Everything is over the top in Las Vegas, and Sin City's waterscapes are no different. At the Venetian, visitors can take a gondola ride through the indoor canals. At the Golden Nugget, a three-story see-through waterslide takes poolgoers thrillingly close to an aquarium of sharks. The Encore Las Vegas blends poolside lounging with clubbing, creating an irresistible "dayclub" for party-goers who can't wait for the sun to go down.
But for those in the pool industry, the waterscapes of Las Vegas are more than a place to relax; they are an opportunity to marvel and scrutinize ambitious, large-scale pool installations.
"These pool areas are really quite complicated," says Andrew Kreft, senior principal and director of design at Lifescapes International, a Newport Beach, Calif., firm that has designed numerous Vegas hotel waterscapes, including Encore Las Vegas, the Wynn, Red Rocks Casino Resort, and more. "They are virtual cities onto themselves [with challenges such as] how to integrate all of the services required, from towel distribution and food service to maintenance and the huge pumping/equipment facilities for the pools."
Vegas pool projects also have a few other parameters that residential pool builders don't generally have to worry about. "Given the price of land [in Vegas] and ease of access wanted for a Las Vegas resort, many of our pool areas have been on the roof of gaming and retail below," explains Kreft, whose firm must take into account the structural issues, venting and air handling changes, and emergency exit locations when building these types of roofscape pools.
Technical details aren't the only concern. Just as many private homeowners are starting to see their backyard pools not as an afterthought, but extensions of their lifestyle, so are many resorts, especially in Vegas.
"Pool areas used to be a mundane default requirement for a project to be a resort, relegated off to a distant corner of the property where the owner couldn’t make money doing something else. They were disconnected and designed for day use only, with a 'pack 'em in' and' move 'em out' philosophy," Kreft says. "As thinking evolved though, it became obvious that the pool area really could become the heart of a great resort. Modern resorts celebrate their pool areas by incorporating them into the design of the interior uses, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors."
That trend is particularly noticeable at newer and recently renovated Vegas properties, where pools, clubs, and restaurants are becoming backdrops for each other. "Restaurants reach out into the pool area, with seating spilling out and pools becoming fountains and activity for nighttime dining," says Kreft, who adds "the biggest trend is the indoor/outdoor blending of the nightclub and pool area."
Many Vegas properties are taking this idea even further, launching poolside hotspots like Encore Beach Club, Liquid Pool Lounge at Aria, and Wet Republic at the MGM Grand. Typically open to paying adults only (just like a nightclub), these dayclubs generate buzz and revenue by providing gathering places for guests who want to dance and mingle during the daylight, with cocktails and DJs. Intrigued? You're not alone. "Resorts across the country--and the world for that matter--are all trying to do their version of a Las Vegas dayclub/nightclub," says Kreft.
Given how commercial trends often trickle down to consumers, that means pool designers and builders could soon be adapting these approaches for backyard projects.
Of course, the amenities at many of Las Vegas's most elaborate properties, such as the 18-pool Wynn or the opulent Bellagio, are for hotel guests only, but there are exceptions or sections of such pools that may be open to non-guests. Depending on availability, some casino resorts allow non-guests to enjoy their pool amenities for a fee. There's also those poolside dayclubs and nightclubs, where a cover charge and proper attire (ask the concierge for specifics) can give you the ticket to investigate the latest in poolside design.
So, if you want a head start on ideas for your next customer's dream pool and water feature, here's a selection of distinctive Vegas waterscapes to explore when you're done with the show floor.
The Tank and Shark Chute, Golden Nugget
Forget swimming with dolphins. When you're in Las Vegas, you can swim with the sharks at the Golden Nugget. This longtime Vegas casino hotel spent $30 million to renovate its pool area, adding a 200,000-gallon aquarium filled with several species of sharks and other fish. Daring poolgoers can take advantage of a three-story, clear, enclosed waterslide known as the Shark Chute; it goes through the aquarium and ends in the pool. Free for hotel guests; $20 for non-guests. The Golden Nugget also offers a behind-the-scenes tours of the aquarium for $30. www.goldennugget.com/lasvegas/pool.asp
Fountains of Bellagio, Bellagio
This nine-acre waterscape, which has more than 1,200 water jets and cost an estimated $40 million to build, has captivated Vegas visitors since it opened in 1998. A mix of water, light, and music, the Bellagio fountain shows happen every 15 to 30 minutes daily, from noon to midnight, depending on the day. Designed by WET Design, the Bellagio fountain displays are set to music and professionally choreographed to create a sense that the water is dancing. Open to the public; free. www.bellagio.com/attractions/fountains-of-bellagio.aspx
Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis, Caesars Palace
Even Jupiter and Juno, the king and queen of Roman mythology, might have been impressed by the pool area at Caesars Palace. Renovated just a few years ago at an estimated cost of $160 million, the Garden of the Gods now offers eight pools (two reserved for VIPs) on five acres, all with their own atmosphere. (Family play! Swim-up blackjack! European sunbathing!) But the surroundings of each recall the ancient civilizations with sculptures, columns, and marble. Free for guests, $20 for non-guests. http://www.caesarspalace.com/things-to-do/garden-of-the-gods-pool-oasis.html
Shark Reef and The Beach at Mandalay Bay
If you're staying at the Mandalay Bay or The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, you'll want to bring your flip-flops and your running shoes to take full advantage of the pool area. The largest among MGM Resorts' Vegas properties, the pool area at Mandalay Bay includes four pools, a lazy river, jogging track, and a sand-and-surf beach with a wave pool. Also impressive are the plunge pools and hot tubs. Not a hotel guest? You can still visit the Shark Reef, Mandalay's aquarium, and for the truly adventurous, arrange to dive with the sharks. Admission to Shark Reef is $12 to $18. Dives are $650 for one diver; $1,000 for two. www.mandalaybay.com
Liquid Pool Lounge, Aria City Center
Located in the new $8.5 billion CityCenter development, Aria has three elliptical-shaped resort pools for guests' enjoyment, but its most popular water feature is Liquid Pool Lounge, which is an example of the dayclub trend. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Liquid caters to adults 21 and over with DJs and daybeds, a 50-seat restaurant, and private cabanas. Open to hotel guests and non-guests; cover charge varies. www.arialasvegas.com
Mirage Volcano, The Mirage
If you find the Bellagio fountains enchanting, you'll want to walk--or cab--a half-mile down the strip to the Mirage volcano. Built in the late 1980s, the volcano was updated at a cost of $25 million and reopened in 2008. It now features an audiovisual light show with choreographed fire effects and a vivid eruption of fire at the show's end. Like the Bellagio fountains, the Mirage volcano performs regularly, erupting on the hour from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. nightly. Open to the public; free. www.mirage.com
Mandarin Oriental, CityCenter
If you're willing to open your wallet, you can enjoy pools with a view at the Mandarin Oriental. The luxury hotel offers two pools, two whirlpools, and one plunge pool on its 8th floor deck, which overlooks Las Vegas's CityCenter. The pool area is open to non-guests, as long as they rent a cabana, which go for $350 on weekdays and $550 on weekends. www.mandarinoriental.com/lasvegas
Grand Canal, The Venetian
When The Venetian opened in 1999, with its luxurious amenities and $1.5 billion price tag, it established a whole new level of expectations for Vegas casino resorts and their guests. One of the property's most compelling attractions for hotel guests and non-guests continues to be the Grand Canal, an indoor replica of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. Like its real-world counterpart, the Vegas version has singing gondoliers who navigate the narrow gondola boats under low bridges. Unlike Venice, though, the Las Vegas Grand Canal is just a half-mile. (Open to the public. Gondola ride $18.95 per person or $75.80 for a private two-person gondola ride. www.venetian.com
Encore Beach Club, Encore Las Vegas
Located at Encore Las Vegas, the sister property to the Wynn, the Encore Beach Club attracts celebrity guests and high-profile DJs like David Guetta, Afrojack, and others to this poolside party. The three-level dayclub manages to offer both public and private spaces, thanks to three pools and a mix of plush private cabanas and bungalows. (The bungalows even have their own private infinity dipping pools.) Open to the public; cover charge varies, but often starts at $35 and goes up, depending on the night and DJ. www.wynnlasvegas.com/NightClubs/EncoreBeachClub