Look closer…not everything is as obvious as it appears…
Welcome to “Hidden Vegas”, teasing your brain with questions like “How did I miss that?”. I’ll take a close look at structures that are more than meets the eye…and others which have been repurposed into something fresh and new.
Let’s start off with the St. Regis Tower. As seen above, the unfinished structure between Venetian and Palazzo resorts was once planned to be a condominium tower. An economic collapse and financial trouble for Sands Corporation froze the $600 million project in 2008. Thus, it joined a list of rusting eye sores that suddenly littered the Strip and surrounding areas.
Sands Corporation forked over a million dollars for a custom tarp, meant to cleverly disguise the skeleton while the powers-that-be decided what to do with it (the market for Strip residences isn’t what it was when the first blueprints for St. Regis were being drawn).
Whether it ends up being dismantled, completed for a timeshare operation or used as an additional tower for Venetian/Palazzo is anyone’s guess. But for now, St. Regis continues to exist as a genuine mirage – a building that isn’t really there…in a land of make-believe.
Now, if only someone could toss an invisibility cloak over the unfinished Fontainebleau. At least that monstrosity now has a new name (The Drew), new owners (Witkoff\Marriott) and a projected opening date of 2020. Call me “skeptical”.
Planet Hollywood began life as a chain of celebrity-fueled restaurants. Then it became a casino resort that was once the Aladdin Hotel. And the Aladdin Hotel was once known as…the Aladdin Hotel.
Don’t be confused. The original Aladdin began life as the English-themed Tally-Ho. It opened in 1963, but was rechristened a year later as King’s Crown…which promptly failed. A few years and several million dollars later, the Aladdin Hotel Casino opened up on the same spot.
During the summer of 1976, Neil Diamond became the first performer at the new Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts, constructed on what was once a golf course. The huge venue, boasting a glass ceiling, was the only thing standing when the Aladdin was leveled in 1998.
A new Aladdin went up around the free-standing building, this time integrating it into the casino design….and forever hiding the exterior view from the naked eye (unless you’re on a rooftop, like Greg C. was for this recent photo).
This past February 2018, the AXIS Powered By Monster Theater (we aren’t making that up) which replaced “Art” with a tart (Britney Spears, natch) was once again renamed as Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood.
That gorgeous open ceiling was covered by a non-transparent dome years ago. It’s current seating capacity is greatly downsized from the original 7,500 monster (see what we did?) to 4,600 for residency shows. Even so, Zappos remains one of the largest venues on the Strip, and the largest of its kind in the United States.
Anyone who has walked the full length of MGM Grand Resort will vouch for its enormous footprint. The sprawling property is even larger when including Signature at MGM Grand. That three-tower annex sits on land that was once home to MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park. The main building, though, has a secret that few current visitors are aware of: the west wing once stood alone as the Marina Hotel.
Marina Hotel opened in 1975, had 714 guest rooms and its own casino. It was closed in 1990 to become part of the new location for MGM Grand, the original name for the current Bally’s (did you follow that?). Instead of leveling Marina, it was cleverly integrated into the new, Oz-themed structure, which opened right before Christmas in 1993.
MGM Grand’s “West Wing” rooms are smaller and less expensive than those in the newer portions of the resort. However, they’re sleek, stylish, and still a favorite for solo travelers…and those who enjoy easy access to the Strip.
The Shops at Crystals might be touted as a world-class shopping destination, but for some of us it’s more like a mausoleum or an echo chamber. Highly regarded premium designers have locations here, so if you have thousands for impulse purchases, Crystals is your place.
(Photo by Scott Roeben, VitalVegas.com)
For the rest of us, one thing alone makes the lengthy walk into the Simon Corporation mall worthwhile: gawking and chuckling at that giant wooden penis. A perfect example of “What were they thinking?” , the multi-story shaft and scrotum are home to Mastros Ocean Club aka “Treehouse”. I’ll just leave this here:
Our final entry sits at the opposite end of the Strip, directly in the shadow of the aforementioned Fontainebleau Resort carcass. It’s an industrial-looking tower next to Circus Circus.
The family-friendly Circus Circus resort boasts Adventuredome, a glass-enclosed amusement park that opened its doors (and attractions) in 1993. Before that, thrill-seekers had to go outside to get their pulses racing. And they probably bypassed the sedate-looking merry-go-round for a shot at the Rocket Ship Ride.
This earth-bound cousin to Stratosphere‘s sky-high “Big Shot” attraction took travelers up a 210-foot tower, which undoubtedly offered a terrific view of the Riviera Hotel across the street.
In 1992, the tower was repurposed as a bungee-jumping attraction, utilizing an elevator that, according to bungee.com, is the tallest single-stage lift in the world. A reflecting pool was added to allow jumpers to witness their own descent.
These days, the pool has been filled in and seemingly forgotten. The rocket itself sits earthbound, too, as shown in this photo by Greg C. It was taken on January 2015…from the base of Stratosphere’s “Big Shot” ride.
This article previously appeared on another site. It has been updated and expanded.
Photos: Greg C., UNLV Digital Library, bungee.com, Flickr.com, Scott Roeben via VitalVegas