When I was young, naive, and before I knew what it was like to put down coin on a table or in a machine, I was an 18 year old architecture student. My second semester was…experimental. Carving in drywall, making my own tent, and using that tent to camp throughout the southwest. Surreal as it was, it got more so. One night, drunk under age in a van full of my cohorts, we arrived at a shining beacon in the dark. Las Vegas.
The all new Treasure Island at the Mirage
Our destination…the place we could fit in the most for the least. That place was the all new Treasure Island at the Mirage. (AKA The OG Encore). And for a splendid night of debauchery, myself and 21 of my peers piled into a room (4 at a time, security watching) for the night. Buffets and my first slot experience later, Las Vegas became ingrained in me just as it had with my family before me.
To that end, TI as it’s known now after many inclinations and due to its unmistakable (and ahead of its time) MGM-era Marquee, is a true history of the Strip bottled up into one property. The hotel itself was the second wunderkind of Steve Wynn, and as such, it bears his hallmarks. Like Bellagio, Mirage, and even Wynn, it featured it’s own allure in design. Taking Mirage’s Polynesian theme into Pirate infested waters, the hotel built on the theme and took it deeper, just as Encore took the Wynn standard to a higher echelon. But Treasure Island took things above and beyond. Pirate themes were accentuated with fine art from his collection (some of which still stand to this day, sharp eyes around the cage). And aside from that, he added things that were downright adventurous (pun intended). Treasure Island got its own (RIP Sirens) strip show. It also got the first anchored Cirque show, Mystere, a force of its genre to this day. One could say the nightly fireworks were the first real light show on the Strip. The Aria Tram? Mirage to Treasure Island in 2 minutes came first. Treasure Island was a success, and the history it started is legend.
TI, an MGM property
But, much like the rest of the town, Treasure Island has been mired. When Wynn let his ego get too big, he lost it, and all of his portfolio, to MGM in their absorption of Mirage Resorts. Treasure Island became another folio property. And as such, through the aughts, MGM remodeled it into modern oblivion. The pirate theme held on as much as it could, but Treasure Island at the Mirage became TI, an MGM property. It wasn’t a bad thing, but slowly, the identity of the hotel became mired. And then all hell broke loose.
When the dust of the financial crash settled, MGM and all the major players were left shaken. But MGM was clearly in the worst position and were in a bind. CityCenter was on the verge of financial collapse before its completion and MGM was in a corner. That corner meant that suddenly another player could step in and get a fully functional megaresort on the coattails of a property deal he lucked out on. And with that, Treasure Island became Phil Ruffin’s new baby. Things would change, but TI would live on in a new way.
One of the Best Joints on the Strip
Today, that means that those who may have visited back in the day don’t really know what TI is anymore. Pirate themes mix with country bars. Crab shacks and high end dining with Señor Frogs and low limit table games that rival downtown. The bones are there, but the skull and cross bones have been replaced with something a bit more…mutational. TI, through its fate, has become one of the best joints on the strip. The best of the downtown idea and the Strip scene with a bit of local flare thrown in. And that is why it is the perfect place for a group of fun loving degenerates to get together and celebrate what truly is the heart of the Las Vegas dream.
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Live It and Love It
Some will malaise the old being lost for the new. I say embrace it. TI is the Vegas, hell, the American dream. Live it and love it. You tell me where else you can play double deck for under $25 at 3:2, get a slice of pizza, see a world-renowned acrobatic act and ride a mechanical bull one one night and UNDER one roof.