The Wynn hotel complex embodies the luxury to be found in the Las Vegas of today. Glamorous, ostentatious and excessive, it graphically illustrates the ambition that abounds in these parts. It reflects a city that delivers on a scale matched by few other international cities or leisure destinations anywhere in the world, writes Mark Stretton.
The hotel is the life’s work of Steve Wynn, a key player in the emergence of Las Vegas as America’s playground. Prior to creating the ultimate expression of Sin City’s high-end exuberance, Wynn had a hand in the construction and operation of a string of landmark resorts such as Golden Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island and the Bellagio.
Built in 2004 at a cost of $2.7bn (£2.2bn), it has 5,000 bedrooms and suites, with occupancy regularly running well above 90%. In addition to extensive gaming areas and high-end luxury retail (every hotel in Vegas seems home to a shopping complex of some form), the hotel boasts nine fine dining restaurants, eight casual dining eateries, six bars and lounges, and three nightclubs (including XS, voted the no.1 club in the US for five years’ running). And 220,000sq ft of further events space within its conference centre. It is the most admired food and beverage (F&B) programme on the strip, and during our time in Vegas with the ALMR and Propel, we were lucky enough to be given a guided tour of much of it by Brit-born director of fine dining Warren Richards.
Like everything else in this city, the numbers are over the top. The Wynn’s F&B operation alone generates more than $500m in annual revenues. Average spend at its highest-end restaurants is near to $200 per head. Its buffet, featuring 15 cooking stations, serves close to a million guests a year. The nightclubs are set up to (and do) take $1m in a single evening at peak times.
What really impacts is the Wynn’s striking focus on creating unique experiences. From the several destination restaurants that overlook the ‘Lake of Dreams’, which every night transforms into a visual and audio spectacular, replete with 12-metre waterfall and two-metre singing frog (true story), to the raft of ‘unique’ experiences to sate all sorts of curiosities: guests can learn to spin records with a star DJ; make pasta with Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter; master the art of the selfie with an internationally renowned stylist, or indulge in oyster ‘happy hours’ (please enjoy responsibly, of course. Actually, we’ll sell you every last one, if you can pay).
The story of the Wynn and of Vegas itself is best illustrated though, not by the grandeur of what lies within the four walls of the Wynn, but what sits outside, beyond the terraces, pools and waterfalls. A dramatic 18-hole golf course, built in 2001 – somewhat incongruously, given its desert location – is every bit as stunning as the rest of the resort, and seemingly every bit as appealing as anything we will see at Augusta this weekend. At $500 per round, it promises to be (almost) as good.
Yet the golf course is not paying its way (strictly in Vegas terms) and so will be ripped up to make way for Paradise Park, the third chapter in the development of the Wynn (the second was Encore, a $2.3bn, 2,000-room second tower, added in 2008). Paradise Park will feature a 15-20 acre lake, with a 10-storey island in the middle, which guests can access by ferry, daily water ski and fireworks shows, boardwalks with shops, bars and restaurants, plus 1,000 more hotel rooms and residences.
It’ll be “just like Disney” according to Steve Wynn.
The development will cost something like $1.6bn but will unlock massive value. Analysts suggest that the Wynn’s golf club currently generates annual underlying profit (EBITDA) of $5m, whereas Park Paradise could bring in an extra $300-400m each year. A luxury waterpark accessible from the strip will again raise the stakes, even by Vegas standards. It also speaks of a place no longer built just on gaming, but on food and beverage, leisure and experiences.
It’s a city that never sleeps and never stands still. It’s the ultimate sales and marketing machine, always scheming, always plotting, working out how to take more money today than yesterday, and more again tomorrow. Whether it’s the kiosks on the strip hawking iced daiquiris or one of its leading moguls plotting a monolithic project like Paradise Park, there is an unrelenting focus on the commercial rigour of prizing dollars from pockets – whether the pockets belong to people who have a lot or those that have saved hard to be here.
Mark Stretton is Managing Director of Fleet Street Communications. Follow him on twitter @markstretton