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Chicago Tribune Correspondent Vincent Schodolski
 Reviews the Wynn Las Vegas

By Vincent J. Schodolski, Chicago Tribune
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Apr. 29, 2005 - Modest men do not build hotels that cost $2.7 billion, and so it is no surprise that Steve Wynn compares his new resort and casino to the place where the new pope was elected.

"Michelangelo took four years to complete the Sistine Chapel. Your room took five," says one of the pitches for the new Wynn Las Vegas, which opened Thursday.

Wynn, 63, who helped re-create the Strip with the Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio is back, with a resort boasting 2,700 rooms, 18 restaurants and an 110,000-square-foot casino.

You can buy a Ferrari or a Maserati in the lobby; pick up a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes (keep an eye peeled for Carrie Bradshaw) and an Oscar de la Renta dress. There's a golf course with a waterfall and not one, but two marshlands.

The doors to what is among the world's most expensive hotels opened one minute after midnight, and hundreds of people poured into the 50-story chocolate-colored structure. The crowds were growing as a gray, wet dawn broke over the nation's gambling capital, which has been one of the key vacation destinations for Chicagoans and people throughout the Midwest.

By midday, groups of people were being given guided tours of the lobby and casino where slot machines clanked and people wagered on everything from blackjack to horse races being shown live on giant television screens.

The terrazzo floors are beige but inlaid with mosaic tiles in shades of green, blue, orange and purple. The lobby was decked with flowers complementing the colors of the tiles.

The atrium over which the 50-story hotel towers was filled with live trees decorated with balls of flowers that resembled Christmas tree ornaments.

Most of the people in the lobby and casinos Thursday were not guests, but folks such as Irene Frank of northwest suburban Fox Lake, Ill., who came to wander about and gawk.

"From what I have seen it's OK," she said of the new hotel, adding that she has been going to Las Vegas for decades and has seen a lot of hotels and casinos. This time she brought her son to celebrate her 90th birthday.

When told that the rooms ranged in price from about $315 to more than $850 a night, she said: "Oh, my! Even if I could afford it, I wouldn't pay that kind of money."

That was not the case for John and Catherine Stihl from Coronado, Calif., who wandered over from the Bellagio to check out Wynn's new palace.

"Three hundred and fifteen a night for a world-class hotel," said John Stihl.

"We will stay here next time," said his wife, adding that they had come to see the new hotel, but chose to stay at their usual hotel rather than the new one until they saw what it looked like.

Concierge Michael Hatcher, who just moved to Las Vegas from Chicago where he worked at the Four Seasons hotel, said he was pleased with his new job. "This hotel is the best in the world. I love it."

Most of the people merely milled around, taking pictures of the new hotel, frequently with their cell phones.

"It's one-stop shopping," said Meg Miller, a visitor from Los Angeles. "I didn't know about the place until yesterday."

She gestured around the flower-festooned lobby. "Pretty fancy joint."

One-stop shopping indeed.

Just four minutes after the hotel opened, Bill Manuel sold a Maserati Quattroporte for $116,000, and a few hours later Zetta Magliarditi sold a "pre-owned" Ferrari for $269,000.

"I get a thrill every time I walk into this room," she said later as she escorted a visitor through the underground showroom where the pre-owned cars are sold. There were more than two dozen cars to choose from--some priced at more than $1 million.

Not ready for a six-figure automobile just yet? There is a gift shop next to the showroom where you can get a Ferrari key chain for $85.

Chanel, Dior and Cartier also have shops in the hotel.

There is choice in the room rates as well. A few rooms will go for about $250 a night, but if you are feeling flush after a big win at a roulette table there is the 1,950-square- foot Tower Suites Salon for $871 a night. Officials also said the room rates will vary by occupancy and will be determined by computers.

The golf course, the old Desert Inn course redesigned, is the collaborative work of Wynn and course designer Tom Fazio. The course features 1,200 trees, some a half-century old and some 60 feet high. Old, but all post-Bugsy Siegel.

No jeans are permitted on the course, and one's shirt has to have a collar. Shorts are permitted as long as they are no shorter than midthigh.

If you are looking for show girls, Wayne Newton or Celine Dion, you're in the wrong place. Here is how Wynn Las Vegas describes the principal entertainment--"Le Reve": "A small collection of imperfect dreams" and "an aquatic spectacular performed in a domed theater in the round."

"Le Reve" is French for "the dream" if that helps explain the concept. To find out what "Le Reve" is all about you will have to pay $121 for a ticket. The resort promises that no seat is more than 40 feet from the action.

Hungry? Well, there are 18 restaurants ranging from a place called Alex--named for the chef--which serves what is described as Riviera cuisine, to Tableau, which serves American.

Interestingly, the American cuisine--the food of a nation that prides itself on fairness and a chance for everyone to have a crack at opportunity--is only available to guests staying in the high-end Tower Suites for breakfast and lunch.

Dinner is more democratic. Even the folks in the lower-priced rooms get to rub shoulders with the $871 crowd.

In between the Riviera and America there is "French influenced Shanghai" food, Italian seafood, the Red 8 Asian Bistro and Corsa Cucina, described as a "sleek, high energy cafe" that serves Mediterranean Italian food.

High energy. Sounds like you can work off the calories while you eat.


--About 2,700 rooms

--110,000-square-foot casino

--18 restaurants

--18-hole golf course

--Art gallery featuring works by Picasso, van Gogh and others

--Full-service Ferrari & Maserati dealership

--150-foot artificial mountain featuring a five-story waterfall

--2,000-seat, domed showroom with a stage in the round

--Water-themed theater production titled "Le Reve"


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