A megaresort is born: How The Mirage changed the landscape of the Strip
It was early afternoon, Nov. 22, 1989, and a reporter from the Las Vegas Sun caught up with Steve Wynn, who was nearby directing security guards to open the doors to his newly built $630 million casino resort. “I have been waiting four years going on 20 to say welcome to The Mirage,” Wynn told the reporter. “We’ve been saying things like fantasy becomes reality. And in a sense, I guess you can say today fantasy becomes reality, really.”
What was that reality? It was the creation of Las Vegas’ first megaresort. When Wynn built and opened The Mirage, it was the first time that one parcel of land offered such a long list of luxuries and amenities.
After two years of careful planning, it took another two years to finish building the more than 1 million-square-foot, lush, tropical-style environment, in which hotel guests could indulge in shopping, entertainment, dining, pampering and gaming.
By far the biggest gaming area at the time, the casino spread over more than 100,000 square feet with table games, slot machines, a race and sports book and poker room. Before hitting the casino, guests were welcomed by a stunning 80-foot-high atrium filled with colors and vegetation usually only found on exotic islands. Checking in was quite an experience as well—a 20,000-gallon saltwater tank with nearly 1,000 aquatic inhabitants stretched the length of the registration desk.
With more guest rooms than any other hotel on the Strip—just over 3,000 rooms—The Mirage raised the bar when it came to luxury by building posh, private bungalows for guests, too. Shopping was brought on property with both men’s and women’s clothing and accessories boutiques and gift stores; a salon and co-ed gym was also available for exercising and primping. Instead of just one dining option there were now dining options with everything from casual to upscale.
One of the biggest shifts in how Las Vegas guests experienced the city came with the entertainment The Mirage offered. Magicians Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, along with their majestic white tigers, filled the theater specially built for them with an over-the-top, family-friendly show. And the Stripside Mirage volcano literally changed the face of Las Vegas Boulevard with man-made eruptions that lit up the night sky.
On that day in 1989, Wynn had succeeded at turning his fantasy into reality. While The Mirage sparked the construction boom of megaresorts in Las Vegas, it also ushered in a new trend of building a fantasy. The resort’s version of a Polynesian-style getaway in the middle of a sandy desert town inspired other properties to offer fantasies of their own by transporting guests to locales around the world. Not only did the ’90s usher in the age of the megaresort, but by the end of the decade you could visit Egypt, Paris, Italy, Monaco, New York City, a pirate’s cove and even a medieval village, all in one day.