Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mass panic at Bellagio on March 27?

The Review-Journal's Howard Stutz did a fine job illuminating some of the machinations behind the curtains at MGM Mirage in late March when CityCenter dangled perilously on the brink of bankruptcy. In fact, between that piece and Arnold Knightly's piece in which Harrah's CEO Gary Loveman defends the decision to go private, today's business section is full of important comments by which we will be measuring the success and failure of the corporate powers-that-be in town for a while.


This dramatic detail in the MGM piece is quite baffling and difficult to believe:

Inside MGM Mirage's corporate headquarters at the Bellagio, Chief Financial Officer Dan D'Arrigo sat at a conference table with company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren. They were waiting for word that a majority of the company's banks were willing to let MGM Mirage make the payment.

Suddenly, the floor-to-ceiling windows aligning the spacious office that once belonged to Bellagio builder Steve Wynn began to shake.

News helicopters from Las Vegas' television stations were hovering overhead, waiting to capture the exodus of construction workers when the CityCenter site was shuttered.

"It was pretty surreal," D'Arrigo recalled.

I bet! So surreal, in fact, that it's hard to conceive of how this could possibly have actually occurred without the helicopters coming so close to the building that thousands of guests who were much higher up and thus closer to the choppers didn't freak out and stampede out of there. I don't recall hearing about that, did you?

As it happens, I'm married to an expert of sorts, the executive producer of one of the local stations, so I asked whether it made any sense to him. My partner was dubious. Unless the helicopter was actually landing on the building, it wouldn't make it shake. That happens at the Miles' studio, for instance, but that's a pretty little building, not the massive fortress that is one of the largest resorts in the world.

Beyond the legal air-space issues involved with a helicopter coming so close to any structure that it would make it tremble, it's also questionable that the local TV news stations would have their helicopters hanging out over CityCenter for any length of time anyway. It just costs too much. It's possible they were grabbing some fly-by footage, but to linger is not a terribly effective use of scarce resources -- the local TV stations get only a certain amount of fly time each month before they have to pay extra -- when they could be over CityCenter in minutes if workers were suddenly streaming off the job site. Or, since this was occurring in the morning, could it be the choppers were just observing traffic conditions on I-15 as they are wont to do?

Finally, there's a logistics question here. I could be wrong -- and I'll happily correct myself if so -- but the corporate offices at the Bellagio have no real view of CityCenter. They are located back by the art gallery near the pool in the middle of the resort. If they even face south -- I just can't remember and this photo doesn't help me much -- they surely have a pretty lousy sightline of CityCenter, what with the Spa Tower and Cosmopolitan standing in the way. For news helicopters to be so close to those offices in the inner sanctum of a place like Bellagio that the windows would shake would mean even they were in exactly the wrong place for whatever shot they were supposedly seeking.

My suspicion is that someone heard a chopper or two, maybe even saw it, and drew the conclusions that Stutz reported D'Arrigo as claiming. It's not a big deal, just something that the more I thought about today, the more I wondered about.


Anonymous said...

Nope, no view from the Bellagio offices - they're at ground level, nestled back near the O theater and Frank Sinatra Drive.

They'd have to be standing on the roof and even then, all they would see is the Bellagio Spa Tower and Vdara. They completely block that view.


Anonymous said...

oh, steve. you're such a literalist. do you really expect reporters to THINK through the details they stenograph? come now...