Amid all the hoopla of the CityCenter grand opening Wednesday morning, MGM Mirage chairman and CEO Jim Murren made a point to thank the thousands of men and women who were hired to make the project an operational reality. And rightfully so. Hospitality is, after all, built on the backbones of the front-line associates who bring a guest experience to life.
In the case of Las Vegas’ multibillion-dollar behemoth, there are a lot of backbones shouldering the responsibility. By the time every hotel, guestroom and residence is open, MGM estimates it will have brought on 12,000 new hires.
I couldn’t help but think of those associates as I was making the cross-country flight from Cleveland to Vegas Tuesday evening. Sure, we’ve heard a lot from the public faces of this project, but what about Joe Everyman? Surely he’d have something to say—so I decided to ask. The question was simple: “What has been the biggest challenge about opening CityCenter?” What follows is a timeline of some excerpts:
Michael, the gregarious limo driver who picked me up from the airport (6:52 p.m. 15 December):
“They way they have it set up, it’s so confusing,” he said as we circled the property twice after missing the entrance for the Vdara. “Everything’s so big, I’m still trying to get used to finding my way around.”
Denis, the friendly front-desk clerk (7:23 p.m.):
“The biggest challenge so far has been technical issues—trying to get all the systems to talk to each other,” he said. Denis added he wasn’t surprised by such hiccups; it comes with the territory when opening a new hotel.
Don, the chatty associate who brought up some much-needed grub (8:15 p.m.):
“The biggest challenge right now is not getting enough business at this time, because it’s such a soft opening and it’s during the weekday.” Don reminded me that the Vdara, which will eventually have 1,495 suites, only had a little more than 400 units open. The rest of the rooms will open in phases, which should be completed by April 2010.
Casey, a fast-talker who took my in-room dining order for breakfast (7:49 a.m. 16 December):
“Just working out all the kinks,” she said of her greatest challenge. “Things with the computers … just a few logistics.”
Yullana, (a morning person if there ever was one) the associate who brought up breakfast (8:12 a.m.):
“We’re just so busy,” she told me. Not necessarily because the Vdara is at peak capacity, but more so because management has wisely staffed the property according to need. “They just don’t want to have to lay people off,” she said.
Richard, a bustling F&B rep who was setting up refreshments in the media center (9:56 a.m. 17 December):
“It’s hard just getting to know each other (on the staff). We’ve all been doing this for a long time, but just getting to know each other’s personalities.”
Trying to mesh together as a team, I asked?
“Exactly,” he responded.
Shant, the well-spoken PR rep who gave me a tour of Vdara (11:17 a.m.):
“For me, I’ve only been working here for a month, and they’ve thrown all this information at me,” he said. The task was made ever more difficult with the opening of the 4,000-plus room Aria, Shant explained while shuffling through a stack of fact sheets for CityCenter.
Sarah, the bubbly PR rep who led us on a tour of Aria (2:45 p.m.):
“The hardest thing for me is just being able to keep going, being able to walk for 15 hours a day,” she said. (Having endured nearly four hours of tours, I can only imagine your pain, Sarah.) When asked if it was hard coordinating a media event that comprised over 300 members of the press, Sarah brushed it off. “We’ve been planning for so long and practicing for months. It’s going as smoothly as possible.”
And finally, Zach, a reserved Vdara concierge attendant (5:58 p.m.):
“Well, since (the Vdara) opened first, it was hard just getting people back here because of all the construction,” he said. “But now we’ve been open for a few weeks. With the Aria just opening, I feel like we’re ahead of the game.”
To these associates and more, thanks for making my stay a true delight—despite any challenges.