MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
October 21, 2013
Gansevoort Out at Former Bill's Gamblin' Hall
Caesars Entertainment has suddenly dropped plans for the former Bill's Gamblin' Hall to become a Gansevoort branded hotel. While the renovation of the hotel will continue, the name and a few other details will change now the New York based hotel group has been taken out of the equation.
No official word on what caused the shake-up, but it appears to be tangentially related to Caesars Entertainment bowing out of the running for a proposed $1 billion casino in the Boston area. According to reports, gaming regulators in Massachusetts were running routine investigations on Caesars and uncovered alleged ties between a Gansevoort investor and the Russian mafia. Although Gansevoort had nothing to do with the Boston deal, the allegations were apparently enough to kill the company's involvement with the Las Vegas project.
Caesars dropped their bid for the Boston project, they say, because proposed gaming regulations were too stringent and set an "arbitrary, unreasonable, and inconsistent" standard.
Gansevoort, which runs several high-end luxury hotels around New York, was involved in the former Bill's project primarily in name only. The deal was to brand and market the new property as a Gansevoort but Caesars was going to still run the casino and the management of the hotel. The bulk of the now not-Gansevoort project will remain the same, with the hotel getting a top to bottom makeover, a new rooftop pool and nightclub from Victor Drai and a restaurant from Giada De Laurentiis. Whether Caesars picks their own name or pursues another name brand to partner with is yet to be seen.
The hotel is still targeting an early 2014 launch.
Downtown Update: Festival Getting Ready; Container Park Poised; New Shopping Approved
Life is Beautiful Festival Arrives Next Weekend
The finishing touches are being put on the 15 block area of Downtown slated to host the Life is Beautiful Festival next weekend. Massive murals are being painted on buildings around the festival grounds, part of the street art portion of the festival that will feature two days of music, food, art, and learning events. The event is expected to draw upwards of 50,000 people to the neighborhood.
Beck, Kings of Leon, Zedd, and Imagine Dragons are among the nearly 60 musical acts slated to perform; Cat Cora, Paul Bartolotta, Kerry Simon, and Hubert Keller and dozens of other chefs will be doing live cooking demonstrations; Michael Jackson ONE and several other Cirque du Soleil shows plus Jersey Boys, Million Dollar Quartet, and Rock of Ages will be performing numbers from their respective shows; art walks and the aforementioned murals will be presented from artists from around the world; and a speaker series will feature everyone from Cirque du Soleil executives and artists to actors and business executives.
I'm going to be there next weekend covering the festival, so there won't be a Weekly Column but I will be posting updates from the festival on the Vegas4Visitors.com Facebook group. Join the group or, if you aren't on Facebook, you can come back to Vegas4Visitors.com, scroll all the way to the bottom of just about any article page, and watch the feed of postings from there.
Downtown Container Park Sets November Debut
What do you get when you mix a fire-breathing praying mantis, an "immersion dome," and shipping containers? The Downtown Container Park, a new shopping and entertainment complex that is set to debut in mid-November.
The facility takes up most of the block at Fremont and 7th Streets, diagonally across the street from El Cortez and just a couple of blocks east of the Fremont Street Experience. Most of it has been constructed out of manufactured steel cubes and recycled shipping containers, which allowed developers to create it about six months instead of the year that traditional construction would've taken on a complex this size.
There will be 30 businesses including shops and boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and a barber shop located in a converted train caboose. There will be no "name brand" chain stores; instead they will focus on local and independent businesses that can provide a unique atmosphere. Dining will include local favorite Big Ern's BBQ; Bin 702 serving wine on tap and in bottles plus light sandwiches and salads; Pinches Tacos; and Pork 'n Beans, a beer and sausage garden with specialty hot and cold bean dishes.
A park at the center of the complex will feature a children's playground and a stage for live entertainment while the Catalyst Dome, a sister to the Vortex Dome in Los Angeles, will offer space for immersive events, concerts, movies, and more.
Fronting the entire thing will be a fire breathing praying mantis sculpture that was originally created for the Burning Man festival. It is 40 feet long and will occasionally shoot 12-foot flames.
The exact opening date is still TBD but developers are saying mid-November.
New Shopping Center Approved
The city council has approved a new 100,000 square-foot shopping center that will be built surrounding the Mob Museum. It is being proposed by the CIM Group, owners of the Downtown Grand, which is slated to open next weekend. It will replace the former city bus terminal, which now hosts a weekly farmer's market, and will seek to unify the Downtown 3rd neighborhood that includes the new hotel, bars like Hogs & Heifers, and the museum.
No tenants have been announced yet, but construction should start sometime next year and it should debut in 2015.
Show News: Jubilee! Makeover and Mamma Mia! Return
Mamma Mia!, which played for six years at Mandalay Bay, is going to returning to Vegas in a new production slated to take over the Tropicana theater next spring. The hit jukebox musical features the songs of Swedish pop group ABBA like "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me," and "SOS" driving a story about the planning of a wedding on a Greek isle that gets complicated when questions about who is actually the father of the bride arise. It has been playing for more than 10 years on Broadway, is in touring productions around the globe, and was even made into a movie with Meryl Streep.
It closed at Mandalay Bay in 2008 to make way for The Lion King, but the folks at the Tropicana think there is still plenty of audience interest in Vegas for a return. The show will be a brand-new, full-length production with an open-ended run and it is set to debut in May of 2014.
It will go into the newly renovated theater that was home to the long-running Folies Bergere showgirl extravaganza. The space has gotten an extreme makeover with new booths and tables up front and traditional theater seating behind that, now accommodating as many as 1,100 people.
Meanwhile, in other exclamation mark news, Jubilee! will undergo a major transformation next year of its own. The last remaining showgirl spectacle has been running at Bally's mostly unchanged for more than 30 years but now a new artistic director has been brought on board to reinvent the production while still remaining true to the original spirit of the show.
While the best of the show's main elements will be preserved as a nod to the past, including the signature costumes and a number of the most iconic sets, the choreography, staging, and music will be refreshed for today's audience. Frank Gaston Jr. is the man behind the grand plan, a director and choreographer that has worked with Michael Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Usher, and Beyonce
The show will close briefly after the first of the year but will reopen in spring 2014.
Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards
The Going Green in Style Award of the Week goes to MGM Resorts for their new fleet of six compressed natural gas powered Cadillac Escalades that are ferrying VIPs to Bellagio and Aria. This is the first such fleet of the luxury SUVs and they join the company's other CNG vehicles, which include 26 limousines.
The Smooth Grooves Award of the Week goes to Boyz II Men, the R&B singing group that has now extended its residency at The Mirage through 2014. The group most famous for their hits like "Motownphilly" and "One Sweet Day" take over the Terry Fator theater on select weekends and tickets for their January through April concerts are now available.
The Does It Really Have to Come Back Award of the Week goes to Sirens of TI, which is shutting down this week to make room for construction of a new shopping center on the corner of Treasure Island. The plan is to make the lagoon smaller and move where the pirate ship is parked, none of which will probably make the show any better when it comes back right before the end of the year.
Nightlife Review: Moon
Although the title of "Hottest Nightclub in Vegas" never actually got bestowed on Moon, the club continues to work hard to prove its bona fides as a party spot for the cool kids and those who like to hang around them.
After an interminable wait for one of the high-speed elevators you are whisked to the top floor of The Palms and unleashed into the Moon universe. It's smaller than some of the newer mega-clubs but still plenty big enough for your partying needs. Done in futuristic silvers, whites, and mirror effects the club is a multi-level paradise of thumping bass-beat insanity. There are multiple bars, a balcony overlooking the dance floor with seating available to anyone (not just VIP bottle service whales), and two outdoor patios (warning: it gets really windy up there so make sure you are paying attention to what is happening with that little black dress). The centerpiece is a retractable roof that opens up to provide views of the club's namesake.
The overall vibe of the place seems to be more college bar than you normally find at a place like this. Some of it is the crowd, which has a definite "duuuude" attitude, and some of it is the party-hearty staff, which includes random appearances by bikini-wearing hotties, blowing whistles and carrying signs that literally say "PARTY!" The end results is that the place feels like one where people are more interested in having a good time and less so in standing, posing, and judging - an attitude that pervades many nightclubs in this town. Although well past my party animal phase, this was a welcome change of pace.
The downsides include cover charges and drink prices that are as sky-high as the views. Plus waiting for those elevators to make your entrance or you escape are a pain in the duuuude.
But despite the issues and the fact that the "cool kids" don't hang out here very often, Moon remains a fun place to PARTY! At least that's what the bikini-wearing hotties said we should do.
Nightlife Review: The View
This space atop The Palms was originally a modern interpretation of the famed Playboy Club complete with dancing, gaming, and bunny-ear wearing, impossibly beautiful waitresses.
Now the room has been reinvented as The View, so named for the stunning ones it has from the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround much of the club. While waitresses are still impossibly beautiful, they no longer wear bunny ears and while there is still gaming, it's of the billiards, table shuffleboard, and Jenga variety instead of blackjack and craps. The purpose of this seems to be to give the club a cool, laid-back, hipster vibe - "Hey, let's ironically play Connect-4 and talk about an indie band that no one has ever heard of" - but it mainly just comes across as a vaguely amusing distraction.
To be honest, the club feels temporary in a couple of different ways. First, it seems as if the hotel needed something to do with the valuable square-footage once the Playboy Club went away and this game lounge concept was the best they could come up with on short notice. I will be surprised if this place is operating with the same concept a year from now.
Second, the crowd also felt "temporary," like they were stopping in to check it out but quickly restless to move on to something else.
They do have some interesting events such as a Final Friday held on, appropriately enough, the last Friday of every month. It features local artists creating new works on the fly and local bands performing. Check their calendar for details.
While I don't think The View is worth going out of your way to visit, you can get admission to it along with the vastly superior Moon nightclub right above it. Treat this like a place you stop by to get ready for the main event upstairs.