Thursday, April 16, 2009

Arrgh! A Pirate Themed Resort

Arrgh, something with some photos please!

The pirate themed resort...Only in Las Vegas!
I took this photo in August 2008.

When Steve Wynn opened the resort hotel and casino Treasure Island Las Vegas in 1993, I don't think in his wildest dreams he would've thought that the world would be having problems with modern day pirates. As far as I know though, he didn't design the resort to glorify pirates, but to pay tribute to the adventure novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It was during the early to mid nineties that Las Vegas started to aggressively market itself to families with children, and Treasure Island was an instant success.

I took this photo above in 1993. It is a close up of the original sign on the Las Vegas strip.

I took this photo above a few years later from across the strip at the Venetian. Even though a light fixture is blocking part of the view, the picture shows more depth and size of the unique huge sign that was nearly half the height of the hotel. That sign is gone now.
By the way, the text in italicized burgundy is my writing. The rest of the post was from a couple of sources, which have links in at the end of them.

I accepted a job in Las Vegas in 1993, so my daughter and I had just moved there right before the grand opening of Treasure Island and we spent a lot of time there. She loved the huge arcade and got very good at all of the carnival type games, and we both loved the then affordable buffet. Today the buffet is very expensive.

The daughter was in the fourth grade then and went to Elaine Wynn Elementary School. It was named after the resort owners wife, who I assume was a major funder of the school. My daughter's class even had a "field trip" to Treasure Island with a private tour by Mrs. Wynn! The children even got to walk through the casino, but it had not opened yet. Like most other Las Vegas resorts, you had to walk through the casino to get anywhere. After it opened, children were allowed in with their parents, but they were never allowed to stop in the casino. They had to keep moving.

Treasure Island opened in 1993. It is currently owned by MGM Mirage, but is in the final phases of being sold to Phil Ruffin, 73, former owner of the now-demolished New Frontier for almost a decade before selling the 35-acre site for $1.2 billion in July 2007. Ruffin told gaming regulators he plans no physical changes to Treasure Island. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

TI (T.I. as it is called now) cost about $450 million to build. It sold for only $775 million. When it opened its doors, Treasure Island aggressively marketed itself to families with children. In 2003, TI renovated the hotel casino to have a greater appeal to adults. The children's pool and arcade were replaced by a hot tub and nightclub.

All of the intricate pirate decor, like giant chandeliers made of bones, treasure boxes over flowing with jewels and coins, and even large scrolls of treasure maps have all been replaced by decor you might see in any upscale resort. TI has been stripped of all it's pirate theme, except for the free show out front.

Treasure Island may be best known for its elaborate pirate show in the artificial bay in front of the property. People line Las Vegas Boulevard to see the free shows in the afternoon and night every few hours. The original production in Buccaneer Bay was geared toward children with British sailors taking on a pirate ship. The production featured explosions, falls into the water and a sinking ship that rose again when the show was over.

I will never forget those loud explosions and the heat generated by the fire balls. It made you feel like you were probably standing too close to the action.

Although immensely popular, Treasure Island replaced the free show in 2003. Buccaneer Bay was renamed Sirens' Cove and the new production was called "Sirens of TI." This production is much more adult oriented. (YouTube has some home videos of the show). It features a band of sexy sirens (female pirates) taking on surly pirates. The women win the battle, sink the pirate ship and turn it all into a big party. (source)

The photo above I also took in August 2008. This is the "new" sign, bigger and brighter. I wouldn't be surprised if eventually the words Treasure Island are removed from the sign and the building. And with the bad economy I wouldn't be surprised to see the free pirate show disappear some day. I hope that doesn't happen, and I wish the entire pirate theme and decor would return. It's important to remember TI's roots, which was the book by Robert Louis Stevenson. As for other pirate themed stuff...that's another story:
If you want to get all anti-piratey (is that a word LOL), think about the Johnny Depp pirate action movies, and of course plenty of sports teams that call themselves Pirates, Buccaneers, Raiders, dare I say (ducking for cover) the White Sox, whose theme song is "He's a Pirate."
Click here to read Chicago Sun Times columnist Richard Roeper's article: "Pirates? These aren't sports mascots, but thieves, thugs and kidnappers."

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Mary Ellen said...

I've been to most of those casino's in Vegas (my mom and dad moved to Vegas from the Chicago area in 1978 or 1979), so whenever we'd visit, there was the obligatory trip to the Strip. I still have two brothers who live in Vegas and multiple cousins who moved out there years ago. I stayed in Chicago.

HalfCrazy said...

Ooh, so great to see this Treasure Island! And this is all just a tribute to a book!

I'm sure it still looks great today but it drastically changed! Now kids are not allowed but leans more on adult themed shows. They would have gained a bigger revenue if they stick with the old plan!

At least you and your daughter experienced the old TI!

John said...

@MaryEllen, you need to visit Vegas soon...I'm sure your brothers and cousins would tell you it's changing all the time (not too mention the bad economy). I wish I had family out there, I would move back...and I might anyway someday!

@HalfCrazy, glad you enjoyed that! And just think, if you ever get on that game show and are asked who wrote the classic novel Treasure Island, you will know the answer! haha

I wish I had pics from inside back can still stay there with their parents and eat in the restaurants with them, but there is nothing for kids to do there, unless they have a pool that allows kids. Now Vegas has many topless pools, adults only of course.

HalfCrazy said...

LOL you're right! My TV Game Show dream!Robert Louis Stevenson it is. I'll record it in my mind somewhere in case someone asks, haha!

Really? Vegas has many topless pools? I didn't know that! I thought it's only on movies! LOL. But then again, maybe it's in a movie because it existed or exists!

Mary Ellen said...


I'm not a big fan of Vegas and rarely go there. My mom moved from there about five or six years ago and now lives about ten minutes from my house. I care for her and my mother-in-law, they live in the same senior housing apartment building. My brothers usually come out here to visit me, they know I don't like it there. I'm not a big fan of the West...I love this area and the East Coast, though. I'm crazy about Boston and New Hampshire (my daughter lives in NH).

themom said...

I was in Las Vegas for the first and only time in April 1977. I was so impressed that I made a promise to myself to return. So much for a broken promise. I truly would love to get back there some never knows.

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