Casino officials and celebrity chefs showed off $800 million worth of Las Vegas glitz amid Motown grit as the MGM Grand Detroit made its public debut with a flashy, fireworks-studded gala.
Billed as the first Vegas-style resort built in a major metropolitan area, MGM Grand includes 400 rooms and suites, a full-service resort spa and an 18-story hotel with electronic concierges in each room. It sits a block from the temporary casino it opened in 1999.
Celebrity chefs Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina will operate three restaurants in the new facility: Puck's Wolfgang Puck Grille and Mina's Saltwater and Bourbon Steak restaurants. Puck also is providing a 24-hour in-room dining service.
The complex opened to the public at midnight following fireworks and official lighting of the Grand Garden near the facility's main entrance.
Jim Murren, president and chief operating officer of MGM Mirage Inc., said the facility is not only a casino and hotel, but an "entertainment destination" that he hopes will lure travelers from the rest of the Midwest, East Coast and elsewhere.
"We've taken the chic of Manhattan and combined it with the sizzle of Las Vegas and brought it to Detroit," said George Boyer, MGM Grand Detroit's president and chief operating officer.
Local designers have teamed up with national firms to help weave in a Michigan and Midwest vibe. Deer antlers adorn the ceiling of Wolfgang Puck Grille's tavern area and Bourbon Steak's wooden beams and bricks used on the walls were reclaimed from the Detroit area. The Living Room, a guest-only area off the lobby, features Great Lakes-inspired sculptures by Michigan artist Herb Babcock.
Puck said it was important to inject local flavor into the decor and dining experience.
"It can be subliminal — 'something feels very comfortable, very homey,'" he said. "It's a good mixture of innovation and comfort."
Detroit's other two casinos are working to complete their permanent sites.
Greektown Casino is spending $475 million to expand its existing facility, including $200 million for a 20-story hotel and a parking structure set to open next year.
MotorCity Casino opened its expanded gaming floor earlier this year but is spending $275 million on a 17-story hotel to open later this fall.
The casinos are spending $1.5 billion combined to build sleek new hotels that are adding 1,200 luxury rooms and thousands of square feet of convention space. The three permanent sites will feature more than 220 tables and about 8,000 slots in 250,000 square feet of gaming space.
MGM Grand's slice of that is 90 tables and more than 4,000 slots in 100,000 square feet of gaming. But officials spent more time emphasizing many of the facility's non-gaming features, such as its two-level, 20,000 square-foot Immerse Spa; five lounges and bars; and 30,000 square feet for private parties, conferences and events.
John Hutar, MGM Grand Detroit's vice president of hotel operations, said the extra elements are important for attracting business from the automotive industry and others.
"They simply didn't choose to have meetings in Detroit because the products simply are not here," he said. "There was no luxury product in downtown Detroit until now."
Robert Russell, gaming analyst with East Lansing-based Regulatory Management Counselors PC, toured the facility on Tuesday. He said it's still to early to know if the venue will be a national draw, but developers "hit a home run" regarding design, amenities and investment in the urban core.
"You can't replace the Vegas experience ... but they clearly have brought the Detroit hospitality market into a new level with their offerings," he said. "It's clearly a step up on what Detroit had with its temporary facilities."