Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pictorial: Taxi Tunnels!

Back in December 2008 when Steve Wynn walked me through the soon-to-open Encore Las Vegas, he made an off-handed remark about how the taxi staging areas at his resorts are decorated to entertain cabbies. It was a little thing and, while I made a mental note to follow up, I never did.

One listener who was fascinated by that notion was Diane Taylor, a writer and weekly contributor to the blog at Living-Las-Vegas.Com. Taylor was the one who won the KNPR auction in February and donated $370 for lunch with me and Miles. Wynn Las Vegas donated the lunch to KNPR, so today Miles and I honored her donation with a terrific visit at Society Encore with her and her husband.

Diane had made one extra request. She wanted to know if the Wynn would show us the taxi tunnels. And so I asked the PR folks and, sure enough, they were happy to oblige.

First, we went down into the Encore tunnel. That's where that sign above leads to. It's a two-lane, 15-car length area with reddish orange walls adorned with flat-screen TVs tuned to ESPN.

Along the walls, too, were these murals. All of them involved drawings of sexy ladies and some sort of subterranean (as opposed to subliminal, natch) message about something related to the resort. For instance, this one...

...features the blonde there saying to nobody in particular: "Botero restaurant features two of famed Columbian artist Fernando Botero's sculptures and three of his paintings."

This one's fun, too:

It's a run-of-the-mill pajama party, see, and the redhead who happened to show up in a French maid outfit and seems to have a duster protruding from her mouth, says, "The high rollers can be found in the private Sky Casino, which is located at the top floor of Encore." Naturally, then, the only reasonable reply from the blonde trying to make the blood rush to her head is, "Did you know that our largest suite is 5,800 square feet and includes three bedrooms, an elevator and butler service?"

I did, actually.

This one took two frames to shoot:

This time, it's a lineup of cocktail waitresses. The bubble on the right says, "It's interesting to know that Mrs. Wynn directs the designs of all staff attire" and the lady to her left asked, "Did you know Mr. Wynn began his career in 1967 as part-owner, slot manager and assistant credit manager of the Frontier hotel?" That's fun, but wouldn't it have been even better if she had said, "Did you know that Mr. Wynn once called the Frontier Hotel the single biggest toilet in Las Vegas?"

Meanwhile, at the pool... woman says, "Inspired by the French Riviera, the pools at Encore are at the heart of the activity" while the ladies to the far right are marveling, "The restaurant Wazuzu features a crystal dragon made of 90,000 crystals and 2,400 flickering lights."

There's also a restroom down there as well as signs indicating that the hotel holds a weekly NFL contest where taxi drivers who pick winning teams win stuff.

Obviously, the point here is to give cabbies something fun to look at and perhaps fill their heads with some good selling points while they wait to pick up passengers. Wynn started the taxi tunnel idea with Bellagio because he didn't like the way that the line of taxis looked at Mirage and Treasure Island.

LVCabChronicles, a Vegas taxi driver who blogs and Tweets about the trade, says that Paris, Riviera and Aria also have tunnels. He says cabbies are generally pleased with the Wynn folks and that "there is no question Mr. Wynn cares about the cabbies," but he also noted when I asked about the downsides:

"They are tunnels. You can get trapped in there, for sure. If business is slow and you commit to that tunnel, you can be in there a while. If a regular calls, I can't get them, I'm stuck. If my shift is over, I'm stuck. Plus, Wynn's driveway in general is way too small for the amount traffic coming and going, which lead to many cabbies hating that place at first. ... Worth noting: multiple companies forbid drivers from pick up at these properties when it rains. It gets very very slick in those tunnels."

Noted. And speaking of the Wynn tunnel, here we go.

The Wynn Las Vegas tunnel is lined with images of race cars. It's not quite the buxom babes spouting sweet somethings about the resort, but whatever. Here are some more shots:

I can sure see how that could get claustrophobic. There is, too, a unisex bathroom down here. LVCabChronicles said the vast majority of taxi stands at Vegas resorts don't have restrooms easily accessible to drivers. None of the other taxi waiting areas, he wrote, are decorated at all.

He also had praise for Bellagio, which "has a nice setup with a picnic table and vending machines and the restroom for drivers. They also have a dry-erase board that indicates the exact number of check ins/outs at that hotel that week which can be useful for drivers."

Hey! That could be useful to nosy journalists, too! Just saying!

Anyhow, that was a fun look-see at something most people don't ever think about or get to view. The Wynn fellow who drove us took us through the underground valet area of the hotel and we passed this:

That's the maintenance and storage area for the Ferraris that are sold at the resort.

Finally, since everyone's so curious, here's a shot of the new Switch Beach Club and Surrender Nightclub being built where Encore's west valet used to be. I was intrigued by the bridge built from Wynn self-park's second level because I wonder if that's going to be a faster way just to get to Encore from that garage without having to walk all the way around the resort.

But mostly, I wondered: What happened to the taxi tunnel for that valet stand?


MrFunkMD said...

On an unrelated note, I really did dig your Gossiness piece. I remember thinking that when I first read about them penning that deal at the Palms, (probably in the Weekly) I had the distinct feeling that it wasn't going to last. And to your point, I think anybody, particularly those in the public eye, that tries to gloss themselves is asking for it.

I hope and believe that any true artist would focus on just that, and let the accolades take care of themselves.

Interestingly, I know that the Human Nature production has offered two comp tickets for all cabbie/limo drivers on at least one occasion, but I believe it was a few times actually. Goss on the other hand, is one of the very few vegas productions that has done no such thing. Come to think of it, the list of shows in vegas to never have offered comps for drivers is very elite. Celine never did, but she didn't need our help did she? Garth won't, but he doesn't need God's help. In my six years I don't recall ever getting O tickets although it's possible they did prior to my driving. And hey guess what, they probably don't need our help either. Literally every other show in town at some point offers tickets to drivers. (We're sorry Criss Angel, but we can only do so much ya know?)

That said we'd be wrong to assume that this is strictly Goss. Undoubtedly these are precisely the types of things that promoters, agents and managers conjure. To throw it all onto his ego is probably not fair. Hard to say without knowin the guy.

It was only a few months after Danny Gans' passing when I seen an ad on the back of a cab for Perry Danos. It said, "The new voice of Vegas." And it had a picture of the guy. It didn't even have any casino ties or show dates or times anything. Just an ad for the guy. I thought it was bizarre. So much so, and I guess I think like you, I tweeted something to that effect. I didn't know his page or whatever so I just typed his name in and that I thought it was strange to call himself that when he's never even played here.

A day later I got a response from what I believed was his label and they told me how great Perry is and offered some links so I could download some tracks. (This is all in the Twitter record if it goes back that far.) I was thinking, shouldn't they be offering me tickets? Oh wait, he doesn't have a show here.

Some time later I seen that he did a weekend of shows, literally 3 nights at The Orleans. And I seen again, just this past weekend, he did another weekend stint there. So to my knowledge the guy has done 6 nights here in a year but he's "the new voice of Vegas". If you say so I guess.

There's a billboard up right now on WB 215 circa LV BLVD that advertised this weekend.

You asked if it was bad that you didn't know who that was... What was the name of your Weekly column again? Yeah, I'd say it's pretty bad haha.

That's probably way too long of a comment but I appreciate your work good Sir. As a student of the craft, I enjoy your renderings tremendously.


MrFunkMD said...

Bravo. I knew you we working on something. ;) Believe me I'm sure people are excited to hear about something they would normally never get too. My entire blog is based on this idea really. (thanks for the plug btw)

Your ending was perfect as I was thinking later that I had forgotten to mention that tunnel and what will, in fact, come of it? Which brings me to the Paris one. You left out a crucial bullet which was that it also is no longer used.

Speaking of the Mirage, you are in a position to confirm or deny a rumor I've heard many times- Is it true that the reason the cab stand at Mirage is so jacked up, is that the property was initially conceived and developed without one? The supposed reason for this is that Mr. Wynn envisioned all of his guests, as he was trying to raise the bar in Las Vegas, arriving and departing in limousines? The rumor goes that they were not open for long before realizing that that wasn't going to work. ...It seems far fetched to me, but considering how obtuse that stand is, the only plausible conclusion is that there was nothing in the original design to account for one.

Hiker said...

Great story and photos!

Anonymous said...

So what did Aria do for the cabbies? Any food and restroom facilities? Just curious if they took the idea from the Bellagio and applied it.


MrFunkMD said...

If you'd like Steve I can address SG' question.

The tunnel at Aria has two bathrooms and a couple of vending machines. Outside of that-problems abound.

Prior to Aria opening we were told by mgmt, via a fax from Aria, that there was indeed going to be a tunnel there but not to worry, as there was to be an "out". Some way to avoid the problems that myself, and all other drivers have described.

This of course, is not the case and once you commit to that tunnel you are not getting out until you load. Furthermore the stand has many sharp turns, dips, downgrades and worst of all a lot of pillars that you have to slalom. Again, a very poor design. Ad to that, all of the ramps leading out of these dungeons to the loading zones are steep and this is the reason company's forbid drivers from going in there when it rains. ...and the ramp at the Aria is by far the steepest and the longest. I had twitted before that you're going to need chains to get out of there if it rains.

...All the drivers behind you have to stay way back. You put it in 1st and hug either wall on your way up. And keep it reaaaaal slow. This is a must. This is your only shot at making it. If you spin those tires in the oil you're screwed. You're going to end up in the fence or even worse, sliding back down.

What's shocking, is that this nonsense pales to the fact that you cannot get to Aria from Frank Sinatra Dr. We're spending 9 billion and I can't get to it from the road that boarders it? That was one thing they borrowed from the Bellagio, and the both of them are the only properties on the west side of the strip that you CANNOT ACCESS from Frank Sinatra Dr. or Industrial Rd.. Absolutely moronic if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Funk - Thanks for the insight. Hopefully they will put some coating on the concrete to make it easier in the rain.