Delays continue to plague opening of Vegas Strip's newest megaresort

LAS VEGAS - A day after the new Aladdin hotel-casino was scheduled to throw open its doors, weary officials were still working Friday to open the $1.4 billion megaresort.

Only a handful from the original crowd of about 20,000 remained outside the Middle Eastern-themed resort's entrance on the Las Vegas Strip.

Inside testing of the Aladdin's fire safety systems continued.

Firefighters, Clark County inspectors and hotel staff worked through the night checking the system that put a damper on opening night festivities and had Aladdin officials scrambling.

Most of the hotel's 600 invited guests were sent to neighboring Strip properties Thursday night.

''Of course we're disappointed we weren't able to serve our invited guests in the manner we had anticipated,'' Aladdin spokesman Lynn Holt said.

The fireworks show that was scheduled to herald the opening at 10:30 p.m. will most likely be held Saturday.

Holt anticipated The Strip's newest hotel-casino would open Friday morning.

''They (local building inspectors) are finishing programming (the fire safety equipment),'' he said.

County officials blamed last-minute construction work for delaying the tests that were scheduled to start Wednesday evening, but were pushed back to Thursday.

Clark County has some of the toughest fire codes in the nation as a result of the 1980 fire at the then MGM Grand, now Bally's, in which 87 people died. The next year a fire at the Las Vegas Hilton killed eight.

Aladdin management said safety is their main concern.

The Aladdin's delayed opening is reminiscent of The Venetian resort that opened several days late in May 1999 due to construction delays. In contrast, Aladdin's next-door-neighbor Paris opened on time last September.

Thursday night's curious crowd, frustrated by the delay, instead packed Desert Passage, a 130-store retail mall next to the new Aladdin. But it, too, was far from a finished product.

Some visitors were disappointed to find that only one of the restaurants, the Blue Note Jazz Club, was open. Some stores remained under construction, even as shoppers browsed their merchandise.

But Terry Rau of Columbus, Ohio, described the mall as ''impressive.''

''I think it's easily accessible to the casino, more so than Caesar's Forum Shops, and it really gives the atmosphere of an open air market.''

Other first-time visitors to the resort weren't as impressed.

''It's utter pandemonium,'' said Paul Walton, an invited hotel-casino guest from San Diego, who was dragging his luggage around Desert Passage searching in vain for a hotel entrance. ''They invited the public to come in too early.''


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