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Mirage reopens, volcano erupts once again on Las Vegas Strip

Updated August 27, 2020 - 7:58 pm

A Las Vegas Strip icon reopened its doors Thursday after going dark for more than five months.

The Mirage, known for its dolphin habitat and erupting volcano, reopened at 10 a.m.

The MGM Resorts International property had been closed since mid-March, when casinos across the state were ordered to do so to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The property is the second-to-last MGM Resorts International property to reopen, with Park MGM and the boutique NoMad hotel inside still shuttered.

The return of ‘an amazing brand’

The Mirage’s opening comes just in time for Labor Day weekend, which is expected to bring more foot traffic to the Strip. An August report from travel organizing app TripIt found Las Vegas has the most U.S.-origin round-trip flight reservations over the holiday weekend of any city, beating other destination markets such as Denver; Orlando, Florida; and Cancun, Mexico.

A reservation at the property Thursday night starts at $49, plus additional taxes and $39 in daily resort fees, according to MGM’s website.

“Mirage is important to us; it’s an amazing brand,” MGM Resorts CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle, who helped open the property in 1989, said in a July 30 earnings call.

Tamara Mezzo and Gord Graham traveled from Canada to make The Mirage’s reopening.

The two are Las Vegas enthusiasts, and run a vlog called Vegas Best Ideas that has more than 1,000 subscribers on YouTube. Thursday’s event was their first Las Vegas casino reopening.

“It just didn’t feel right for part of Vegas to be closed,” Mezzo said. “We have a lot of people that follow us that want to see it open as well that can’t be here today, so we wanted to tape the opening and just be a part of the excitement of it opening again.”

Chicagoan Jeff Hynek and his wife are staying at the hotel. He said the two have visited Las Vegas once a year for the past 35 years, and The Mirage is their favorite resort.

“It always smells so good in here,” he said. “The pool is nice; there’s so many good eating establishments.”

He added that two will will be gambling more during their stay this year, since the property’s shows have yet to return.

The Mirage’s amenities include its casino, shopping, Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, free self-parking and its pool, spa and salon.

Bars and restaurants include Blizz Frozen Yogurt, Osteria Costa, Pantry, Paradise Cafe, Starbucks, The Still, Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak, Bare Pool Lounge, Center Bar and Ehumbar. At-bar gaming and lounging may be limited, according to the property’s website.

In addition to ParkMGM, 10 other Strip properties — including The Cromwell, the Rio and Planet Hollywood Resort — remain closed.

The beginning of a new era

Steve Wynn’s Golden Nugget Corp. built The Mirage more than 30 years ago. Considered Las Vegas’ first megaresort, the property cost a then-unheard-of $620 million.

UNLV gaming historian David Schwartz said it wasn’t the largest property on the Strip when it opened, but it was the first to offer so much space off the bat, opening with more than 3,000 rooms. Properties before The Mirage tended to add rooms over time.

“The Mirage changed the Strip,” Schwartz said, adding that the property was among the first to focus on nongaming and luxury amenities. “It started the megaresort era.”

Many experts thought the property was too ambitious and expected it to fail. Roughly $565 million of the project’s construction costs were financed with junk bonds.

But those predictions didn’t hold up. An estimated 750,000 people came through The Mirage during its first weekend.

Over the next two decades, other megaresorts — including Excalibur, Luxor and the MGM Grand — emerged on the Strip.

“This is where themes got really big again,” Schwartz said.

Another iconic feature of The Mirage is its volcano, which can shoot fireballs more than 12 feet into the air, according to MGM’s website.

Schwartz said the idea puzzled people when it was announced.

“It seemed totally illogical. This wasn’t something that would produce revenue,” he said. But “it was iconic, and it put the place on the map. … There was nothing like that.”

The volcano is set to erupt once again at 8 p.m. Thursday.

MGM shares closed up 3.7 percent Thursday to $22.81 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter. 

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