Hard Rock details plans for Mirage transformation

December 7, 2022 7:05 PM
Photo: Hard Rock International (courtesy)
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
December 7, 2022 7:05 PM

Hard Rock International unveiled its plans Wednesday for a multi-billion investment and transformation of the Mirage, including a guitar-shaped hotel tower at the front of the property along the Las Vegas Strip.

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No decisions have been made on any closures during construction, but the property will remain open for the next 18 months.

Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming representing the Seminole Tribe of Florida, filled in the long-awaited details for the Nevada Gaming Control Board during a nearly four-hour presentation. The Board recommended that the Nevada Gaming Commission approve the sale at its December meeting and the Hard Rock’s transaction with MGM Resorts International is expected to close shortly after that for $1.075 billion in cash, which has been escrow for about a year.

The transaction received backing from the two existing members of the Gaming Control Board, Philip Katsaros and newly installed Chair Brittnie Watkins. They noted that the Seminoles will be the first tribal nation to operate a casino on the Strip.

“It’s historic,” Katsaros said. “This property is iconic, because it triggered the rebirth of the Strip that we see today. This is going to elevate the game for everybody on the Strip. We have a new competitor in town.”

VICI Properties owns of the property and Hard Rock is on track to enter a long-term lease with the real estate investment trust for a base rent of $90 million a year.

“We present you today not just a rebranding of the Mirage with a new sign and new carpet,” Allen said. “We anticipate spending billions of dollars and creating a new destination-resort on the Strip. We’re very proud it sits on the 50-yard line. It is God’s gift.”

The Hard Rock operates 13 casinos in the U.S. and Canada, with two other openings on the way in Virginia and Ontario, Canada. It also operates hotel-resorts around the world.

“Being able to bring those (global) customers here to the Mirage is very important,” Allen said. “We’re cognizant of the success MGM has had with its rewards programs. Some customers will stay with the Mirage on a limited time basis and MGM will market for its other properties like Bellagio. We completely understand that.”

Allen said that their Hard Rock database tracks more than $700 million in gaming revenue coming to Nevada. “We think that’s an opportunity to bring a lot more customers to Las Vegas to help subsidize some of the business that will be going back to MGM.”

Allen told the Board, “Everyone wants to know what we’re doing with the Mirage” and complimented MGM for the condition of the building. He said he’s been in a lot of buildings over the last 40 years and was pleasantly surprised.

“When the building was designed, it changed the industry,” Allen said. “But that’s not what Hard Rock is and who its owners are. We like to do things big and we wanted to make sure we had ample ground to do it properly.”

Allen said their plan, subject to approval from Clark County, is to build an all-suites guitar-shaped building similar to what it’s done in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel Hotel & Casino in Hollywood in South Florida.

“People thought I was completely crazy when we said we are going to build a building in the shape of a guitar,” Allen said. “Now, it has become an international icon. It’s amazing the tourism we receive in that building. I made a huge mistake by not building it big enough; the building has already exceeded its year six-, seven-, and eight-year projections. We think this will become another icon in the Las Vegas Strip skyline.”

The Mirage’s existing 3,044 rooms will be stripped down to a concrete shell and rebuilt, Allen said. The entire site, including the guitar tower, will house between 3,600 and 3,700 rooms.

Hard Rock applied to Clark County for a 998-foot-tall guitar tower, but it’s expected to be approved at between 500 and 660 feet. That will determine the number of rooms, Allen said. The Mirage’s villas will remain and be upgraded.

The casino, restaurants, and public areas will be gutted and rebuilt.

The new property will grow by 80,000 square feet to 174,000, including 94,000 square feet in casino space. The current 836 slots will increase to 2,000. The number of table games will go from 51 to 212.

Restaurants will go from 18 to a minimum of 21. Upwards of 83,000 square feet in convention space will be added to the 200,000 square feet in place, including a new ballroom for high-end events.

Theater seats will be bumped from 3,278 to 6,265. “It’s our goal to build a brand new Hard Rock Live,” Allen said. “We have relationships with Live Nation, Roc Nation, and AEG, so we feel this can be another entertainment destination. We have extended the Beatles LOVE show through next year and into 2024.”

The plans call for leveling the pools and landscaping in the rear of the property and building a new water attraction over five acres. In front the property next to the guitar will be another “pool experience,” in Allen’s words. “You’ll feel like you’re swimming off the side of the pool onto the Las Vegas Strip.”

A music museum will go up between the Mirage and Treasure Island. A platform in front of the guitar will allow visitors to take selfies and see a high-tech show.

The plan is to keep all 3,600 Mirage employees, Allen said.

At this time, Hard Rock plans not to close the property, but “it could be an option a year and a half down the road.” Construction drawings will be completed by next summer, at which point the project will be bid by contractors.

Allen told the Board they’re not planning to piecemeal the rebranding. “We don’t want to renovate a little area (at a time) and finish 10 years from now. Supply-chain issues and recessions all come into play. We believe we’ll be operating this building at least for 18 months pretty much as is and as we get all of our construction drawings done, we’ll see where we are with the economy and all of the different factors that come into play.”

Allen said one option is renovating rooms one tower at a time, but it raises the concern of bringing guests into the building with massive construction under way. Another is to work on “a box within a box,” keeping the building open,

“More than 50% of the revenue in Las Vegas comes from non-gaming activities,” Allen noted. “We don’t want to (damage the Hard Rock’s potential) by putting guests in a construction environment that’s going to be unpleasant. We have to evaluate all of those timetables, but the actual construction could be anywhere from 26 to 30 months.”

Hard Rock will be negotiating with VICI Properties on the 25-year lease with three 10-year renewals. Hard Rock is required to do the transaction with VICI and has the right to look at other real estate investment trusts or fund it themselves, Allen said. “We’re evaluating all of those options as we move forward.”