The Lion In Winter

The Long Sad Tale of MGM Grand Atlantic City

Posted by Chuckmonster

MGM Grand Atlantic City 2007 Rendering - Tower View

MGM Grand Atlantic City's October 2007 announcement was a clarion call to gamblers everywhere that Atlantic City's 2.0 renaissance is officially underway. MGM Grand Atlantic City's gestation started about 20 years ago in the mind of a guy named Steve. The story of the MGM Grand Atlantic City has more twists, turns and 100% more Wynn than any given John Grisham novel.

The history of the MGM Grand Atlantic City stretches way back to the days of the Golden Nugget Atlantic City... long before Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts was taken over by MGM in Spring of the year 2000. Steve Wynn's Golden Nugget Resorts was flying high in Atlantic City after the opening of the Golden Nugget on December 9, 1980. They has procured a large parcel of land at Renaissance Point and had made preliminary plans to build a $250 million dollar resort when Wynn's notorious temper was flared by New Jersey Gaming regulators in 1986. He shelved the plans and sold the Golden Nugget in a huff to Ballys Entertainment for $400M and left Atlantic City. The proceeds form the sale of the AC Nug were used as seed money to built the Mirage.

In the ensuing years in Las Vegas, Steve Wynn's newly christened Mirage Resorts changed Las Vegas forever with its namesake Mirage, pirate themed Treasure Island, built on the cheap Monte Carlo (a partnership with Circus-Circus Enterprises), elegant riverboat Beau Rivage in Biloxi and eventually his crowning achievement Bellagio. All the while, the thoughts of returning to Atlantic City washed in and out of Mirage Resorts strategy like waves on the Atlantic City's beaches. In the late-1990's Mirage Resorts had plans drawn up for Steve Wynn's dramatic return to Atlantic City after a 10 year absence. Le Jardin, a garden themed casino, was announced in 1998 and scheduled a February 2001 grand opening. Le Jardin was to have featured 2,027 rooms, a 138,000 square foot casino, a 1,500 seat showroom, nine restaurants, 18 retail shops and its own boardwalk.

Simultaneously, MGM cooked up two different sets of plans for MGM Grand Atlantic City. MGM Grand Atlantic City #1 was to be located on the boardwalk, next to the Showboat (where Revel is being built). MGM was unable to agree on the purchase of the various pieces of real estate and scrapped the project. The second MGM Grand was to be located on 14 acres on the east side of Trump Castle (now Trump Marina). Atlantic City Planning Board approved their plan to purchase 12 acres of land for a US$700M resort and MGM completed the real estate transactions shortly thereafter. MGM Grand Atlantic City #2 was to include a 385 foot tall hotel tower featuring 2,100 rooms overlooking Absecon Inlet and the marina.

When MGM took over Mirage Resorts in May 2000, they were left holding the bag of two projects, MGM Grand Atlantic City #2 and Le Jardin. Le Jardin had actually made commitments to the city to begin construction, but after some deliberation the newly formed MGMMirage decided to pull the plug on it AND MGM Grand #2. They did, however continue to build another Wynn inspired partnership with Boyd Gaming - The Borgata. Since then, the remaining 78 acres of Le Jardin - a former garbage dump - and MGM Grand #2's 14 acres have laid dormant.

On October 10, 2007 MGMMirage released a rendering and a statement to the press announcing MGM Grand Atlantic City (#3, in case you're counting). MGMMirage Chairman and CEO Terry Lanni's opening sentence speaks volumes. Take it away Terry:

Our company has carefully considered the possibilities for our landholdings in Atlantic City.

No kidding.

MGM Grand Atlantic City (#3) will occupy 60 of the remaining 72 acres that were originally earmarked for Le Jardin. 12 acres on the north end of the parcel are going to reserved for a later date (probably for condos or another tower). The 14 acres where MGM Grand Atlantic City (#2) was planned will be developed at a later date. According to MGMMirage, this property will be connected to MGM Grand #3 by a tram that goes over Brigantine Boulevard. Currently, MGMMirage has not released any plans, renderings or information about this site whatsoever. Condos? A boutique hotel tower with a casino? Buying out Trump Marina? Only time will tell.

This piece originally appeared in our blog CityBOOM : AtlanticCity 2.0