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Loud music aims to add to energy at CityCenter’s Aria casino

My fourth visit to CityCenter since it opened this past December was both good and bad.

First, the good. The Crystals shopping area still doesn’t have any place to sit down, unless you count two benches outside by the Henry Moore sculpture. If you don’t mind paying to sit, there are now a few places where you can buy a drink or a snack and sit and wait. Seniors and disabled who waited to go see it, because I warned them about the lack of seating five months ago, might consider taking a stab at it now.

Then there was lunch at Mastro’s Ocean Club and the warm butter cake, their signature dessert. Mastro’s is the often-photographed restaurant reminiscent of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, except the wood is an upgrade.

The food and service were outstanding. Not cheap, as the Morrisons are wont to say, but very, very good.

Back to the warm butter cake. It sounded so over the top, we had to share it. As our friendly waiter described it, it’s a yellow cake with cream cheese baked into it, with ice cream and strawberries and orange slices on top. It was memorable. Not to step on the turf of our food critic Heidi Knapp Rinella, but I’d strongly recommend it, even at $14.

Another positive, when we went to the Mandarin Oriental hotel, nobody snubbed us. The staff was very friendly and helpful, and didn’t treat us like peasants, so that’s an improvement.

The bad? The noise level at Aria.

The music was so loud in the casino and throughout the property that it qualified as noise pollution. It compares poorly with the Bellagio, the adjacent MGM Mirage property. Locals are advised it is easier to park at the Bellagio parking garage and take the tram to Aria.

At Bellagio, the music is soothing.

At Aria, it blasted away. Everywhere. There was no place you could escape it. Most restaurants were open so the music poured in, the shops had loud music piped in, even the bathrooms had music. Anyone wanting to make a call would have trouble finding a quiet place.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman conceded the music at Aria is "a bit louder" than at Bellagio.

"At Bellagio the music is intended to be part of the background. At Aria, the music is part of the experience and adds to the energy and excitement that we’ve worked hard to create," he e-mailed.

Feldman explained Aria has a system throughout the building with "sense mics. The mics are able to read the noise levels in the public spaces and, as there is more activity, the mics sense that and the music levels go up accordingly."

Thus, when the casino gets loud, the music gets louder.

"They continuously monitor sound levels and tweak the system where it’s appropriate for it to be higher and where lower," Feldman explained.

Is this to attract a younger crowd? One who thinks "hip" and doesn’t immediately associate it with "replacement"?

Feldman said the loud music wasn’t about age, it was about ambience. "Our mission was experiential not demographic."

Where would my San Diego friend who appreciates fine things stay? The 13-year-old Bellagio. Not the brand new Aria.

The room rates suggest she’s not alone in her preference.

Guess which hotel had the more expensive basic room rate on Friday? Choose Aria and you’d be wrong.

Friday’s advertised room rate on the website was $499 at the Bellagio. That’s $170 more than the Aria’s $329.

Maybe, just maybe, the Aria’s noise level turns off more people than MGM Mirage officials realize.

If, as Feldman said, no one has complained about the loud music at Aria, then let me be the first.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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