Motor City is revving up as a Midwest vacation destination. The $800 million MGM Grand Detroit, sister property to the splashy Las Vegas resort and the first MGM Grand hotel outside Vegas, is due to open downtown on Tuesday.
It brings 400 state-of-the-art rooms and suites, celebrity-chef restaurants, a bigger gaming facility than the current MGM Grand Detroit casino and a 20,000-square-foot spa to a city not known as a luxury travel destination.
“It’s the start of a string of good news for Detroit,” says Christopher Baum, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. Though sections of downtown are gritty, bike and jogging trails on 3 miles of the city’s cleaned-up riverfront opened this summer, and more than 1,600 new high-end hotel rooms are due in the next year.
Detroit has had a limited number of casinos since 1999, but “it is not thought of as a weekend escape,” says John Hutar, vice president of hotel operations for MGM Grand Detroit who formerly ran the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco. Hutar hopes to change that image with what he calls “Detroit’s first true luxury” casino resort … “Las Vegas in the Midwest.”
“Even if this hotel were in Vegas, it would be beyond anything there,” Hutar says. “We use the term ‘city chic.’ ”
Hotel highlights include:
Guestrooms (introductory rates start at $299 a night) with five levels of mood lighting, iPod docking stations and high-definition flat-screen TVs that can pause a live program when a guest takes a phone call. Some rooms and suites boast views of the Detroit River and Ambassador Bridge to Canada.
100-square-foot bathrooms in standard rooms (which are 510 square feet). Bathrooms have TVs embedded in the mirrors.
Two restaurants from chef Michael Mina and one from Wolfgang Puck. Puck also is creating the room-service menu — a first for him, Hutar says.
Five bars and lounges with up-to-the-minute special effects. In the Agua Bar, patrons’ murmurs and laughter translate into “waves” on a blue-textured ceiling. The IGNITE bar has a translucent wall that simulates ice and fire, incorporating real water and flames.
The new casino, with 100,000 square feet of gaming space, replaces MGM’s 8-year-old casino nearby. The old casino, not attached to a hotel, closes Sunday.
A spa that offers four-handed massages by two therapists ($200 for 50 minutes) and a pool with rock walls designed to look like a mountain lake. Bathers can sit or lie on a granite island.
A 14,000-square-foot grand ballroom in which vehicles as big as a Hummer can be showcased (a special elevator transports them). “We’re in Detroit, so the auto culture is important here,” Hutar says.
A hotel entrance with a heated driveway to melt snow.
The MGM Grand isn’t the only one of Detroit’s three casinos to turn into a hotel. The MotorCity Casino Hotel is set to open in November; the Greektown Casino-Hotel is due in 2008.
As a hotel market, “Detroit is doing better than they have been doing,” and the addition of upscale hotels is an encouraging sign, says Duane Vinson of Smith Travel Research, which tracks hotel occupancy and rates. A few years back, “they were struggling,” he says.
The MGM Grand and other developments “will make Detroit attractive to not just the day-tripper market but as a weekend getaway. People will stay longer,” says Michael French, a hospitality and gaming analyst for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
“Detroit has come a long way. It’s still not Chicago (as a Midwest destination), but it has made remarkable strides.”
Author | Kitty Bean Yancey
Source | USA Today