Sunday, July 12, 2009

Harrah's Embraces The Mid-Market

Liz Benston of the Las Vegas Sun has a terrific piece in today's newspaper breaking news about Harrah's new plans for the Strip. It's as though someone over there finally realized that (a) there are already enough hotel rooms and that the high-end of the market doesn't need any more options and (b) Harrah's knows mid-market best and there's nothing shameful about admitting that.

The Harrah's solution is something called Project Link, a rendering of which is above courtesy of Harrah's Entertainment. Basically, instead of imploding the Imperial Palace, Harrah's and Flamingo, they want to enhance that section of the Strip as the center of gravity for the mid-market tourist who wants reasonable accommodations and a safe, fun place to drink, party and hookup. (It's fascinating, really, how the east side of the Boulevard from Harrah's to Bally's is for one tier and the west side of the same street from Caesars to Aria, is intended for an entirely different clientele, but I digress.)

As Benston explains it, Project Link would be a pedestrian mall area between the IP and the Flamingo from the Strip to Koval punctuated on the eastern end with a mammoth ferris wheel. Along the way, they envision a corridor of as many as 20 restaurants and bars opening out to the pedestrian area.

There are several reasons why this is a brilliant idea. For one, it just sounds like fun and a space where critical mass can build among those priced out or turned off by the posh nightclub scene. For another, from what I can tell it wouldn't create any new traffic problems and, in fact, could give new relevance to the Las Vegas Monorail, should it still be in business by then. And also, it wouldn't add any new gaming or hotel capacity.

The big loser could be Fremont Street because the ideas and target audiences are similar. But both have their own thing, and Project Link -- they'll have to have a better name for it, of course -- could never pretend to recreate an Old Vegas feel. So there's that.

Seems like a great idea. Too bad debt-overwhelmed Harrah's has no money to get going on it for quite a while and by then, God knows, they'll be on to another Big Idea. And none of this resolves the question of what Harrah's plans to do with its extensive land holdings east of the Strip. You might recall their last Big Idea was to build an unnecessary traffic-disaster of a sports arena behind Bally's.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I think this is the best idea in Las Vegas is at leasst 4 years, admitting the mid-market is a desirable part of the Strip. I have never stayed at Imperial Palace, and have no plans to ever stay there, but the rendering reminds me of the biggest need of the IP: more elevators. I hope the Harrah's propellor heads can figure out how to work more than 6 elevators into the IP courtyard.

Jeff in OKC

Charles in Richmond, VA said...

It appears that O'Shea's gets choped up or totally coverted. There goes my morning breakfast at Burger King. The current O'Shea's and Flamingo trash docks on that street get moved elsewhere as well as the Group Bus pick up for the Flamingo. That area of the Flamingo has been dead for years.

Anonymous said...

It looks inviting. Even people who stay on the "posh" side are sometimes staying at those hotels at special-offer budget rates so they can have a nice place to stay, but can't really afford the restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping in those places. There are not that many decent, cheerful things to do or places to eat that aren't expensive in Vegas, a lot of downmarket stuff is just depressing (like Fremont Street, plus it's out of the way). It makes more sense to spend capital doing something like this than building yet another resort/condo/hotel, which are also on hold. Good way to keep dollars and room stays flowing into Vegas.

Anonymous said...

It's almost like they are paying attention to what Phil Ruffian is doing over at the TI.


Ryan said...

If that street is a dead end, I think it will severely challenge the success of the project. I think one of the main traffic drivers of the Forum shoppes is that people walking down the strip can use the forum shoppes as an air-conditioned walkway to do so.

Troy in Las Vegas said...

It appears this project would result in Flamingo losing one of its' two parking garages.
Also, the Monorail would not serve the zone all that well. The closest stations are at I.P. and Flamingo and require walking through those facilities.


Troy: There's long been talk of opening up monorail stations to exiting to the street. Jim Murren told me in an interview on the show a while back he's for it, although he only has one resort on it, so big whoop for him!

While Harrah's might not like allowing street access behind Paris b/c of the proximity to P-Ho, I imagine they'd happily embrace it in this instance where they own everything anyway.

Also, I'm pretty sure if any of this ever came to be, they'd find a way to make the parking work. They'd have to, per county law. It's just a rendering.

Indeed, it's really just an interesting dream. They're not putting any shovels in the ground for a very, very long time.