The Mirage: A Legacy of Innovation and Transformation on the Las Vegas Strip

The Mirage, an iconic landmark on the Las Vegas Strip, has been a beacon of innovation and luxury since its opening in 1989. Conceived by casino magnate Steve Wynn, The Mirage set new standards in the casino-resort industry, reshaping the landscape of Las Vegas and influencing the development of future mega-resorts. As it prepares for a major transformation under the ownership of Hard Rock International, it’s worth reflecting on its storied past, groundbreaking features, and the profound impact it has had on both Las Vegas and its visitors.

The Birth of a Vision

The Mirage was born out of Steve Wynn’s vision to create a resort that transcended the traditional casino model. At the time, Las Vegas was primarily known for its gambling-centric hotels, but Wynn aimed to offer a more holistic experience. He purchased the site of the old Castaways Hotel and began planning a resort that would combine luxury accommodations, world-class entertainment, and unique attractions.


Construction of The Mirage began in November 1987, with an initial budget of $550 million. However, the project’s scope expanded, ultimately costing $630 million, making it the most expensive hotel-casino ever built, at the time. This massive investment was largely financed through innovative financial strategies, including the sale of $525 million in mortgage bonds, marking the first time Wall Street had funded such a project in Las Vegas.

A Spectacle Like No Other

The Mirage opened its doors on November 22, 1989, and immediately set itself apart with a grand opening spectacle. The resort’s exterior featured a lush tropical theme, complete with an erupting volcano that became an instant landmark. This feature, which erupted every 15 minutes, drew crowds and provided free entertainment, showcasing Wynn’s commitment to creating a visually stunning and engaging environment.


Inside, guests were greeted by a 53-foot-long aquarium behind the reception desk, housing over 1,000 species of fish. Beyond the lobby, a tropical rainforest atrium set the stage for the resort’s immersive theme. These attractions, along with the luxurious accommodations and top-notch customer service, ensured that The Mirage offered more than just gambling—it provided a complete resort experience.

The Magic of Siegfried and Roy

One of The Mirage’s defining features was its entertainment, most notably the Siegfried and Roy show. The magical duo brought their blend of illusions and exotic animals to The Mirage in 1990, creating a show that became synonymous with the resort. Their performances, featuring white tigers and other exotic animals, captivated audiences and helped elevate The Mirage’s status as a premier entertainment venue on the Strip.


Siegfried and Roy’s show not only drew large crowds but also set a new standard for entertainment in Las Vegas. Their residency at The Mirage lasted until 2003 when a tragic accident during a performance ended the show’s run. Despite this, their legacy remains an integral part of The Mirage’s history and the broader entertainment landscape of Las Vegas.

Pioneering the Mega-Resort Trend

The Mirage was more than just a luxurious resort; it was a trailblazer that set the standard for what would become the mega-resort trend in Las Vegas. Prior to its opening, the Las Vegas Strip had not seen the construction of a new major resort in over 16 years. The success of The Mirage prompted a building boom, inspiring the development of other large-scale resorts such as the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, and the Venetian.


The Mirage’s comprehensive approach to hospitality—blending high-end accommodations, diverse dining options, extensive entertainment, and innovative attractions—became the blueprint for future developments. It demonstrated that a resort could offer a complete, self-contained experience, attracting visitors not just for gambling but for a variety of leisure activities.

The MGM Era and Continued Evolution

In 2000, MGM Grand acquired The Mirage along with Treasure Island and Beau Rivage, adding it to their portfolio of Las Vegas resorts. Under MGM’s ownership, The Mirage underwent a series of renovations and updates, ensuring that it remained competitive and appealing to new generations of visitors. These updates included redesigning rooms, refreshing public areas, and enhancing gaming and entertainment venues.


During this period, The Mirage continued to host popular shows such as Cirque du Soleil’s “LOVE,” a tribute to The Beatles, which has been a staple of the resort’s entertainment lineup since 2006. The resort also maintained its reputation for offering exceptional guest service and a unique tropical-themed experience.

The Future with Hard Rock International

In recent years, The Mirage has been preparing for another significant transformation. Hard Rock International purchased the property from MGM Resorts International, with plans to close the resort between late 2023 for a comprehensive renovation and expansion. This redevelopment will see the iconic Mirage volcano replaced with a 550-foot guitar-shaped tower, reflecting Hard Rock’s brand and vision for the future.


The transition to Hard Rock Las Vegas represents the end of an era for The Mirage but also the beginning of a new chapter. The expanded resort will feature more rooms, a larger casino, increased convention space, and enhanced entertainment offerings. Current Mirage employees are expected to be retained, with additional hiring planned to support the expanded operations.

The Mirage’s Enduring Legacy

The Mirage’s legacy as a trailblazer in the casino and resort industry is undeniable. It transformed the Las Vegas Strip from a gamblers’ haven into a global destination for luxury, entertainment, and innovation. The resort’s success demonstrated the potential of integrated resorts and set a precedent for future developments in Las Vegas and beyond.


For the people of Las Vegas, The Mirage holds a special place as a symbol of the city’s evolution and growth. It has been a source of pride, a job creator, and a landmark that has brought joy and excitement to millions of visitors over the years. As it transitions to Hard Rock Las Vegas, the spirit of innovation and excellence that defined The Mirage will continue to influence and inspire the hospitality and entertainment industries.


In conclusion, The Mirage has been more than just a resort; it has been a catalyst for change, a pioneer in luxury and entertainment, and a beloved icon of Las Vegas. Its transformation under Hard Rock International promises to preserve its legacy while ushering in a new era of excitement and innovation on the Las Vegas Strip.