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Resort opens a new era in LV
Friday, Oct. 15, 1993 | 10:23 a.m.
Seventy years ago, explorers cracked open ancient pyramids in search or riches beyond imagination.
At 4 a.m. today, thousands entered the Luxor pyramid on the Las Vegas Strip in hopes of claiming similar wealth.
“I wanted to be the first one on a slot machine,” said New Yorker Mary Ann Ruggerio as she put another dollar into a one-armed bandit. “It’s just something different.”
Dean Flood and her friend, Gene Loatmam, made a special trip to Las Vegas from Los Angeles just to gamble at Luxor on opening day.
“We feel we have a better chance of winning, it being new and all,” Flood said. “Plus, it’s kind of exciting being at a casino opening.”
But as the odds would have it, most didn’t find riches in Luxor. Instead, they got a glimpse of technological wonders rivaling the ancient Egyptian landmarks the $375 million resort mimics.
Unfortunately, the high-tech attractions weren’t operating up to par at the pre-opening gala Thursday night or this morning.
The “Search for the Obelisk” attraction, which incorporates motion with film, was absent the motion because Clark County as yet to issue a permit.
Circus Circus Enterprises Chairman William Bennett said the county had initially approved the attraction, but put a freeze on it until Friday.
New era begins
Despite the delays, the resort is expected to set the stage for a new era in Las Vegas.
“It’s going to set a new standard for all new development,” Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Bill Curran said of Luxor and two other mega-resorts opening in Las Vegas in the next two months.
On Oct. 26, Mirage Resorts will open Treasure Island, featuring a swashbuckling pirate battle. MGM Grand plans to open a theme park, casino and the world’s largest hotel on Dec. 18.
But Circus Circus will still have the only the pyramid on the strip.
“You have to give credit to the creative people who suggested a pyramid and those who didn’t laugh,” Curran said. “Lesser people would have said it can’t be done.”
Building a 30-story pyramid, with the world’s largest atrium, did offer challenges. But Bennett said the most trying was dealing with Clark County officials.
Bennett said the county has been unduly critical of the resort’s construction because of its unusual shape.
“They don’t know how to build a pyramid,” Bennett said. “I may go down to the County Commission after all this is over and make a big to-do.”
The 69-year-old executive estimated the county’s extra requirements added about $20 million to the resort’s cost.
About $7 million of that was because of increased fire precautions required after 12 floors were built, he said. If the county had required those safety precautions from the start, it would have only cost $1.3 million, he said,
“If we built a second pyramid, it would be a lot easier,” he said.
Technology helped overcome many of the technological obstacles of building the pyramid. Elevators, called inclinators, travel at a 39-degree angle, pulling passengers side to side instead of up and down.
Technology also introduced new entertainment in the form of three attractions perched above the casino. The $50 million “Secrets of the Luxor Pyramid” uses special movie effects to take those who dare on a journey through time to find a stolen magical Egyptian treasure.
Circus Circus hired Douglas Trumbull, who invented the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios, to go a step beyond its Magical Motion Machines at the company’s sister property, Excalibur.
Bennett said despite the expense, the attractions will pay for themselves eventually. The $4 rides will be capable of handling 11,000 people a day.
On the casino level, the River Nile takes passengers on a calm, historic tour through ancient Egypt on a man-made stream five times as long as the pyramid is high.
Out front, a laser light show and a 50-foot water screen appear at night amid Karnak Lake, while a powerful beam of light emanates from the pyramid’s apex.
“We tried it at 3 in the morning and 13 cars on the Strip came to a dead stop to watch it,” said Tom Tomlinson, marketing director.
That’s not to say the casino isn’t the focus of the resort.
Luxor merely uses a high-tech version of man’s oldest standing construction to appeal to one of his most primitive instincts – greed.
Upon entering the resort, guests walk into a casino as large as any in Las Vegas. To get to the showroom, attractions and rooms, you must enter the casino to get to another level, similar to the floor plan of neighboring Excalibur.
That’s because the 100,000-square-foot casino is still the pocketbook of the resort.
The casino has more than 2,500 slots, 82 table games, a poker room and race and sports books.
With slot machines named “Pharaoh’s Gold,” “Treasures of Tutankhamun,” “Pyramid” and “Valley of Kings,” Luxor manages to maintain the ancient Egyptian theme within its gambling hall. There’s also a Sigma Derby game that races tiny Egyptian barges instead of toy race horses.
Actually that and the tiny pyramid lights atop each slot machine are the least the resort does to stay within its namesake.
The ram-headed sphinxes along the front walkway are replicas of construction in the city of Luxor done during King Tut’s reign around 1300 B.C.
The resort borrows so much from the Egyptian city and its surroundings that it hired Egyptologists to create and authenticate reproductions of ornamentation and the Egyptian language. So, yes, the hieratic-carved light posts throughout the casino do say something even though most of us don’t know what.
The Egyptologists are helping recreate King Tut’s tomb, which is scheduled to open the week of Nov. 20, marking the anniversary of the 1922 Egyptian discovery.
Tomlinson, the marketing director, likes to refer to the tact Circus has taken as “entertainment.”
It’s the same philosophy the parent company used with its new Grand Slam Canyon behind Circus Circus. In the glass-enclosed mini-theme park, the emphasis is on life-like dinosaurs and archaeology.
While the educational tools may be a new concept for casino resorts, Circus Circus cofounders Bennett and William Pennington pioneered the family market back in 1974 when they bought the failing Circus Circus from Jay Sarno.
Bennett and Pennington rearranged the casino, offered inexpensive food and sought middle-class families instead of the high-rollers coveted by most resorts of that time.
It was a move that led the company to become the Wal-Mart of the casino industry. For the year that ended Jan. 31, Circus Circus’ revenues topped $840 million and its net income was $120 million.
Today, the Las Vegas-based company owns eight casinos throughout Nevada and has plans to build another Reno resort and operate a gambling riverboat on the Mississippi River outside Memphis, Tenn.
Bennett, a furniture store operator in the 1960s, remained at the helm of the company and was recently named the 142nd richest man in America by Forbes magazine.
Luxor unveils $300 mil. expansion
Friday, April 18, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
It was an opening ceremony marked by opulence and splendor.
As belly dancers undulated Thursday to the sounds of Middle Eastern music, officials at Luxor celebrated the completion of the hotel's $300 million expansion.
The additions include: 1,950 new rooms, including 237 suites, in a 22-story ziggurat-shaped structure to the north of the main pyramid; a moving walkway that connects Luxor with Excalibur, Luxor's sister hotel; an architectural redesign of Luxor's interior, and a full-service meeting and convention facility.
"Now, we are truly a megaresort," said Clyde Turner, chairman and chief operating officer of Circus Circus Enterprises, which operates both the Luxor and Excalibur hotels.
"The work that went into the hotel amounts to much more than an expansion," Turner said. "Everyone who goes through the front door and walks by the great Temple of Ramesses can feel the impact of what has been done here."
The life-sized replica of the great Temple of Ramesses II, which serves as the gateway to the hotel, is another new feature.
Turner said a great deal of detailed work has been done to the interior of the hotel, and that the new lobby, with its expanse of marble flooring and Egyptian murals, tends to convey the spaciousness of the Nile Valley.
"Luxor's original architecture had great bones," Turner said with a smile. "But, now we've filled in the ribs, so as to make this truly a great property."
Turner noted that the cost of Luxor -- including the renovation -- adds up to about $650 million, comparable to the cost of The Mirage, "but we have 1,600 more rooms."
Another new feature of the Luxor is the renovated and expanded Oasis Spa.
The health spa has been expanded to 12,000 square feet and includes 16 treatment rooms for facials, massages and body treatments. The men's and women's lounges include various amenities such as hot and warm whirlpool baths, and steam and sauna rooms.
Thursday's opening ceremony follows the opening of the walkway between the two hotels -- the final touch to the year-long addition project.
The newly renovated spa has been open several months, and manager Scott Hamann said spa business "has quadrupled" since it re-opened.
Phase II of the Luxor expansion is under way and expected to be completed this fall.
It will include two new restaurants as well as an 18-shop retail area called Giza Galleria.
Also under construction along the southwest exterior of the original Luxor pyramid is an Egyptian-themed theater that will house Luxor's new production show entitled "Imagine -- A theatrical Odyssey."
By Liz Benston
Sunday, July 22, 2007 | 1:16 a.m.
Only in Vegas could interest in a pyramid wane because it's getting old.
The black and bold Luxor opened in 1993 as an architectural tour de force - the tallest structure on the Strip, attracting camera-toting tourists as well as design intellectuals who would write books and teach college courses discussing the building's commercial and psychological appeal.
It wasn't the first themed hotel in Las Vegas (its closest neighbor: a medieval castle), but was still an instant icon, what with a 10-story sphinx guarding the entrance and the Earth's strongest flashlight beaming into space from the pyramid's apex.
Inside, the Egyptian theme was executed to extreme and comical limits even by Las Vegas standards. Talking mechanical camels greeted guests entering a cavernous atrium accented with statues of pharaohs, images of King Tut and bazaars selling papyrus artwork and scarab-beetle jewelry. Tour guides gave commentary along the faux Nile River as miniature barges carried guests down a slow-moving water ride - past blackjack and craps tables.
And then, as Las Vegas cooled on architectural themes, the Luxor seemed as stale as yesterday's mummy.
So now they're throwing millions of dollars into a major renovation. The goal: take the Egypt out of the pyramid to make it even more compelling for today's tourists.
Over the next year, new Luxor will look decidedly more contemporary - or at least less Egyptian. Think video images projected on sheets of falling water, candle-lit lounges framed by (real) aspens and low-light chandeliers.
"This probably has the greatest potential to move the needle because if you deconstruct the Egyptian theme, it's really just a great piece of contemporary architecture as well as an enduring shape," said John Schadler, whose marketing firm will assist in the transformation. "Think of the pyramids in Egypt and how long they've been looked upon as great mysterious monuments."
So you can't just implode a perfectly good pyramid. You have to give the interior new life.
"People are attracted to the pyramid because it is unique. But it's the overall experience that matters more than looking at a faux King Tut statue," said Tom McCartney, Luxor's executive vice president. To sit in Nefertiti's Lounge with only a statue of the Egyptian queen to distinguish it from other bars is a concept past its prime, he said.
It was time, he said, to evolve.
Unlike the slew of recent resorts built for a wealthier clientele, the Luxor was built by the owners of Circus Circus for budget-conscious tourists, including families. There was enough to keep mom and the kids busy while dad gambled.
But the Luxor, pinched by a changing marketplace, has shed its family-friendly roots - removing an arcade as well as shows and rides invoking the treasures of ancient Egypt, in favor of a topless revue and a show by the salty-mouthed comedian Carrot Top.
In recent years it has experienced a renaissance of sorts as a place where Mandalay Bay convention-goers can land a cheaper room. The Luxor ran at 98 percent occupancy last year while operating profit rose 66 percent, one of the best improvements of the Strip's major hotels. Two thousand more rooms, in two towers, have been built alongside the Luxor, because it's not easy adding a wing to a pyramid.
Although the shape is inefficient as a hotel for other reasons- and its slanted sides bake in the sun - there is much to gawk at inside. The hotel rooms cling to the slanting walls like honeycomb, each floor cantilevered above the one below it. Riding inclinating elevators and looking down into what was the world's biggest atrium is a highlight of being a Luxor guest.
But architecture aside, the Luxor has had a hard time holding its nighttime audience. Many guests queue up at the taxi stand at 6 and don't return until they're ready for bed, turning the pyramid at night into ... well, almost a tomb.
Thus, the need to reenergize the pyramid's night life by introducing an eclectic mix of new restaurants, lounges and a Cirque du Soleil-produced show built around illusionist Criss Angel.
The venues emphasize spectacle, such as Aurora, a lobby lounge with tableside mixologists and glittering overhead glass tubes; LAX, a clone of the celebrity-rich nightclub in Los Angeles; Noir, a candle-lit bar with an outdoor entrance, French dessert carts and a secret passageway for VIPs, and CatHouse, a tapas restaurant and lounge inspired by a 19th century bordello.
Which leaves the question, what do lingerie-wearing servers, a seductive magician and celebrity-chic restaurants have to do with a pyramid?
A lot, in fact, Schadler says.
The pyramid shape appeals to customers emotionally in a way that the Strip's more standard-looking structures, and those constrained by less-alluring themes, cannot, he said.
In research polls, customers associate pyramids with "mystery and intrigue," Schadler said. "They're maybe a bit dark, in a sexy way."
In a town where sex appeal is no longer a sideshow but the main attraction, this subtle psychology has big implications for the Luxor's future.
By stripping the pyramid of its kitschy icons and replacing loudly themed restaurants and stores with those bearing stylish, hushed ambience, the pyramid "isn't a symbol of Egypt but a symbol of "sexiness, of nightlife," he said.
The Luxor is so iconic that it even transcends its identity as a Las Vegas tourist attraction. Many Americans, ignorant of ancient history, associate the name with a hotel rather than the Egyptian city alongside the Nile.
Like the real Luxor, the faux version is a global destination, with at least 20 percent of guests from foreign countries.
For MGM Mirage, the enthusiasm for this project is palpable.
Not too many pyramids, after all, get make-overs.
The Luxor’s New Threads
Luxor’s new Imax theater gives viewers an eyeful
Thursday, Dec. 19, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
King Kong's fall off the Empire State building is a real screamer when viewed on the seven-story screen at the Luxor's new Imax theater.
The theater is actually a $5.5 million renovation of an existing 312-seat facility and is the first in Nevada and one of 20 in the world that offers three-dimensional Imax films.
It's the Luxor's newest attraction and part of the hotel-casino's nearly completed $240 million expansion project, a joint venture between the Luxor, owned by Circus Circus Enterprises Inc., and Imax Corp. of Toronto.
"We'll be showing some of the biggest movies in the world," said Director of Rides and Attractions Cliff Hay. "And we're expecting that more than 600,000 visitors a year will come to our theater."
And with good reason.
The 68-by-84-foot screen and eight-channel, multidimensional digital sound system, delivered by 15,000 watts of power from 50 speakers in six clusters, is further enhanced by the latest in-your-face 3-D technology.
A lightweight, comfortable, cordless headset with polarized glasses and speakers create 3-D images that you want to reach out and touch, and a "personal sound environment" that's just like the real thing.
Imax Theaters President Greg Breen said that the Luxor theater, which opens to the public Friday at 6 p.m., is a perfect addition to the 144 permanent facilities already operating in 21 countries. More than 40 new theaters are expected to open during the next few years.
Since the Imax premier in 1970, more than 510 million people have visited an Imax theater -- more than 60 million of them in 1995.
"One of the largest tourist attraction towns in the world is Vegas and Imax technology is a natural for it," said Breen. "Plus, we've had an Imax dome in Vegas since 1979 at Casesars Palace. This will provide a whole new experience."
The city's more than 30 million annual visitors will have different shows to see.
Breen said the plans are for a 2-D and 3-D film to run together, with two programming changes a year. Currently, there are 115 films in the Imax library, with 33 more being developed and 19 in production.
"We'll look to a balance between new and old films. And the visitor turnover is great. Once people have gone to an Imax theater, they often bring others who haven't been," Breen said, adding that are no plans for a Las Vegas destination-type film.
The current 3-D film "First City in Space" is a futuristic view of a space colony. The 3D effect creates the feeling of being about 2 feet away from the actors.
Ever wonder what it's like to zoom through space or fly low over a desert planet? Luxor's 3-D creates a stomach-heaving illusion.
Is the Imax 3-D beginning the wave of the future for movies?
"I definitely believe there will be the application to story and drama. I don't believe 3-D will replace conventional films, but story is a transition we're moving to -- although most of the Imax films so far are educational and entertainment," Breen said.
Making Imax films requires specialized Imax cameras and processing. Breen said that Imax invented everything in the early days, but encouraged independent filmmakers.
"We can and do rent them an Imax camera and train them. Today, there three labs equipped for processing the film" he said.
The Luxor Imax Theater's 2-D film is "Special Effects in Imax," a behind-the-scenes look at the effects from such films as "Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition," "Independence Day," "Kazaam" and "Jumanji."
Admission is $7 for Imax features and $8.50 for Imax 3-D. The double feature price for both films is $13.50. The theater is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, with films starting every hour on the hour.
Luxor files lawsuit over lighting system
By Liz Benston
Friday, Aug. 8, 2003 | 11:11 a.m.
On New Year's Eve 1997, the Luxor resort in Las Vegas wowed the Strip with a $1 million exterior lighting system designed to add glitter to a 30-story black pyramid that otherwise faded away into the darkness.
The Starlight Lighting System -- a remote-controlled marvel powered by thousands of circuit boards and computer chips -- has since been plagued by faulty equipment and is subject to power shutdowns.
That's according to the Luxor, which is suing the Las Vegas engineering company that created the system claiming that the company failed to honor multiple agreements to fix the system over the past several years.
In October 1997, Luxor signed a purchase agreement calling for Bee Inc. to install the lighting system and to repair and replace it when necessary, according to a suit filed last month in Clark County District Court.
The system "wasn't fully operational in the manner that had been represented by Bee and the system suffered from numerous design flaws, construction flaws and unscheduled power shutdowns, among other problems," the suit said.
Officials with Luxor parent Mandalay Resort Group and Bee Inc. could not be reached for comment on the suit or lighting problems at the resort.
Bee failed to repair and replace the lighting system after Luxor entered into subsequent contracts with the company to correct the problems, the suit said. The first contract was signed in May 2000 and a second was signed in July 2001.
The problems still hadn't been solved as of at least July 21, the suit said.
Luxor added the lights to spice up the resort at night, when it blended into the landscape despite the powerful beam shining into the sky from the pyramid's apex.
The lights illuminate the four corners of Luxor's pyramid and consist of lighting cylinders that are plugged into each other. The cylinders contain strobe lights and circuit boards guide operation. The lights are set on a timer and are programmed to produce various special effects.
The resort also is disputing a claim by Bee arising from a separate agreement to provide window-washing services using a mechanical device.
In September 1994, the resort signed an agreement to receive window-washing services from Bee and in May 1995 received a separate agreement to receive a window-cleaning system and window-cleaning services.
Bee claims it owns the window-cleaning system and has said that any use by the Luxor of the system is unauthorized and that the resort will be liable for any damages arising from its use, the suit says.