The skies were blue and temperatures were peaking in the high 60s one recent afternoon at New York-New York, which is located near the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. Many visitors were strolling through the shops of the Big Apple-themed resort’s newly widened promenade, which runs alongside its replica of the famous Brooklyn Bridge, while others were sitting at tables on the patios of Nine Fine Irishmen and Starbucks.
With a nod to the iconic, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of New York City, this is what a vibrant street scene should look like – and it’s only the beginning.
In April 2013, MGM Resorts International announced plans for a $100 million outdoor plaza project. It involves remodeling the Strip-facing exteriors of New York-New York and Monte Carlo to showcase new stores, eateries and Hershey’s Chocolate World, an interactive attraction that celebrates Hershey’s-branded products.
“The redesign of the fronts of New York-New York and Monte Carlo is well underway with much of the work slated for completion this spring,” said Jenn Michaels, senior vice president of public relations for MGM Resorts International. “We introduced wonderful new retail offerings at New York-New York, which opened last month, and we will be launching a number of new food and beverage concepts at Monte Carlo in the months to come.”
Indeed, three new stores – Stupidiotic, Swatch and I♥NYNY – and a large Starbucks have already debuted. All of them are accessible from entrances on Las Vegas Boulevard and from within the resort.
With a quirky take on life, Stupidiotic carries a mix of “ingenious and un-genious products.” For example, you can buy oddities like a mustache-shaped baking mold, a toilet coffee mug and giant-sized pencils here. There are T-shirts of lesser-known elements from the periodic table (i.e., “Ah! – the element of surprise” and “BS – the element of doubt”) as well as an emergency underwear dispenser and an XXL wine glass that is so big it can hold a full bottle of vino.
Next door is Swatch, known for its mix of casual plastic watches and high-end timepieces. The store has a futuristic look that blends light, color and motion together. The walls are like giant billboards, and the wavy display tables foster a relaxed, free-flowing vibe.
I♥NYNY was designed to capture the energetic atmosphere of New York City’s popular Chelsea Market. You can pop in and purchase such things as New York-New York logo souvenirs along with beverages, snacks and sundries.
Starbucks actually moved from its spot among the resort’s Village Eateries, leaving 48th and Crepe, a purveyor of sweet and savory crepes, in its place. The new Starbucks site on the Las Vegas Boulevard promenade features a New York City-inspired décor. One section bears resemblance to a subway station. Exposed brick and the outline of signature skyscrapers adorn the wall across from the counter. Outside, seating with umbrellas is often filled with visitors who are enjoying a moment off their feet while taking in views of the Strip.
Stupidiotic, Swatch and I♥NYNY are open daily from 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. while Starbucks operates 24 hours a day.
A bigger patio can also be found at the Nine Fine Irishmen pub, and soon the construction walls will come down in front of The Sporting House Bar & Grill to reveal another spacious area with outdoor seating.
“These changes will completely rewrite how Las Vegas visitors experience the south end of the Strip, where we are creating a dynamic patio culture where guests will be encouraged to be social and become a part of the scene,” said Michaels.
In front of Monte Carlo, a similar transformation is taking place. Much of the original European-style exterior has been removed. A wide promenade with water features is being created. Look for a number of new restaurants – including Sambalatte, 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria and Double Barrel Roadhouse – to be launched along the resort’s facade in coming months. Shake Shack has also signed on as a partner. The modern-day roadside stand is known for its all-natural burgers, flat-top dogs and frozen custard.
“This is a made-to-order fit for Shake Shack to serve in the first-ever park on the Las Vegas Strip,” said Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack, in a statement. “Like our original Shake Shack located in New York City’s Madison Square Park, we hope to do our part in helping this park become a new gathering place for people from all walks of life and from around the world to come together.”
Tip for visitors: Be careful when strolling past Monte Carlo. Its frontage is being converted into a pedestrian-friendly plaza, but while construction is taking place a temporary footpath has been fashioned from a lane of traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard, putting you alongside moving vehicles with just a waist-high concrete barrier wall for separation.
Between the two resorts, plans also call for an extension of the open-air, park-like elements in order to form an entertainment district. It will consist of performance spaces, dining pavilions and secluded spots for relaxation. This district will be anchored by a 20,000-seat indoor arena that sits adjacent to the I-15 corridor. Winning approval from the Clark County Zoning Commission in early January, the $350 million project will likely host concerts, boxing and mixed martial arts contests, award shows and other major events.
“Design and planning continue for the arena we are building in partnership with AEG as well as for the entertainment district that will lead from the Strip back to the arena,” said Michaels. “We are on schedule to break ground this spring and open in 2016 and look forward to adding a stunning entertainment venue to the unrivaled Las Vegas landscape.”
Renderings that were released of the arena last November show a sweeping structure with an eye-catching glass entry and a giant LED overlay. Populous, one of the world’s leading firms in designing stadiums, ballparks and arenas, is the architect. The company is striving to reflect the natural beauty of the desert and nearby Spring Mountains along with the pulsating energy of the Strip in the look. The arena is also being designed to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards for LEED Gold Certification.
Although there is still a great deal of construction to be done (click here to view photos of the progress so far), transforming this once-congested urban space around New York-New York and Monte Carlo into a lush and lively plaza is an endeavor MGM Resorts International can walk tall about – because it will truly improve the visitor experience in 2014 by providing pedestrian-friendly enjoyment amid safety and comfort.