Happy birthday Bellagio

It’s hard to believe, but the Bellagio is a decade old. Ten years ago today, Steve Wynn taught the fountains to play…metaphorically, I guess. That’s right, on October 15, 1998, the Bellagio opened its doors. Here’s a reminder from the October 15, 1998 LV Sun:

And so it begins: the latest, the greatest — and what many believe will be the last — tidal wave of new resort openings in Las Vegas.

Tonight's unveiling of Bellagio, the most expensive hotel-casino ever built, begins a two-year binge of resort openings that will boost the Las Vegas-area hotel-room inventory 20.5 percent in the next 24 months.

The critical question: Will those $9 billion of new resorts stimulate enough visitor demand to fill — year-round — the 127,542 total rooms scheduled to be open in Las Vegas by 2001?

Strip casino industry counting on ‘new’ Vegas – Las Vegas Sun

I was looking back at the coverage of the Bellagio’s opening for another project, and I was amazed at how pessimistic it was. If you’ve got Proquest or another archival search engine you can confirm this for yourself, but you can take my word for it: there was a lot of doom and gloom: gaming stocks are sliding, the city is overbuilt, no one will pay $200 for a hotel room in Vegas. The article’s lede reflects this: it speculates that after the 1998-2000 boom, there will be nothing more. Sound familiar?

Ten years later with another Wynn hotel opening, we’ve reached the same point in the cycle, although things are much shriller now.

So ten years from now will some intrepid blogger pull up today’s stories and make fun of the 2008 pundits for being scaredy cats? Maybe. The pessimists weren’t totally wrong: Steve Wynn’s stock price continued to take a beating. But in the global view, it would be hard to argue that if we went back to 1998 and prevented the Bellagio, Paris, Mandalay Bay, Aladdin, and Venetian from opening that Las Vegas would be better off than it is today.