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Mirage, a landmark Strip resort, prepares to vanish

Updated May 15, 2024 - 8:27 pm

The Mirage’s expiration date officially has come into view: July 17, 2024.

The landmark Strip resort is shutting down that day, to be remade as Hard Rock Las Vegas by spring 2027. Resort President Joe Lupo informed the hotel’s staff in a town hall-style meeting Wednesday morning.

Prior to that meeting, Lupo said some 3,300 hotel employees would be laid off, including 140 Day One employees.

“We really are encouraged about not only the future of Las Vegas, but how Hard Rock and Seminole Tribe can play a role in helping to develop that and grow the market,” Lupo said. “But today is a tough day for a lot of people. Our priority is the well being of those individuals.”

Lupo said his staff has set up a resource center in what used to be The Mirage buffet, with job fairs where “almost every property’ will have an opportunity to hire soon-to-be displaced employees. He also said there are opportunities at such properties as Seminole Hard Rock (which has recently added craps and roulette), two hotels in Virginia, and those in Cincinnati and Northern Indiana.

“We expect many great opportunities, in Las Vegas and at the Hard Rocks, to present to employees,” Lupo said.

Lupo said the hotel will close entirely on July 17, and reopen by the end of May 2027. It is to be a full shutdown and reopening, not a “phased-in” restart. Plans are still in the rendering stage, but will include 25 restaurants (five at the new hotel tower near the Strip) and a 5,000-seat theater.

With the layoffs, it’s estimated the resort will pay about $80 million in severance. Culinary Local 226, which represents about 1,700 workers there, said recent contract negotiations included provisions for a redevelopment and closure. Members will receive either $2,000 for every year of service, plus pension and health benefits for six months, or lesser amounts while retaining seniority rights.

Union officials said they will also host “rapid response” events to connect workers to unemployment, job fairs and other resources.

Owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hard Rock International purchased The Mirage from MGM Resorts International in December 2022, spending more than $1 billion.

The signature design of the new Hard Rock will be a 660-foot-tall hotel tower shaped as guitars standing back-to-back. It is a similar design to Seminole Hard Rock Hotel’s in Hollywood, Fla. As with that resort’s design, the Strip structure would feature reflective, floor-to-ceiling glass panes.

The tower will be built on the site of Mirage’s iconic volcano, a popular no-charge feature since the hotel opened in 1989. The volcano has been snuffed out and is not part of Hard Rock’s plans.

Hard Rock is shutting down Cirque du Soleil-Beatles production “Love” on July 7, ending an 18-year run. That theater, formerly the Siegfried & Roy theater, is to be taken apart in the renovation.

The 1,300-seat Mirage Theater will remain intact. Headlining magician Shin Lim had previously announced his show at Mirage Theater would extend through September. His final show is tentatively July 14, He is expected to reopen at Palazzo Theater by the end of the year.

Elaine Wynn was married to resort pioneer and Mirage founder Steve Wynn at the time of the hotel’s opening. She spoke of the hotel in an interview in December 2022.

“I remember, initially, when Steve was designing it, he wanted to have The Mirage kind of front-up, right onto the Strip,” Wynn said. “And I said, ‘If you bring it close to the Strip, people aren’t going to appreciate the towers.”

The design created a vast expanse between the hotel’s main entrance and the Strip.

“We wondered, what is going to be the thing that separates the sidewalk from the porte cochere?” Wynn said. “It was purely Steve’s vision, the volcano. He said, ‘Let’s do a volcano that sets off fire in the sky!’”

An aquatic feature was another of The Mirage’s signature design effects, a 20,000-gallon, 50-foot-long aquarium of exotic fish looming behind the front desk. This fancy tank was to tantalize guests checking into the hotel.

“We always thought when people checked into these places, and they had to wait in line, how tough it would be for them to be patient to have to just stand there,” Wynn said. “But when we put in the fish tank, it was like they were mesmerized. They did not mind standing there and waiting because they were so busy observing all the beautiful tropical fish.”

Wynn continued, “The Mirage was a wonderful experiment that set the tone for how we did projects, and how we moved on from there … It was like we were, for the first time, creating the coloring book for a megaresort.”

New project plans

The 660–foot tall all-suite tower, with a podium below it, received planning approval from Clark County officials during a March 2023 meeting. The proposed tower is designed to resemble back-to-back guitars with “brightly lit strings” and would feature floor-to-ceiling glass panes, Hard Rock attorneys told county officials in planning documents at the time.

Questions of whether a closure would come, and when, have been asked since the project’s announcement. Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen told gaming regulators in December 2022 that the property would not close for renovations at the time of the operator transition, but a closure could come down the road. And last month, management said it wasn’t determined if and when renovations would cause closure when it announced the “Love” closure.

Other indoor plans call for an expansion of the live theater and ballroom space and a low-rise expansion along the south side of the property.

Mirage history

The Mirage, developed by Steve Wynn, is credited with revolutionizing the Strip when it opened on Nov. 22, 1989. It helped usher in the modern era of ultra-luxury in Las Vegas with its elevated theme elements and emphasis on entertainment and dining that generated revenue beyond the casino floor. Other operators took note, cementing the new era of integrated megaresorts.

MGM later acquired the resort in May 2000 when it bought Wynn’s Mirage Resorts for $4.4 billion.

The hotel-casino has already shed some of the things it was most known for: the illusion and white tiger-taming acts of Siegfried and Roy closed in 2003 after Roy Horn’s critical injury, the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat closed in 2022 and was demolished the next year, and the free volcano show on Las Vegas Boulevard has been under threat since Hard Rock announced the property’s purchase.

McKenna Ross contributed to this report.

Contact John Katsilometes at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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