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Mandalame Bay

By MikeE on Monday, 6th February 2012 11:09am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 15


Almost two years ago, I wrote a piece about how Palms was no longer relevant in the very nightlife market that it practically created. We all soon found out what happened there and are still a little unsure of what's to come.

And now, ankle deep into 2012, I've begun to feel a little nostalgic for Mandalay Bay. I've *never* had a bad time there. They've got roomy suites at THEhotel, cool restaurants, good casino vibes, incredible pools, and the two top rooftop venues in the city as far as views go. In southern California circa 2003ish, if the talk of everyone wasn’t going to Vegas to hang out at Palms, it was about going to Mandalay Bay.

But let's say you talk to someone who went to Vegas for the first time a couple of years ago, got bit by the bug, and has since made several trips. By now a veteran in his own mind, if you ask him where the best place with a nice view to get drunk is, he'd probably tell you to pack your own booze and get a room at Cosmopolitan.

That's a n00b answer. Especially when there are places like MIX or Foundation Room. OMG Foundation Room! You'd swear Roger Thomas designed the place... after having drawn inspiration out of notebooks filled with sketches he made on a series of acid trips in Morocco. The place is still one of the most stunning rooms in the city.

And yet, it's floundering. After going public, Foundation Room hasn't done anything to attract new visitation. While we can't pretend it can compete with the Marquees of the new strip, what they don't seem to realize is that there's this age group of 27-35 year olds that loves the nightclubs, but - considering the lines, the negotiating with the doormen, the loud music, the crowds, etc. - physically can't stand more than a night of them. They're smart with their time and money. They want the hip vibe and all the spectacle without the other crap they went through the night before. And that's why night twos and threes of my trips involve Hydes, Mandarin Bars, and Chandeliers of the strip.

And if I weren't one of a total seven people (I'm not exaggerating that figure) at Foundation Room or MIX on any given weeknight, I might even add those to the list where they once originally were.

When the inevitable renovation of THEhotel comes around, Mandalay has a huge opportunity to compete with the newer Cosmos of the strip. Market, market, and MARKET the hell out of those rooftop venues. Some light renovations just to make them fresh again may help. Create new industry nights and hip lounges out of those incredible restaurant spaces. How the hell is Aureole not being used as a badass after dinner wine bar? Why isn't mixology pushed at Red Square with a vodka menu as massive as theirs? Then again, why isn't mixology pushed anywhere in that building? Put some nice, not outrageous minimum table games in all the dead space of Eyecandy, but please spare us the tacky and embarrassing go-go dancers. House of Blues could start having really big names again - names that otherwise might play the Grand Garden, or Cosmo, or The Joint. And dickpunch the other venues reminding concertgoers that every one of the seats lets you see the artist up close and personal. Big name DJs wouldn't hurt, either.

I know the consensus among many of us is that we'd hate to have the nightclub crowd take over a casino. Sure. But then again, I just want the only gem of the south strip back to its former glory. Yes, the location sucks and so do the neighbors, but all the physical aspects to keep Mandalay Bay relevant are already there.

People just need a little nudge and/or reminder that there's cool stuff going on south strip, too.

Tagged: mandalay bay   foundation room   thehotel   mix   


Comments & Discussion:

My dad was a member of the Foundation Room for years. He's told me the same thing, when it was private, it was amazing. But since it went public, it isn't so great anymore. After a few-year hiatus, he re-joined in 2010, only to cancel his membership a year later. According to him, it has been poorly maintained and the service has gone way downhill, the only saving grace was the view.

Mandalay Bay definitely has some great things going for it, it just needs a refresh and a reminder that there is a reason to venture to the South Strip.

The problem with your theory is that MGM doesn't operate their resorts as if they were an ecosystem, they operate like a mall owner, leasing space to whomever wants to buy it. Having guarantees on rent + performance points allows MGM to push more of the risk (and to a degree reward) on the lessee. Even if the restaurant/club/store has a bum month, they still pay the parent company the same amount in rent. This transition happens at every resort that enters the MGM portfolio.... eventually they become the Westfield Bellagio.

I love Mandalay Bay. It's in my top three properties in the city. The room product, restaurant selection, and overall vibe just "do it" for me. I would love to see a refresh on Foundation and Mix...as they are some of the best venues in town...but I would hate to see them turn into XS or something like that. I think Mandalay is in an excellent position to market their entire resort experience to the crowd that used to love Wynncore before the clubbers took over. Foundation and Mix could really be a great spot for the 30-50 crowd that's not interested in bottle service, lines, or DJ's. House of Blues could be bringing in a steady lineup of great acts that appeal to that crowd (like many of HOB venues do), and when you add in the nice Casino, convention space, excellent restaurants, and the large rooms...Mandalay could be a real winner. I don't see the location being the main problem...it's no further from center strip than Wynncore is...just in the other direction...and for that matter...I think it has better neighbors than Wynn. I think the main problem is Murren. As long as MGM owns it, it will continue to flounder in mediocrity...content to be a slightly upper-mid level property with average entertainment and amenities. Nobody does "meh" better than Murren...and as long as he's at the helm, we'll never see Mandalay Bay reach it's full potential.

I don't see Grand Garden acts playing the HOB unless there's a big demand for 500 dollar tickets. Don't they get a fair number of the smaller arena tours throug hthe onsite arena in the cc?

*checks schedule* Ok, maybe not. They need to market that space better. Lots of shows go for spaces that size.

I think Foundation room screwed itself with the membership model it started with. I got tired of having to check what time and on what nights they were open to the public. Mix also used the wrong business strategy. They should have been a good bar with a great view, rather than a bottle service ultra lounge. Eyecandy was a huge mistake and essentially left MB without a good casino bar. They should rip it out and put the old center bar back in. The replacement for Rum Jungle will be MB's chance to recapture some of the club scene.

As an acquisition, MB will always have to take a back seat to the MGM properties. Their demographic is solidly SoCal soccer moms and that won't change as long as they have the wave pool for the kids to play-in.

@parch, the problem wasn't the exclusivity, it's the fact that they had to make it go public because there is nothing else to drive demand to the club. A few years ago myself and a group of friends went to StripSteak and then to Foundation Room. It was a pretty awesome evening. Now, our options are still the same. There's nothing new or exciting for dinner or in the early evening to draw us to the property and then cap it off at Foundation Room. I also had some friends and family with memberships that eventually cancelled because there was no reason to go to Mandalay Bay, not because it's not an awesome space.

Aureole becoming a late night wine lounge is a fantastic idea. Some ambiant DJ music...lots of candles (or just low light)...great wines and champagnes by the glass (they're probably a little heavy on inventory, what better way to cash out!?!)...

Having recently left Wynn for Mandalay Bay (I've stayed twice in the last few months, in October & then again last month), I have mixed feelings about the place.

On the one hand, the hosting staff has really treated me very well, many of the restaurants (RM Seafood, Aureole, Mix, Stripsteak) are still putting out good food, and I actually like the fact that the property has been abandoned by the club crowd...both times I was there, the crowd was mostly upscale, 30-50 range, mostly just there to gamble & eat...you know, pretty much what the crowd used to be at Wynn, before Encore opened & all the LA douchebags who used to hang out at Mandalay Bay started hanging out there instead...

So while I actually liked the fact that the crowd wasn't really a crowd at all, there were still some negatives, like the fact that even though I was in one of their nicer suites on the "62nd" floor, I'm pretty sure the room probably hadn't been renovated since the place opened, the service staff seemed to just be going through the motions, and the one night when we did want some "action" & headed up to the Foundation room for dinner, the food was mediocre and the place was dead...though our group did make the best of it & enjoyed basically having the whole place to ourselves, but some of that was spent laughing about how we were practically the only people there...

Bottom line is, next trip in April, I'm trying out the "Sky Suites" at Aria...I'll probably be back to Mandalay Bay again, but until MGM puts some money into the place, after you've been there once or twice & tried out everything the place has to offer, the itch to stay elsewhere definitely sets in, they really need to add something that will make you want to come back to it again and again, which right now is what it's lacking...

Hopefully the new Michael Jackson Cirque show will be a catalyst for MGM to put some money into the place, because otherwise I think it is going to die a slow death, not from being the worst place on the strip, but from no longer being able to compete as one of the best places on the strip, which is what it was originally designed to be, but sadly isn't anymore...

MikeE, Mandalay Bay is fantastic, some of my best memories in Vegas were sitting outside sipping margaritas at Border Grill and having a vodka tasting at Red Square. I understand the comparison to Cosmopolitan, but it's a bit condesceding to call someone a n00b for choosing Cosmopolitan over Mandalay Bay. I've never had a bad experience, I don't go to nightclubs and check-in has always been seemless... and I'm not a newbie. I mean n00b. (!?)

@jonas Honestly, the piece was inspired from an old thread I read on another forum where the guy was asking where a nice place to have drinks with a view would be. Several pages in, some guy finally suggested Foundation Room to which so-called veterans started asking "What's Foundation Room?"

But yes, Cosmo is a great place to drink. n00bs just happen to think it's the ONLY place to drink.

The risk in this business and hospitality in general, is the evolving trends and tastes of fickle consumers. Just how nightclubs and restaurants come and go, entire resorts can succumb to such swings. Now obviously there's a lot of examples of places that maintain their cachet year after year, even decade after decade... but Mandalay isn't really old enough to have a legacy, its location isn't ideal, and it was built on the cusp of a building boom, therefor making it seem artificially "old" next to newer competitors. Mid range places have really suffered post recession, because the demand and resulting market spread on room rates just doesn't leave much of a niche between high end resorts and bottom feeders. (I don't know what the latest figures say though) Unless demand for rooms comes back, I'm not sure if there's much of a future there to sell an "experience" beyond their pools. In my opinion, MGM still has work to be done in making Aria/City Center something people want to check out, and that certainly has more potential than the increasingly dated design and location of MB.

@MikeE: gotcha. Totally understand that clarification, and agree.

MB used to be my go-to property (well, THEhotel). It has such a massive variety of things on site that you could spend a weekend there and never leave the complex, and still not try everything out that you wanted to. But every trip, something seemed to decline. Whether it was room service, quality of food, etc, it seemed like a steady drop every time. On my 2nd to last visit there, I took my dad, who has never stayed anywhere nice like THEhotel and instead opts for Rio/IP/Flamingo (the "I'd rather stay somewhere free than somewhere nice" ideology) and he loved it, except for the staff. To top off the trip, he was accused of trying to "steal drinks" at the Eyecandy Bar because he ordered a drink and didn't play video poker fast enough, and left on the spot.

I decided to try them one more time after that and a series of unfortunate events just kept happening; ice makers on the six floors we tried didn't work, TITO constantly going down and requiring hand-pays for $0.25 cashouts; my wi-fi connection was apparently hacked as while I was on the casino floor, someone was logged into my Facebook profile telling people I was robbed in London; just a lot of little things that were annoyances and not a sign of the quality of resort they claim to be.

I will agree with the Foundation Room assessments too, when we went there was one other couple there, and we basically went outside, took each others' pictures, and left.


I think the problem with Mandalay Bay is that their marketing team is consumed with promoting whatever event, show, convention or tournament happens to be there that week and have absolutely forgotten about the rest of the property.

Also the vacant Rumjungle space would be great for a new cool one of a kind (no pun intended) venue. Clearly Light Group doesn't want it but maybe SBE?

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