Borgata's debut 'raises the bar' in Atlantic City

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- On July 2, the Borgata's massive, golden-glass tower opened to the public for the first time. Crowds swarmed onto the white, marble floors of a spacious lobby with Italian-style arches above and a colorful glass sculpture by Dan Chihuli hanging from the ceiling.

A row of 18 check-in desks sprang into action, set to serve customers ready to experience Atlantic City's first new casino-hotel in 13 years.

The Borgata is the 13th casino to open here, but the city is seeing its arrival as a great stroke of luck. Even the Borgata's competitors are seeing it as a benefit -- a property that will attract additional attention to what officials are calling an ongoing renaissance.

Viva Atlantic City

Now dominating the Atlantic City landscape, the $1 billion, 2,002-room joint venture of Boyd Gaming and MGM Mirage is a new kind of casino for Atlantic City, built on the model of the new generation of Las Vegas hotels.

The Borgata opened its doors to the public on July 2. Above, one of the property's 18 dramatic check-in desks. Borgata CEO Bob Boughner called it a "Las Vegas-style property -- I mean the Las Vegas associated with the hotels built in the last five years."

Boughner said he set out to create a property that was "fun, upscale, entertaining, sensual and international. We selected a design approach that would reflect that sensibility."

The Borgata's monolithic, all-glass exterior is reminiscent of the MGM Grand, but once inside, the tasteful aesthetics and classic architecture draw comparisons to the Bellagio.

Alan Feldman, vice president of public affairs of MGM Mirage, said, "[Boughner] and his team synthesized the lessons learned in the last 15 years and did an outstanding job of creating a new market leader and defining the market differently -- just as the Mirage redefined what a Las Vegas hotel should be and changed that market forever. And that's what we're witnessing in Atlantic City."

Although that's a public relations official talking, his views are widely held here, and the city's boosters are euphoric.

Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford said, "The Borgata has raised the bar as to where future casino developers may want to go. Its addition to the Atlantic City market bodes well for us in that it gives prospective tourists additional options."

The buzz at the opening was that Boughner achieved his goal "to provide the trade-up destination for the current Atlantic City visitor and, at the same time, provide a welcome opportunity for the Atlantic City rejecter."

The market

Atlantic City Council President Craig Callaway predicted the Borgata will expand the market.

"We've been getting the same 4 or 5 million people who come several times a year," he said. "We think the Borgata will enable us to penetrate the larger market we haven't been able to reach, the 25 or 26 million people in this area."

A popular driving destination, Atlantic City is one of the few destinations that has seen an improvement in business since 9/11. Borgata sales director Bob Franklin said the Borgata will also increase opportunities for travel agents.

"In the past, Atlantic City has been seen as a one-dimensional destination," he said. "Now the rooms, amenities, restaurants, performances and spa are all reasons for people to come."

Keeping up

Other casino operators already are busy meeting the Borgata's challenge. The Tropicana is building a $225 million hotel and retail complex called "The Quarter" that includes a 502-room tower, scheduled for completion in the spring.

Resorts Atlantic City is building a 500-room tower for an opening in early 2004, and the Trump Taj Mahal is nearing completion of a $15 million renovation to its guest rooms, restaurants and service areas.

Jeff Vassar, executive director of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, said the Borgata brings an additional 2,002 rooms to a hotel market that had 95% occupancy in 2002. "Right off the bat, that gives us more room for all those people," he said.

Counting recent or coming additions in Harrah's, Showboat, Tropicana and Resorts Atlantic City, 4,000 new rooms are becoming available in the space of a year.

"What we think Borgata is going to do is bring in a class of visitor that either has never been here or had never considered it because of a negative

impression," said Vassar. "Borgata has raised the bar, and other hoteliers in town are raising theirs to meet that challenge."

Borgata's lucky numbers
• 2,002 guest rooms and suites
• 125,000-square-foot casino
• 145 gaming tables
• 3,650 slot machines
• 11 specialty retail shops
• 50,000-square-foot spa/salon
• 2,400-seat events center
• 1,000-seat performance center
• 7,100 parking spaces
• (866) 692-674282(MY-BORGATA) Reservations

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