternoon show for the first time in its long run on the Sin City stages, with a 4pm start time six days a week. The show will close at Imperial Palace on December 30 and reopen in February of 2013.
That's the date in December when the Imperial Palace will officially become The Quad. The hotel's website is already using the new name and the IP signs are being removed from the building. Construction on the renovations to the hotel, which will completely remodel the front of the building, the casino, and many other public areas, continues through 2013.
That would be the number of water parks in Las Vegas if a proposal to build a new one at Circus Circus goes through. The plan would replace the hotel's RV park with a multi-slide, multi-ride water attraction by summer of 2014. It's not a done deal yet but looks likely. Vegas currently has zero water parks but two new ones are under construction - Wet 'n Wild on the west side of town and Cowabunga Bay on the east side of town.
The number of millions won by an unidentified slot player after lining up the symbols of the Megabucks machine at M Resort on Saturday, December 15. It's the first time the jackpot has hit in more than two years.
The number of hotels that will be launching fireworks from their roofs on New Year's Eve as part of the annual pyrotechnics show. The hotels include Aria, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, The Stratosphere, Treasure Island, and The Venetian. The show starts about 10 minutes before midnight.
That's the number of nights that Roseanne Barr is going to be playing at The Laugh Factory at The Tropicana starting in January of 2013. The comedian will anchor the 7pm show and is booked through at least March but may go longer. Tickets run between $50 and $70.
Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards
The Good Cause Award of the Week goes to the Las Vegas Chippendales' Jaymes Vaughn, who is raising money at ForgetCancerNow.com for his father who has been diagnosed with a rare form of the disease. Vaughn and his fellow Chippendales cast mate James Davis came in second on this season of "The Amazing Race."
The British Invasion Award of the Week goes to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who will be opening two new restaurants in Las Vegas in the next week. The casual Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace will feature British specialties and some American comfort food while BurGR (GR = Gordon Ramsay; get it?) at Planet Hollywood will serve sushi. No, no, just kidding... it's a burger joint.
The End of the World as We Know It Award of the Week goes to Rí Rá Irish Pub at Mandalay Bay, which will be having two toasts, asking everyone to hold their glasses aloft on December 21st at 4:01pm and on December 22nd at 12:01am. Those would be the times when the supposed Mayan prediction of the end of the world on 12/21/12 doesn't happen in Ireland and Las Vegas respectively.
The Are You Ready to Rock Award of the Week goes to Rock of Ages, the jukebox musical that is scheduled to open at The Venetian this week. The show, which features 80s rock songs from the likes of Foreigner and Bon Jovi, will play Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 8pm and Saturday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7 and 10pm. Tickets range between $65 and $144.
The Speaking of Broadway Award of the Week goes to The Book of Mormon, the Tony Award winning musical that will be playing at The Smith Center in 2014 as part of their Broadway Series. Tickets will go on sale next year.
Attraction Review: KISS by Monster Mini Golf
I have to admit that despite being a child of the late 70s and early 80s, I never really "got" the rock band Kiss. I mean, I understood the concept - "I want to rock and roll all nite... and party every day!" - but I was more of a disco/pop/R&B type of kid. Mirror balls and Donna Summer, I understood. Platform shoes and Gene Simmons, not so much.
But that lack of appreciation for the band and its music didn't stop me from enjoying Kiss by Monster Mini Golf, an indoor amusement park that is devoted to all things "Detroit Rock City."
Memorabilia lines the walls and fills display cases, from photos and records to automobiles. The hardcore fan could probably spend an hour just looking at all the "stuff" but most folks can give it an appreciative nod and move on to the gift shop that has logo merchandise in just about every form possible. Looking for a Kiss golf ball? They've got you covered.
A small video game arcade breaks the all-things-Kiss mold by offering up various amusements that have nothing to do with "Beth" or the people who sang about her.
Beyond that is the main attraction - the 18-hold, glow in the dark, indoor, Kiss-themed miniature golf course. Stop and appreciate the lunacy of that concept for just a moment before I tell you that no matter how ridiculous it sounds, it actually kind of works.
The course itself isn't all that challenging - the holes are pretty standard and only a few involve obstacles that will strand those whose dexterity and sobriety are intact. But there are a few fun ones including putting through a giant guitar and the final hole where you have to knock the ball up Gene Simmon's tongue. Well, not his real tongue, but a larger than life simulation of same.
A live DJ spins nothing but Kiss tunes and occasionally pops up to announce giveaways and to heckle golfers.
The facility also has a private room for meetings or parties, a VIP room complete with comfy couches and a big screen TV, and a wedding chapel where you can have a Gene Simmons lookalike perform your nuptials. I actually witnessed such an event - the union of a heavily tattooed woman and her biker boyfriend - and it was both as silly as you'd expect and unexpectedly sweet.
Entering the facility, browsing the memorabilia, and looking through the gift shop are free endeavors. The miniature golf will cost you $11.95 for 30 minutes, which is plenty of time to work your way through the course.
This is exactly the kind of wacky attraction that helped to define Las Vegas and even though I might have preferred a Prince by Monster Mini Golf, I still found Kiss to be an entertaining diversion.
Sorry... now I'm picturing the Prince themed miniature golf course.
KISS by Monster Mini Golf
Restaurant Review: Public House at Luxor
This could be confusing so let me explain. Public house is the full, formal name for what the Brits colloquially refer to as a "pub" or, here in the States, a "brew pub" or "gastropub," the former if they brew their own beer or the latter if they serve fancier food, but the Public House here is the name of the restaurant at Luxor and, oddly, the name of a restaurant at The Venetian which have nothing to do with each other and aren't the same at all, with The Venetian one being more of a gastropub than the Luxor one, which is kind of a sports pub, which is a whole other animal altogether.
Understand? Yeah, neither did I. But the short version is this: Las Vegas has two restaurants called Public House but the only thing they have in common is good food, lots of drinks, and reasonable prices.
The Luxor Public House is in the space once occupied by Company American Bistro near the LAX nightclub. It's a brightly lit, airy room with a big bar, lots of tables and booths, and more flat screen televisions than you'll know what to do with. "Spectacular Sports" is the subtitle on the front of the place but interestingly enough the place feels less like a sports bar and more like a nice restaurant that shows sporting events if that makes any sense. Maybe it's the live DJ that was spinning tunes even on a Sunday morning. That seemed odd to me until one of the employees explained by saying "Welcome to Vegas" and I shrugged and let it go.
The menu is one page of pub-grub style food that has an upmarket air to it. I wouldn't go so far as to place this in the gastropub category (which the other Public House at The Venetian definitely belongs in), but it's definitely more than just burgers and chicken wings.
Appetizers include items like a chicken and corn chowder, calamari with pickled cherry peppers, a hummus plate, mussels in roasted garlic butter and Belgian ale broth, kettle chip nachos smothered in smoked gouda and beer-braised short rib meat, and a cheesesteak spring roll with jalapeno jack cheese and shaved rib eye steak. We started simple (and caloric) with the deep fried macaroni and cheese squares, which were served with both a fiery hot sauce and a chipoltle ranch. They were good but the spice averse should be warned that there are jalapenos in the squares so have some water standing by.
Salads include Greek, classic Caesar, Cobb, grilled steak, and more. You can add a variety of meats to it or you can have it served in a whole weat wrap with fries on the side.
The sandwich section has beef and turkey burgers, a couple of chicken options (hickory smoked or salad), filet mignon sliders, pastrami on rye, and some BBQ options including short rib and pulled pork.
The handful of entrees include everything from jambalaya to meatloaf to steak and seafood.
Weekend brunch offers a couple of breakfast type items and desserts are mostly skilled bakes (chocolate chip cookie or brownie, with ice cream).
In other words, while the menu is only one page it offers a little something for every taste.
We visited around lunch so our selections came from the sandwich section.
The turkey burger, which can be a bit bland and boring, came with chipoltle aioli, smoked gouda, and guacamole, although I opted out of the latter. There was a tangy flavor in the meat that was echoed in the spicy mayo and cheese that combined to make this a decidedly not boring version of the dish.
The slow roasted pulled pork came topped with crispy onion straws and cole slaw and was definitely more on the sweet side of the BBQ spectrum, just the way I like it.
The beer braised short rib was basically a pile of, juicy tender rib meat on a bun with caramelized onions, cheese, and horseradish.
About the only thing I could find to complain about were the French fries, which were a bit bland for their $7 price point.
While we're on the topic of prices, everything is very reasonable. Appetizers run $7-$16 (with most $12 or less), salads are $10-$16 (plus $5-$8 if you add chicken, shrimp, steak, or salmon), sandwiches are all around the $12-$16 range (except for the $25 filet mignon sliders), and entrees are all within a few bucks on either side of the $20 mark. Our bill with one shared appetizer and one shared dessert plus three sandwiches, tax, and tip worked out to be about $25 per person.
Service was fantastic - friendly and efficient.
Despite their names, the two Public Houses in Vegas are very different animals so it's tough to compare them and impossible to pick one over the other. I recommend them both.
A Look Back: 600 Weekly Columns & 2006
In a couple of 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 598th so if things go according to plan we'll see 600 right around 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 by. This week it's time to look back at 2006, which is when we said hello to Red Rock Resort, South Point, and the Phantom of the Opera; we said goodbye to The Stardust, the Boardwalk, and The Castaways; we heard about some wild ideas for Vegas casinos including those with sports and water themes; and I went to Keith and Jen's wedding and wound up on a stripper pole. The two didn't have anything to do with each other but... well, just read on...
The Stardust Hotel & Casino, in business since 1958, will be closing later this year and torn down in 2007 to make way for a $4 billion development to be called Echelon Place it was announced last week. The 60-plus acre project from parent company Boyd Gaming will contain a grand total of 5,300 hotel rooms operating under four different banners.
The first, and by far the biggest, is the Boyd owned and operated Echelon Resort, a $2.9 billion hotel and casino that will feature 3,300 rooms - 2,600 "standard" units in one tower and 700 suites in a second. Next will be a Las Vegas version of the chic Los Angeles hotel The Mondrian that will feature 1,000 rooms and a separate check-in, pool, restaurants, bars, and more. The same group that is creating the Mondrian will also create a 600 room Delano hotel, patterned after the South Beach resort of the same name. Finally, one of the leading hotel groups in Asia will build a 400 room Shangri-La hotel, complete with a 20,000 square-foot casino.
At the center of all of this accommodation madness is a massive casino and entertainment facility. It will feature 140,000 square-feet of casino space (that's second only to MGM Grand on The Strip), a 350,000 square-foot shopping facility (roughly the same size as Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes), a 4,000-seat theater for major productions and concerts, a 1,500 seat theater for smaller events, 1 million square-feet of convention space, a giant pool and recreation area, and another spa.
By the way, some people have been asking me for clarity on what is going where on that particular chunk of real estate. Pretty much everything from the border of Monte Carlo to Bellagio is being torn down with the exception of the Jockey Club time-share towers. That will stay and a completely separate casino-hotel-condo project called the Cosmopolitan will be built around it. Project CityCenter will start at Monte Carlo and stretch northward behind the Cosmopolitan project.
The $4 billion project, dubbed Ultimate Sports Resort, would feature 5,500 rooms, a casino, and several sporting and exhibition venues including a 26,000-seat arena, a 10,000 seat arena, a 5,000-seat aquatic arena, a bowling alley, an ice rink, and several other facilities of various sizes to accommodate other events. If it happens, it will go on a 116-acre chunk of land near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a few miles north of The Strip.
According to the group driving the project they hope to break ground before the end of the year and have the whole thing up and running by 2009, however there is a lot of speculation that this may be yet another one of those situations where people make grand pronouncements without necessarily having the resources to back it up. Matt Rose, the CEO of the organization behind USR, is still trying to line up investors ($4 billion worth of them, mind you) and is also being sued by a former business partner who claims that Rose stole the idea.
The owners of the Alexis Park deny that a sale is in the works but the stories that appeared in various news outlets insist that Wenner is floating a $500 million project that would fit in nicely along the up and coming Harmon Avenue corridor. In addition to The Hard Rock (and its billion dollar expansion now underway), several hip and happening projects are in the works including the George Clooney and Rande Gerber Las Ramblas resort, the W Hotel, and the upcoming transformation of The Aladdin into Planet Hollywood.
There are lots of questions remaining about the specific details of the project but the biggest is this: when will it happen. Typically of Aztar, they aren't saying. Currently the hotel is only taking reservations through April 15 but that cutoff date has been moved dozens of times and there's no indication that it is a firm date now either. The Tropicana is making money and so pulling the plug to cut off any revenue for the 2 1/2 years it would take to build a new resort is a daunting prospect at best.
I became acquainted with the Roanoke, Virginia couple a few months ago when Keith sent me an e-mail saying he had given copies of my Moon Handbooks Las Vegas to family members as Christmas presents. They were planning on being married in Vegas in April 2006 and wanted to make sure the guests knew everything there was to see and do in the city during the non-ceremony portions of the weekend. He jokingly asked if I wanted to come to the wedding, casually mentioning there would be an open bar at the reception.
He obviously didn't know me very well. Open bar? I'm there, dude.
The new resort would feature 2,750 rooms and suites and unlike most other recently announced projects it is not intended to be a super-luxury development. Instead, Ruffin plans to go after the upper middle market that these days are usually found at places like The Mirage, Paris Las Vegas, and New York-New York.
There will be a big casino of course and all of the other accoutrement expected with a modern Las Vegas resort including a full array of restaurants, nightclubs, entertainment venues, shopping, and meeting space.
The whole thing will be wrapped up in a package that will not be a Paris or Venetian style replica of its namesake but rather will evoke Montreux in other ways. Ruffin is even reportedly negotiating bringing part of the famed jazz festival to Las Vegas and will focus heavily on the musical style to get the point across.
The biggest and most eye-catching detail about the new hotel, however, will be the giant Ferris wheel planned for the front. Long planned for Vegas at various locations, the 450-foot tall observation wheel will feature glass-enclosed, climate-controlled cabins much like the London "Eye" wheel that it is modeled after.
Then things got out of control.
Three other companies leapt into what turned into a massive and unprecedented bidding war for the company with share price bids being topped almost every day. $39 a share. $41 a share. Did I say $41, I meant $45. No, look over here... I'll give you $48! And a pony!
Two months of this kind of shenanigans ensued and the price climbed higher and higher, reaching levels that most gaming analysts were either privately or publicly referring to as ludicrous. But the bidding continued and two of the apparently less intense competitors fell out early leaving just Pinnacle and Columbia Sussex as the sparring partners.
Well, last week it appears that the end of the war has finally been reached. And the winner is... Columbia Sussex, whose final offer of $54 a share (or roughly $2.75 billion) made Pinnacle Entertainment take their checkbook and walk away.
The land has been sold to Edge Resorts for a whopping $75 million and will be incorporated into their W Hotel and Residences, planned for the adjoining plot of land at the corner of Harmon and Koval. That project, with 3,000 units and a 75,000-square-foot casino will get a neighbor of smaller boutique hotels surrounding a second casino according to Edge Resorts spokespeople.
Disappointing pre-sales of the condo units and increasing construction costs doomed the Las Ramblas project, something that is happening to a lot of the previously announced condo complexes. But apparently the W is doing well and the first phase is 200 percent reserved, again according to spokespeople. That part should open by 2009.
August 29, 2006 is "Paris Hilton Day" in Las Vegas and if that's not a sign of the apocalypse I don't know what is.
By the way, the press release I received [about the event] does contain a disappointing note: "Please note: Due to heat conditions causing possible safety issues, the world-record attempt touted as "The World's Heaviest Pig in a Blanket" has been postponed."
I'm telling you. The end of the world as we know it.
Las Vegas Wet is the working title of the resort being planned by a couple of high-profile developers who got their amusement/attraction cred working for Disney and Universal Studios. They say they have more than $1 billion lined up to execute on their dream of creating the largest indoor water amusement facility in the world.
The project would include two 600-room hotels, one for the water park and one for the ski dome. The entire facility would be divided up into a series of lands much like an amusement park. Luxe Lagoon is the centerpiece with a gigantic indoor wave pool, a beach, and a series of water slides. This would link to adjacent lands such as Survivor Island, a tropical themed area with shaded beaches and pools; Painted Desert Oasis, with landscaping reminiscent of the nearby Valley of Fire State Park (plus some waterfalls and water slides); Vintage Vegas, with more pools and slides surrounded by classic Sin City neon and iconography; Glacier Bay, with ice formations surrounding warm and cold pools; and the Hidden Riviera Beach Club, an adults only section offering "European" bathing (read: topless). The whole thing would be connected by a river ride spreading across 30 acres that would let people choose a lazy surf from one land to another or a more adventurous white water trip.
The other big feature would be the Snow Dome, and indoor ski resort complete with a its own hill, snow, and a variety of skiing and snowboard courses.
In addition the project will feature dining, entertainment, nightclub, and retail components; a 5,000 seat events arena; a casino; a spa; and a movie theater.
I'm usually pretty leery of wild ideas like this (anyone remember the Moon Las Vegas concept?) but the people behind it seem to have enough of a track record in creating these kinds of family entertainment complexes and sound pretty serious about where they are at in the process.
The developers say they are close to closing a deal for a big chunk of land on Las Vegas Boulevard south of Interstate 215 (that's a couple of miles south of Mandalay Bay) but wouldn't say exactly where. If all goes well they hope to have the place up and running by 2008 or 2009 at the latest.
I stopped in The Stardust last week to take one last look at the place before it closes for good and remembered that this was one of the first places I ever gambled, winning what I considered at the time to be a pretty stunning $100 on a quarter machine way back in my glorious youth.
From the review of Dan Marino's Fine Food & Spirits, a restaurant that was at Hooter's
From the review of magician Dirk Arthur's show, which played at The Tropicana
From the review of Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, which played at The Venetian
From the review of BOA, a steakhouse that was at Caesars Palace
From the review of Fashionistas, a show that played at Planet Hollywood
From the review of American Storm, a male strip show that played at The Riviera
From the review of Bareback, a country music themed topless review that played at Harrah's
From the review of Lucky Cheng's, a drag queen nightclub/restaurant
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