The Conjuring of The Mirage in Vegas Seven

One of my favorite things about writing for Vegas Seven is the chance to write extended feature pieces that give me a chance to do original research and learn a great deal about Las Vegas, present and past.

In this week’s issue, I take a look back at the event which, 25 years ago, changed the direction of Las Vegas–the construction and opening of The Mirage. It starts in 1985, when Joel Bergman gets a summons from Steve Wynn:

At about 2 a.m., Bergman—who led Atlandia, the Nugget’s in-house design firm—finally arrived at the right condo in an under-construction country club subdivision. Wynn was still up when he got there, waiting for him.

“Joel,” Wynn said, “Let me tell you about the wonderful place we’re going to build in Las Vegas.”

via The Conjuring of The Mirage | Vegas Seven.

I used many sources for this feature, but the best was a series of five interviews with Joel Bergman, Arte Nathan, Bobby Baldwin, Alan Feldman, and Steve Wynn, with an assist from DeRuyter Butler.

Two things really stand out to me: first, 5,000 words isn’t enough to tell the whole story, and second, the building of The Mirage really was a special moment in Las Vegas. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you don’t see a video, it’s…

If you don’t see a video, it’s here:

Author David G. Schwartz summarizes chapter 15, “A Clockwork Volcano: Las Vegas Strikes Back,” of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling (Casino Edition).

This chapter starts by discussing some of the technological changes that made possible the rise of slot machines, like the introduction of video poker and wide area progressive games like Megabucks. It then talks about The Mirage, which opened in 1989 and kicked off the 1990s boom for Las Vegas. Although it completely changed the Las Vegas Strip, before it opened, many were skeptical that it would succeed.

We then learn about other important companies like MGM Mirage and the Mandalay Resort Group, which, through a series of mergers (including one with Mirage Resorts) became MGM Resorts. Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian and Palazzo, is also profiled.

For more information about the book, visit

Talking about Steve Wynn talking about Mirage at TWHT

Sometimes I like to share things that I find while plumbing through the archives, just because. Yesterday I did just that at Two Way Hard Three:

Working on my lecture for tomorrow about Las Vegas gaming in the 1980s and 1990s, I wanted to go back to some of the original sources. So I’ve been browsing through the archives quite a bit.

I found a press release issued on November 14, 1989 titled “MIRAGE RESORT SETS NEW DIRECTION FOR LAS VEGAS.” For those keeping score at home, that’s 8 days before the Mirage’s grand opening

via From the archives: SW talks Mirage, 1989 | Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog | from

It’s always neat to see how people thought (or hoped) things were going to turn out, and compare it to how they actually did. Ten years from now we’ll be able to do this with CityCenter.

Words from the past

Speaking of dark and gloomy, here’s a quote from the day before Mirage opened back in 1989, from the LA Times via proquest:

At the same time, though, the new competition is expected to drive struggling gambling halls out of business.”There’;s going to be a shakeout,” said Glenn S. Schaeffer, chief financial officer of Circus Circus. “The rich will get richer and the poor poorer. You can’t compete today without some kind of distinct identity.”

via Document View – ProQuest.

If you’re not working from a UNLV computer, you won’t be able to read the rest of the article, but it’s instructive. Even though the market grew, Schaeffer was right. If you don’t believe me, we can discuss it over a drink at the Hacienda, Dunes, or Aladdin.

CityCenter and traffic

I’ve been busy today getting the slot hold occasional paper finished up, so running the risk of CityCenter fatigue, here’s an excerpt from my last LVBP column about, you guessed it, CityCenter:

This might be the most novel thing visitors notice about CityCenter, at first. And its hard to believe that its not by design. One thing that sets CityCenter apart from other resorts on the Strip is that because of the density, you will never be far from the street when you’re in the public spaces. The third-floor pool, for example, faces a parking structure on the west. It’s not close enough to smell the exhaust, but it is in the field of vision of poolside loungers. This is a profoundly different sort of vibe than the usual “desert oasis” feel of most Las Vegas pools, where hotel towers or extensive setbacks remove visitors from traffic and, in a sense, reality

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : CityCenters pocket parks, traffic circles stand as symbol of Strips evolution.

Further down in the article, you’ll note my reference to plural “pocket parks.” When I wrote this I hadn’t seen the entire complex and was under the impression that there were more than one–I thought I heard someone calling the area outside Bar Vdara “one of the pocket parks,” but I either misheard or that was an error. Even though there’s just one, though, it’s still significant.

Of course, if you were Steve Wynn and you wanted to really rain on CityCenter’s parade (which he probably doesn’t) you could just say, “Twenty years before you unmasked Las Vegas’s first pocket park, I built its first pocket rain forest.” You got to say it in the “I’m Steve Wynn” voice, though.