LAS VEGAS — Topping-off ceremonies were held recently for the Luxor, a 30-story, $375-million pyramid-shaped resort that includes a $1-million replica of the tomb of an Egyptian Pharaoh dreamed up by an Orange County interior designer.
The Luxor opens in October amid a $2-billion building boom aimed at coaxing families to this gaming capital.
"We think this is going to be the most strikingly dramatic hotel Las Vegas or the whole world has seen," said William Bennett, chairman of Circus Circus Enterprises Inc. "There's a lot of things in there that nobody knows about. The inside is going to be a knockout."
Members of the media were given their first look inside the 2,526-room hotel after Friday's topping-off ceremony.
The most awesome feature: a 30-story atrium with 29 million cubic feet of space. Guests are taken to one of four corners of the giant structure aboard gondolas, moving along a miniature river Nile, then carried to their floor via "inclinators"--elevators that slip diagonally up each corner of the hotel's interior.
Nine Boeing 747s could be stacked in the atrium, hotel officials say.
Designing much of the interior is Irvine's Yates-Silverman Inc., which has decorated casinos from Donald Trump's Taj Mahal in Atlantic City to the gigantic Excalibur in Las Vegas.
While this wasn't the company's biggest hotel, it was the most expensive decorating job--and the most challenging. Designer Charles Silverman said he even had to make a trip to Egypt to arrange for construction of the replica of Tutankhamen's tomb.
On the more mundane side, there was the problem of designing for rooms with sloping outer walls because of the building's pyramid shape. Drapes, for instance, couldn't be used on windows: Silverman used blinds instead.
"It's a remarkable building," Silverman said Monday.
Inside the atrium are three themed areas that make up a $50-million "participatory adventure." One takes visitors into the past and features such interactive attractions as archeological digs. The second reflects the present, in New York's Times Square. The third takes visitors on a journey into the future and the year 2300.
Motorists will enter the Strip resort through a 10-story-tall replica of the Sphinx--large enough to accommodate nine lanes of traffic.
Emanating from the peak of the pyramid, a beam of light can be seen on a clear night at airliner cruising altitude from Los Angeles, 250 miles away, the hotel says.
The face of the giant structure contains 11 acres of bronze reflective glass.
Clyde Turner, president and chief financial officer of Circus Circus, watched last week as a giant crane gingerly picked up a three-story pyramid-shaped tip for the Luxor.
Is Las Vegas becoming more competitive with Disneyland or Universal Studios with its flurry of family-oriented projects?
"We have entered into that arena," he replied. "I see a lot of people coming here that have never been here before."
He called the high-tech entertainment the next step in the city's progression as a tourist destination.
"In 1930 this whole thing started out as a gambling hall," he said of Las Vegas. "Then the saloon got a singer, then the Rat Pack (performers Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Joey Bishop). Then the town got the elaborate production shows like we know today. But this will be a giant leap forward."
"The attractions we have created inside the pyramid are equal to or better than anything Disney has," William Paulos, vice president and general manager of Luxor, said. "Now people can come to Las Vegas and have any type of entertainment conceivable. This expands the marketplace for Las Vegas. In the next six months we'll become the entertainment destination of the world."
Luxor is the latest project for Circus Circus, the first gaming company to begin catering to families. When their new property opens in mid-October, the $2-billion company will have 13,500 hotel rooms in Nevada.
The company is also spending $75 million on a water-themed entertainment complex, Grand Slam Canyon, that is scheduled to open next month.
Opening on the heels of Luxor will be Treasure Island, a $430-million family-oriented resort being developed on the Strip by Mirage Resorts Inc.
And in mid-February, MGM Grand Inc. will open a 5,000-room hotel and theme park at a cost of $1.1 billion.