Sunday, July 12, 2009
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.