All those flood, search, strobe, and neon lights along the Las Vegas Strip don’t pay for themselves. A gaming and hospitality firm such as MGM Resorts International will throw down big bucks to maintain its place on the famous thoroughfare, even as, in the case of MGM Resorts, it’s also working to expand into new markets.
The Paradise, Nevada-based company changed its name from MGM Mirage in 2010 to reflect the new international reach of its brands and its increased non-gaming strategy. And, with the help of Joyen Vakil, vice president of design and development, the business now has a 100 million-square-foot, 40,000-room portfolio. In addition, more than 100 new MGM projects are in one stage of development or another—roughly 10 are in active, daily status—with budgets ranging from $30,000 to $250 million.
To manage all this work with its limited team, MGM turns to a large network of consultants. Many of these collaborators, including RDH & Associates, have grown so close to the firm and so trusted that they’re practically family. “They don’t really call me a ‘consultant,’” RDH Interests, Inc. owner and designer Randall Huggins says of his relationship with MGM Resorts, which predates even Vakil’s hiring. “They call me an ‘associate company’ because I’ve been around so long and I know all their processes and procedures. It’s like being an extension of their company.”
In addition to expanding its reach worldwide, ensuring that MGM Resorts’ flagship properties in Las Vegas remain relevant is also critical to the company’s success. Vakil and his team have engaged in a number of local projects, concentrating on renovations of Strip staples such as the MGM Grand and the Monte Carlo. Here’s a full look at their progress in America’s gambling mecca.
When the MGM Grand opened in 1993, it was the largest hotel and casino in the world by room number, with a theme based on The Wizard of Oz. By 2011, though, it was the second-largest hotel, with almost no trace of its Wizard past, and by its own admission, it had begun to seem dated. MGM Resorts recognized the need to update the hospitality space and bring back its cachet.
In October 2011, Vakil and his team began what they dubbed the “Grand Renovation,” which included $160 million in refurbishments to 3,570 grand king and queen guest rooms and 642 suites. MGM Resorts was able to convert all the rooms to a new, contemporary design meant to appeal to everybody.
Additionally, Vakil and his team introduced a new kind of room to the hotel—one designed specifically with guests’ health in mind, called “The Stay Well Room.” Each unit includes a tailored menu for the minibar, advanced room lighting meant to assist in melatonin production, and even shower water infused with vitamin C.
MGM Resorts also revamped the casino floor, the venues, and all the building’s restaurants, and it completed basic upgrades such as LED lighting retrofits and new soffit work. Special attention was given to the casino carpet and its pathways, which RDH & Associates helped design to optimize public circulation. The project wrapped late in 2012.
The Monte Carlo and New York-New York Master Plan
MGM Resorts recently announced details about a world-class 20,000-seat arena it is developing in partnership with AEG. The plans for the space include new Strip-side experiences at the Monte Carlo and New York-New York resorts as well as a public park leading to the new state-of-the-art venue. Construction began on the outdoor experiences at both properties in April 2013, and MGM Resorts expects the work to be completed in early 2014.
At Monte Carlo, the current formal, European-style exterior features will be removed to make way for new partnering businesses, including Double Barrel, a casual roadhouse restaurant and bar concept created by the leading hospitality experts at sbe; Sambalatte, the ultimate coffeehouse chain for Las Vegas locals (and soon to be available to visitors); and 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, serving carefully prepared build-your-own personal pizzas that are baked for roughly a minute in an 800-degree wood-burning oven, right before guests’ eyes.
New York-New York will modify its skyline and Brooklyn Bridge structures to create a wonderful environment brought to life through a vibrant patio culture and new retailers. Anchoring the experience will be Hershey’s Chocolate World, a two-story interactive, experiential destination that will celebrate the incredible array of Hershey’s-brand products that inspire the “Hershey’s Happiness” mantra. Additionally, the hotel’s Irish pub, Nine Fine Irishmen, will be enhanced with an expansion of its high-energy patio culture, both on the casino floor and on the Brooklyn Bridge.