Bellagio inspires new era for Las Vegas
Newspaper Articles from different sources
By Brian Greenspun (contact)
Saturday, Oct. 17, 1998 | 7:11 a.m.
The Bellagio is no mirage.
When Steve Wynn changed the landscape and future of Las Vegas with the opening of the Mirage hotel-casino in 1989, the naysayers -- those who continue to predict doom and gloom for our community in the hopes, I suppose, that one time they are going to guess right -- retreated in awe and with a degree of respect for what visionaries could create with adequate capital and the determination that comes from the heart of a gambler.
Following the Mirage's lead, Las Vegas' builders opened the kind of resorts the world had never seen and ushered in a boom time for the Entertainment Capital of the World that made everyone else sit up and take notice. And then they rested.
Well, they didn't exactly go to sleep, but they started to dream again. Five years ago, the man who changed the face of Las Vegas challenged himself and his talent-laden colleagues to do it all over again. By that time the pirate ships in front of the Treasure Island were destroying each other on the hour and the pyramid at Luxor was shining its presence heavenward through the the Southern Nevada sky. Our town was booming and the prospect of a whole new round of megaresorts was a distant thought for many people who were convinced we had grown enough for awhile.
I cannot recall a single time in the history of Las Vegas when a new hotel exceeded expectations or pre-opening hype. For certain, many have met what we had all hoped would be the "next level" of Las Vegas resorts but none have gone beyond what had been prescribed in press releases and pre-opening word of mouth.
New York-New York comes to mind as a hotel that reached the level of public expectation. So did the incredible transformation of the Desert Inn from a tired not-so-sure-of-itself structure to a place of beauty and refinement. The Luxor's new look finally meshes with its outstanding architecture and the new suites at the Hilton have disappointed no one.
But, the opening Thursday night of the $1.6 billion Bellagio, by all accounts, was a first for Las Vegas. Whether it was words like "extraordinary and incredible" from the fortunate few who were able to experience the hotel ahead of the throng, or descriptions using the word "awesome" in ways not yet heard from the public as it entered the majestic old-world charm of the new Las Vegas, it was clear that Bellagio had surpassed all it was expected to be.
I cannot improve on the words that the Sun's Gary Thompson used to describe this magnificent edifice in a story last week but, as wonderfully poetic and inspiring as they were, they still did not do justice to what Steve Wynn has created.
The test, of course, is now that it has been built, will they come? That is the question of the day and one, the answer to which, may determine the finishing touches on the next group of megaresorts that are under construction right now.
When the Mirage was opened, the challenge was to make somewhere around $1 million a day just to pay the bills. It was an unheard of amount and one that was exceeded from the moment the doors were first opened. Today's challenge at Bellagio is more than twice that amount and no one is certain that the people needed to make that nut are ready and willing to make the trip.
If they are, though, the hotels currently under construction -- the Venetian, Mandalay Bay and Paris -- will feel comfortable making the extra investments needed to follow Bellagio into the next chapter of Las Vegas life. Some of them or, perhaps, a new resort not yet off the drawing board, will surpass what Bellagio has created, although I doubt that will happen anytime soon.
Despite the temporary economic doldrums we are experiencing around the globe which provide fodder for the legions of naysayers still looking for a lucky guess, I believe that all that is Bellagio -- from the incredible art to the dancing waters, from the restaurant masterpieces to the flowerfull conservatory, and from the service with a smile staff to the mind-boggling "O" which can only be described as "oh, my" -- will do more than enough to keep us No. 1 in the world.
New and exciting hotels will follow. That is the history of Las Vegas and the nature of our builders. It is also the nature of the working men and women who strive to make these beautiful edifices come alive to provide the can't-be-duplicated experiences that bring our tourists back again and again.
In the end, though, as it was in the beginning of Las Vegas, we owe much to people like Steve Wynn who are not afraid to bet on their dreams. He has built the best that there can be, for now.
How do I know? Because the people will come and tell him so.
Bellagio posts opening revenue of $244.1 mil.
Monday, Feb. 22, 1999 | 11:09 a.m.
The Bellagio hotel-casino blasted out of the starting gates last October, boosting Mirage Resorts Inc.'s revenues and cash flows in the final quarter of 1998 despite being open only 77 days.
But costs associated with opening the $1.6 billion resort caused the company to lose $20.1 million in the quarter. The Bellagio also drew customers away from Mirage's other resorts, a "cannibalization effect" analysts say was in line with their expectations.
In the fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 31, Mirage Resorts lost $20.1 million, or 11 cents per share, down from earnings of $49.3 million, or 26 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. But revenues increased from $377.3 million a year ago to $572.6 million.
For the year, Mirage Resorts earned $81.7 million, or 43 cents per share, compared to $207.6 million, or $1.08 per share in 1997. Revenues increased to $1.68 billion in 1998 from $1.55 billion in 1997.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- cash flows or EBITDA -- increased from $91.4 million in the fourth quarter of 1997 to $119.6 million.
The increased revenues and cash flows, as well as the quarterly losses, were all due to the Bellagio. The resort generated $244.1 million in revenues, and $53 million in cash flows in the quarter.
But $88 million in opening costs -- which included hiring and training employees and operating the reservation office and marketing departments -- dragged earnings down. Without the non-recurring opening costs, Mirage Resorts would have earned 20 cents per share in the quarter.
Bellagio also had an effect on other Mirage Resorts properties. Revenues and cash flows were down at each of the company's other Las Vegas properties.
At the Mirage hotel-casino, revenues dropped from $202.3 million in the fourth quarter of 1997 to $161.2 million, while cash flows dropped from $52.2 million to $35.6 million. At the Treasure Island hotel-casino, revenues dropped to $95 million in the fourth quarter from $101.5 million in the year-ago quarter, while cash flows declined from $27 million to $20 million.
Revenues at the downtown Golden Nugget hotel-casino fell from $52.3 million in the fourth quarter of 1997 to $51.3 million, while cash flows dropped from $10.5 million to $9.2 million.
The Golden Nugget-Laughlin was the only Mirage Resorts property to buck the trend, posting cash flow increases from $1.8 million to $2.1 million though revenues declined from $14.3 million to $14.2 million. Mirage revenues from the partially-owned Monte Carlo Strip resort were flat.
Analysts say Bellagio clearly drew business away from the other Mirage Resorts properties, but say that was expected.
"There was cannibalization at the Mirage (hotel-casino), but that was expected," said Jason Ader, an analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc.
"To some degree, the Mirage was down a little bit because of the Bellagio, but not as much as I expected," said Brian Egger, an analyst at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.
Overall, both analysts were impressed with the results.
"The Bellagio's numbers were very strong," said Ader.
"It was somewhat better than I expected," said Egger.
Egger had expected Mirage to make only 18 cents per share before the Bellagio opening expenses. He's pleased the company instead made 20 cents per share before opening expenses.
Mirage stock was up $1.06 on the news in early afternoon trading, to $19.81 from a close of $18.75 Friday.
BT Alex. Brown and NationsBank Montgomery both raised their ratings on the stock. Ader said the Mirage earnings news would add to the upward pressure on all gaming stocks.
"I think the gaming stocks have clearly turned the corner," said Ader.
Bellagio takes Strip by storm
John Wilen and Gary Thompson
Friday, Oct. 16, 1998 | 10:57 a.m.
Rain may have threatened to fall on Steve Wynn's parade, but that didn't stop thousands from showing up Thursday night for the gala opening of Mirage Resorts Inc.'s flagship Bellagio hotel-casino.
A kaleidoscopic array of tourists trooped into the world's most expensive casino resort after it was opened to the public just before 11 p.m. They came in all shapes and sizes, all races, creeds and colors, wearing everything from formal wear to biker gear.
A crowd estimated at anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 thronged the sidewalk and a cordoned-off portion of the Strip in front of the Italian-themed resort for hours before the festivities, including a water fountain and music show, began about 10:15.
But Bellagio's opening didn't fully escape the wrath of Mother Nature. High wind gusts forced Wynn to cancel a planned firework show.
And while rain showers that hit Las Vegas early in the afternoon had dispersed by evening, Bellagio's trademark fountains generated a little precipitation of their own. Many in the crowd were repeatedly sprayed with wind-blown spray from the fountains during the 30-minute show.
"Where's my umbrella?" screeched one television anchorwoman doused by the fountain show.
"It's sort of like being baptized," deadpanned Wynn over the massive Bellagio sound system as northerly winds blew misty clouds over the assembled crowd.
But neither the wait nor the water damped bystanders' enthusiasm over Bellagio, the $1.6 billion tribute to an Italian village of the same name.
"It's awesome, beautiful," gushed Lois Stracuzzi, visiting from Pittsfield, Mass. with her husband Sam. "It's elegant, it is really beautiful. It seems to have charisma. It's not gaudy."
"It's spectacular," said Fred Herr, on vacation here from New York City. "It's the best we've seen. It's beautiful."
Gov. Bob Miller was also impressed.
"In 10 ten years as governor, I've seen some incredible sights," said Miller. "But nothing could have prepared me for what I've seen tonight."
Miller compared Wynn, who has assembled $300 million in fine art for Bellagio, as an artist whose craft is the creation of casino resorts.
"The medium is hotels, the artist is our host, Steve Wynn," said Miller.
During the early part of the evening, 1,800 invited guest who paid from $1,000 apiece to $3,500 per couple viewed the inaugural performance of Cirque du Soleil's production "O" after a 40-minute welcoming speech by Wynn.
Meanwhile, the public was waiting patiently in the cool, wet, windy autumn night.
"If the inside is anything like the outside, it's going to be beautiful," said Dick Hanneman, of Denver, waiting with wife Mary to get in.
When "O" ended about 10 p.m., the tuxedo and evening-gown clad guests made their way from the main building down paths on either side of Lake Bellagio to see the fountain show. Wynn served as master of ceremonies, introducing Miller and explaining to the assembled crowd the plans for the evening.
As the fountains shot plumes of water high into the night air, wind gusts carried wave after wave of chilling mists into the crowd and across Las Vegas Boulevard. Many of the invited guests who'd walked down to see the fountain show made a quick exit back into the resort.
Meanwhile, after 30 minutes of fountain shows featuring the music from classical and pop composers, the remaining invited guests went back inside. At 10:55 p.m., Bellagio guards opened the gates to the public, but restricted the crowd flow to avoid safety problems.
Most of those seeing the property for the first time had good things to say.
"It's a very nice looking place," said Hank Meyer, in town from Springfield, Ill.
"All I want to do is look up," said his wife, Gloria, gesturing toward the plush canopies and chandeliers festooning the ceiling.
"Fantastic, very nice," said Roy Gregory, of Derby, England, sipping a beer with wife Karen. "We can't believe it."
Not everyone was impressed.
"I don't think it matches up with Caesars Palace," said one young man who declined to give his name.
"As far as the architecture's concerned, I don't see anything impressive," said Nick Rutzakis, of Cupertino, Calif. "I don't know what all the hoopla is about."
But the dissenters were few and far between.
"I think it's a magnificent place," said Leonard Migliara, of Bargenat, N.J. "It's just a spectacle that everybody should see."
By 1 a.m., the casino and other public areas were packed with an estimated 15,000 people.
In a development that would have surprised those who denigrate Las Vegas but no doubt delighted its defenders, the biggest crowds were found at the entry to the conservatory, a beautifully designed oasis decorated with tens of thousands of live flowers.
Rivaling the density if not the numbers of the conservatory crowds were the hordes surrounding the banks of Megabucks slot machines spread throughout the casino. Attracted by a jackpot exceeding $24 million, Megabucks players stood in long lines hoping to cash in on the unfounded belief that big slot jackpots tend to hit during new-resort openings.
Several lounges also drew well. Musician Michael Feinstein drew such a crowd that Wynn and his guests, developer Irwin Molasky and fight promoter Bob Arum, had to squeeze in to the lounge for a late-night performance.
By 2 a.m., there were a few tables active in the high-roller area, though the wagers weren't exceeding those at some of the higher-limit tables in the main casino. The poker room and sports book were virtually empty except for dealers, ticker writers and floor people, something that probably won't be seen again as long as Bellagio remains open.
Up next for Las Vegas' newest and most spectacular resort is an onslaught of international media personalities and Wall Street stock analysts who'll weigh in with their opinions about Bellagio.
Ultimately, though, it won't be reporters or analysts who decide whether it succeeds. It'll be people just like you.