A Tale of Two Cities

I think these two stories illustrate the differences between Atlantic City and Las Vegas. A major property in one is bringing itself boldly into post-1991 style, while the other is redefining the casino resort. First things first from the Press:

“Purple and pink. Aye-yai-yai-yai-yai,” Mark Juliano moaned with obvious displeasure. “Have you ever seen so many lavender acoustic ceiling tiles in your life?”

Juliano was surrounded by enough flamboyant pink and purple hues to make even Liberace see red. Carpets, walls and ceiling decorations all screamed out in a bizzare confection of some of the gaudiest color schemes imaginable.

The outrageous decor was what made Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort so … well, special, when the mammoth Indian-themed gaming palace opened in 1990. Now it’s what makes the Taj Mahal so outdated.

“It’s seen its day,” said Juliano, chief operating officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. “You have to think back to when the casino opened. It was pretty amazing then. At the time, you had a color scheme that was hot, but it became dated. You can look at this place and know it was the late 1980s or early ’90s.”

Work crews are preparing to rip out the pink and purple decorations for a $50 million makeover that will give Donald Trump’s flagship casino a more stylish look. The interior upgrades are separate from a $250 million, 800-room hotel tower under construction at the Taj and scheduled to open in two years.

Trump Entertainment Resorts, the company formed to run Trump’s gaming empire following its exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, is rebranding the Taj to appeal to a more sophisticated and upscale customer base.

Plans include overhauling the stark main entryway that Trump executives joke reminds them of a Garden State Parkway rest stop. The bleak hallway, leading from the parking garage to the casino, had come to symbolize Trump’s former financial troubles. Now it will be transformed into a promenade of retail shops, restaurants and bathrooms to give the Taj a more inviting entrance.

Construction barriers and workers crowd the hallway now, but there are signs of what it will look like when finished this fall. The promenade’s anchor store is called Trump Exchange, a retail outlet devoted to Trump’s personal line of products and merchandise from his NBC reality TV show “The Apprentice.”

Muted palette integral to Taj’s $50M. revamp

I’ve never met Juliano, but I’m a little taken aback with his disdainful attitude towards the existing casino design. Sure, it’s tacky, but thousands of patrons have put up with it for years. Some, I’m sure, even believed that they were going to a premier property. So are they now just supposed to think, “yeah, I was an idiot for liking this ugly place.” Instead, maybe they’ll head to Borgata or Resorts. Ditto for the one-liner about the main entryway looking like a rest stop. We get the point, there’ll be changes, but how does that make the current consumer feel? It probably doesn’t enhance the stock price in the short term, either.

If they’d have redone the Taj in 1999, I’m guessing it would have looked a lot like the Aladdin. For a few years, people would have raved about it. But today, they’d be dercying the “caroonish over-theming” and demanding changes. I’m sure that in ten years muted earth tones might seem dated, as well.

I’m all in favor of overhauling the casino to reflect what’s current in the market–in fact I think it’s long overdue. When it’s done, it’ll be a tremendous positive for the company and the city. But pointing out the obvious–pink and purple is dated–and badmouthing the existing property seems…in poor taste.

Compare that $50 million investment to the $7 billion Project City Center from MGM Mirage. This will change the Strip forever. From the LV Sun:

In a city of whimsical designs – think pyramid, castle and New York skyline – two leaning, curving high-rise towers seem destined to emerge as an architectural icon in Las Vegas.

All they’ve got to do now is build them – no slam-dunk because of their unique design .

The towers will house 810 loftlike condominiums, soaring 36 stories above Las Vegas Boulevard and prominently serving as the gateway to MGM Mirage’s $7 billion CityCenter.

MGM Mirage revealed the final design of CityCenter a month ago to plenty of murmuring, most of it directed at what some real estate folk were calling “the leaning towers of Las Vegas.”

The towers are the creation of German-born architect Helmut Jahn, known for sleek, ultramodern exteriors and unusual shapes. His Murphy/Jahn firm in Chicago built the seven-building Sony Center in Berlin and the United Airlines terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

In order to plan CityCenter, the nation’s most expensive private construction project and its largest collaboration of name-brand architects, MGM Mirage split the project into three components, with the final piece – the retail and condominium area – coming together more recently.
Architects leaning toward Strip skies the sky in Las Vegas

I can’t help but notice no MGM execs are quoted as saying, “Excalibur is really dated. City Center is going be much better.”

Definitely read the article, which is very good.

I’ve got to respectfully disagree with Hess. I’m not an architecture critic, but I have researched the Strip pretty intensely. I think that the “leaning towers” might become the same kind of icon as the older ones he mentions. The problem will be that people associate the signs and buildings of Strip casinos with their times there. So everytime you see the Frontier sign, you remember how you got plastered and rode the mechanical bull for a brief, unsuccessful moment. I don’t think that a condo complex will have the same kind of personal significance for people.

That said, the Stratosphere tower, which is basically a generic (though impressive) observation tower has become a Vegas icon. I can see the leaning towers being the same kind of landmark as the Sydney Opera House–something whose visual impact transcends its actual day-to-day use.

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