MGM eyes changes

May 10, 2005 4:20 AM

MGM Mirage, on the heels of its successful purchase of Mandalay Resort Group, is already considering how to improve some of its newly-acquired assets.

"We are very interested in bringing Monte Carlo out to the curb with curb features," says MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni. "Monte Carlo ”¦ reminds me of a monument in Washington. It is a little sterile and it has those steps leading up from the street. It is not very inviting.

"Our thought processes are in the early stages," Lanni continues. "But we want to bring that property out to the Strip and make it much more user-friendly, with features such as sidewalk cafes and a lot more retail along the street in an inviting way. I just think we can give it a little bit more personality and life."

Lanni adds there are plans in the works for expanding or further integrating New York-New York with the Monte Carlo. MGM now has control of two critical acres between the two resorts. The plot currently is home to a Carrow’s restaurant and was the site of a motel.

"We have already leveled the La Quinta (motel) that was on the back 1.2 acres of this tract," Lanni says. "And now we have a pretty solid guarantee that this restaurant on the front eight-tenths of an acre along the Strip will be gone by 2008, maybe sooner. They may be interested in leaving sooner because they know they cannot stay beyond 2008."

Lanni adds that completion of the Mandalay purchase does not preclude possible future Las Vegas purchases by MGM Mirage, though he would not elaborate.

TROPICANA IN WAITING

Redevelopment of the Tropicana’s 34 acres will probably remain on the back burner through the end of the year, considering the slower than expected start-up of the parent company’s expansion in Atlantic City.

Aztar Corp. officials have been dragging their feet for months with respect to their Las Vegas possibilities, most recently promising a decision by October.

Everything has hinged on how quickly the East Coast Tropicana would get up to speed. The Quarter — the name given to the expansion of retail, entertainment and gaming space — has been plagued by delays, including the collapse of a parking garage that killed several workers.

What happens in Las Vegas has always depended on how quickly The Quarter began generating the hoped-for revenue.

It’s far more likely that Aztar, under new chairman Robert Haddock, will decide in the short term to pursue one of the racino or slot parlor licenses up for grabs in Pennsylvania. A presence there would mean much more to the successful marketing of the Atlantic City Trop, which has received the great bulk of Aztar’s capital spending during recent years.

One senior industry source assessing Aztar’s position in Las Vegas took a "good news, bad news" approach to what he sees.

"The bad news is that Aztar has not done anything before now to benefit from a great location on the Strip. But the good news is that the Tropicana’s physical location at the corner of the Las Vegas Blvd. and Tropicana Avenue is so strong it can probably do a decent level of business even if it does not expand or invest in anything other than basic maintenance in the near future," the source says.

The Trop is surrounded on the other three corners by deep-pocketed MGM Mirage properties. Another hotel, the San Remo, on the Trop’s east side is being re-flagged and remodeled to be the first Hooters hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Whatever the eventual success of this project it will generate at least a flurry of newness — business that will pass through the Tropicana’s front door.