Last month’s announcement that Hard Rock Entertainment and MGM Resorts International have reached a deal that will transform the Mirage into a new Hard Rock Las Vegas hotel and casino may have flown below the radar a bit. The Super Bowl is coming to Las Vegas in 2024, which was announced at approximately the same time, and another COVID surge during the holiday season was obviously making big news, too.
Hard Rock is acquiring the operations of the Mirage for $1.075 billion in one of the most significant Strip transactions in years. Seminole Gaming owns the Hard Rock resort brand, and this endeavor will mark the first time a tribal gaming company will run a casino resort on the Strip.
The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2022, and then all eyes will be on the historic property between Caesars Palace and Treasure Island, waiting to watch this evolution take shape.
Hard Rock is planning to build a new hotel tower shaped like a guitar, just like the one that opened in 2019 in Hollywood, Florida. This will not be just a rebranding; the entire 77-acre site at center Strip will be overhauled, and all 3,000 hotel rooms will be gutted and remodeled. The Mirage will disappear, and a Hard Rock Hotel very different from the one that opened east of the Strip in 1995 will take its place.
Now that we’ve had a few weeks to catch up on this Vegas news and process the announcement, I’m noticing a lot more friends and colleagues posting and commenting and texting about it. And most are having the same emotional reaction I had when I first heard the news—we don’t want this to happen.
Hard Rock is a great brand, and many of us still hold fondness for its first Vegas casino, now Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. It will be exciting to see how the new version elevates the experience and how it complements the landscape on Las Vegas Boulevard. A guitar-shaped hotel fits here better than anywhere else.
But this is the Mirage we’re talking about. For Vegas fans and followers of my generation, the Mirage marked the beginning, the foundation of everything Las Vegas has become. When Steve Wynn opened its doors in 1989, the Mirage changed the way casino-resorts are developed, funded and executed, laying out the blueprint for more megaresorts and the Strip boom that followed.
Beyond that, it was the first modern Vegas experience that expanded far beyond gambling and traditional entertainment. There was so much more to see and do at the Mirage, which is probably why we are more emotionally attached to this building than past generations were to the Sahara or Stardust or Riviera.
Certainly, clientele of those classic casinos were sad to see them go, but this impending loss feels heightened because of the richness of the experience at the Mirage through the years. It’s difficult to imagine the Strip without the erupting volcano, the rainforest atrium, the dolphin habitat and the lions and tigers at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden. These are definitive pieces of Las Vegas that have nothing to do with slot machines.
In 1993, Cirque du Soleil performed for the first time on the Strip in a parking-lot tent at the Mirage. That led to Wynn enlisting the creation of Mystère for Treasure Island and set Cirque on its current course. We don’t know what will happen to Cirque’s incredible The Beatles Love, running at the Mirage since 2006, although it seems like a solid fit for the new Hard Rock. We don’t know what will happen to the volcano or the tigers, either. MGM Resorts will retain the brand and name and could create a new Mirage resort, in Las Vegas or some other place.
As familiar as we are with this kind of change on the Strip, this one hits different.
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