This is, after all, the resort complex that will feature performances by Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Kenny Loggins in its three theaters on New Year’s Eve.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe the magnitude of the new MGM Grand Hotel, Casino & Theme Park is this way: Its 5,005 rooms — including 751 suites — make it the world’s largest hotel. The swimming pool area alone covers four acres.
The MGM Grand casino is also the world’s largest, larger than the playing field at Yankee Stadium.
The 15,200-seat Special Events Arena is the size of Boston Garden, and there are two smaller showrooms, the 1,700-seat Grand Theatre, and the 630-seat Hollywood Theatre. Together, the hotel and casino cover 4.2 million square feet.
The $ 1 billion complex was completed ahead of its original deadline and under budget, under the direction of Fred Benninger, chairman of MGM Grand Inc. Benninger had previously supervised construction of Kirk Kerkorian properties, including the International, the first MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the MGM Grand Tahoe. “We have 18,000 doors,” says executive VP Alex Yemenidjian, “and he can tell you which way each door opens.”
Visitors planning to stay at the MGM Grand Hotel will be able to make their room, theme park, dinner, show and car rental reservations simultaneously. The hotel is working on copyrighted computer software designed to route inquiries via the phone company’s caller I.D. system so that, for instance, calls originating in Japan will be answered in Japanese. It’s planned that return customers will soon be able to register via telephone, proceeding directly to their accommodations and using their pre-approved credit card as their room key.
In the meantime, three of the hotel’s floors will have individual concierge desks to assist in ticketing, check-in and so on. Room service will be available on a 24-hour basis.
Rooms, averaging 450 square feet, are decorated in four themes: “The Wizard of Oz,””Casablanca,” generic “Hollywood” and post-bellum Southern American decor; all feature bathrooms carved from Italian marble, with sunken bathtubs.
Two of the eight restaurants inside the MGM Grand are leased, says Daniel Shumny, the hotel’s senior VP of sales. “The food in Wolfgang Puck’s is similar to that in the courtyard of his Las Vegas restaurant, something less formal than what’s served inside. And the Coyote Cafe, featuring Southwestern cuisine, is the third branch of Mark Miller’s restaurants in Santa Fe and Washington, D.C.
“In addition, there are Italian,seafood and Chinese restaurants, a coffee shop, buffet, steak house and a food court with McDonald’s, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream.”
Youthful visitors may be especially interested in the 30,000-square-foot Wizard’s Midway, situated between the casino and theme park entrance, which features 33 games of skill and a videogame arcade. A day-care center is also available.
MGM Grand Adventures theme park features rides, live shows and food and souvenir shops. Attached directly to the MGM Grand Hotel, the 33-acre park is accessible only through the hotel’s casino and arcade area.
The casino — the world’s largest, of course — covers 171,500 square feet. That’s the size of four football fields. It’s divided into four connecting sections: One will carry the “Wizard of Oz” theme; another will have Hollywood art deco decor; a third will be decorated with sports memorabilia; and the fourth is geared to high rollers, including baccarat players.
Casino furnishings include 165 gaming tables and 3,500 slot machines. In addition to the expected range of casino games, French Roulette dealers have been imported from Holland.
“The game is a show,” explains MGM Grand Hotel chairman Larry Woolf. “The way the dealers manipulate the chips, French Roulette is something like roulette might be played at Benihana.”
The slot machines, as Shumny describes them, are no less innovative. “Each machine can be set by the customer to play poker, function as a slot machine and so on,” says Shumny, “and the size of the bets can be reset for various minimums — on a busy night, like New Year’s Eve, you might want to encourage a larger bet, for instance. Winnings are issued in a bar-coded receipt that can be cashed in at the cage, or used for credit at the hotel’s restaurants and other facilities.”
The MGM Grand Garden — which will open on Saturday with a tennis exhibition featuring Las Vegas native Andre Agassi and other renowned players — can be converted in less than five hours from an arena for sports and superstar concerts to an exhibition hall with 120,000 square feet of floor space.
The Garden has an ice floor to facilitate hockey games: Already booked are the Discover Card Stars on Ice show (Jan. 7); the MGM Track and Field Invitational (Feb. 24-26); arena soccer and football games; and three prize fights featuring Julio Cesar Chavez.
The 1,700-seat Grand Theatre will open Dec. 27-31 with Sinatra, and the 630 -seat Hollywood Theatre opens one night earlier through Dec. 31 with singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins.
On New Year’s Eve and Jan. 1, Barbra Streisand will perform sold-out shows in the Garden; it will be her first public performance — other than for charitable or social issue fundraisers — since 1966.
The MGM Grand’s booking policy, says senior VP marketing/entertainment Richard A. Sturm, will be “middle-of-the-road acts only, in keeping with the profile we aim to attract for gaming and family entertainment. We will be bringing in younger acts, but ones who fit that profile.”
Acts already announced for the Hollywood Theatre include the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, the Righteous Brothers, comics Rita Rudner and Dennis Miller, Randy Travis and Tom Jones.
On Jan. 8, Luther Vandross will play the Garden, and work is currently in progress on a multimillion-dollar production show “based on special effects and integrating live action,” in Sturm’s words, for the Grand Theatre.
As for the future? Construction has already begun on a mile-long monorail system connecting the MGM Grand to Bally’s, at a cost of $ 23 million. MGM Grand Inc. chairman/CEO Robert Maxey says there are plans to extend the monorail to McCarran Airport. “We hope to sell it to the city of Las Vegas,” says Maxey, “who can take it all the way downtown.”
And across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Grand is the only piece of undeveloped property on the “four corners” that already host the Tropicana and Excalibur hotels. The parcel was purchased by Kerkorian for an undisclosed price , but Maxey does tell a story about the bargaining process that paints a vivid picture of the financial good times currently enjoyed in America’s good-time city.
“I went to Japan to see the owner of the property, who told me that he wanted cash instead of the stock I offered him,” Maxey says. The cash deal was made, but, adds Maxey, “I’d like to know how he felt when the stock doubled in price within the next year.”