Is Steve Wynn Rooting For CityCenter?
By STEVE FRIESS
It’s the conventional wisdom, so naturally Steve Wynn must do his best to explode it.
As we plod through this period of CityCenter launches that culminates on December 16 with the grand opening of the 4,004-room Aria, the response to skepticism about the project’s very premise is, again and again, to refer back to naysayers who predicted the doom of the Mirage when it bowed in 1989. The Review-Journal, in fact, built its entire Mirage-at-20 piece last month upon the notion that the sourpusses who insist on examining CityCenter’s potential through the lens of the current market and the questions about its lofty, unproved concepts are the same as those who doubted Steve Wynn two decades ago.
Nothing seems to piss Steve Wynn off more these days, not even Obamacare or Garth Brooks ticket scalpers.
“To compare CityCenter to Mirage is a ridiculous non sequitur,” he shouted into the phone last week. “It made a nice story, but it fails to examine the facts, like most of the stuff you guys write.”
Happy to pretend that by “you guys” he meant everyone but me, I pressed on. I had just finished two lengthy interviews with CityCenter President Bobby Baldwin, the executive Wynn plucked from the Golden Nugget poker room and made his first lieutenant and with whom he built the Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio. Baldwin parted ways with Wynn after MGM bought Mirage and has overseen CityCenter’s construction and development since it was but a bubble diagram conjured up by MGM Mirage’s then-president/now-CEO Jim Murren and design chief Bill Smith back in 2004.
“At the Mirage, we had nothing but negative publicity until the day we opened,” Baldwin recalled. “‘It’s gonna cost too much to run, it cost too much to build, it’s going to cannibalize the marketplace, the Las Vegas visitor volumes aren’t big enough for a place as large as Mirage.’ Then the day we opened, everyone went silent, and all they said were good things.”
Wynn didn’t deny that all of these things were said about the Mirage. It’s just different because while the Mirage was seen then as the great revolution of Las Vegas, all its moving parts had actually been seen and proven before.
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