I’ll never forget the first time I rolled into Vegas. I was in a Ford Windstar full of college kids from my architecture studio, it was 1998. Most of them were drunk. We found shelter at the new Treasure Island at the Mirage. One room. 18 kids. We went up the elevator in groups to avoid the security. On that trip I put a quarter into a slot machine, and 18 year old me won 200 bucks which I quickly blamed on my friend as we waited to get into the coffee shop. I knew then I was hooked, not just on Vegas, but the vista when you drive from the desolate and barren into the city shimmers on a hot summer night.
To this day, as I round on to 37, I still relish that drive. The stretches of beautiful desert, the thermometer in Baker, the new solar plant at Primm and finally coming down that last descent into Sin City. But with one fail swoop of what I can only derive to the further corporatization of Las Vegas, I’m afraid those days are at an end, and once again it’s all thanks to MGM Resorts.
First came resort fees.
Pain in the ass to pay 30 bucks a day for internet, but I dealt with it, mostly because comps covered the resort fee. But now, the one last bastion of sanity has been stolen. Free parking is no longer free starting very soon across the MGM world, from $10 dollars a day at top tier properties downwards as you get to the lesser portfolio properties. Just when I thought Vegas couldn’t figure out a way to nickel and dime the fuck out of me further, bravo.
The thing that always made Vegas what it is was the fact that I, you, Joe Schmo, anyone, could show up and be treated like royalty. Parking is plentiful and free. Valet would take your car away and whisk it back to you for as little as a tip. Floor men could comp your lunch or your room, if you swung the right way. But now, once again, the revenue crunchers have sacrificed another one of those specialties away from the public to bolster their already well to do bottom lines. It’s sad, but not surprising, just like the fact that Caesars Entertainment, Wynn, and likely every other property will charge within the year.
What that means to those of us like myself, the Los Angeles kid who drives to spend fun weekends in Vegas, is that now, sadly, I think those days are at an end. With the advent of dirt cheap flights from LAX, which I can get to via transit, and Uber’s cheap fares as an alternative to getting “tunneled”, all of these things negated by resort fees and parking fees equals the fact that it simply no longer makes sense to drive that long special stretch of the 15 North. Instead of seeing the thermometer, I’ll see the TSA line at LAX. Instead of a snack at the Mad Greek, I’ll opt for a Quizno’s toaster at T3 at McCarran.
I do know the next time I go to Vegas, if I’m lucky enough to drive it again, I’ll crack the sunroof and enjoy the air, and remember it vividly, because I think that honestly it could be the last drive.