Long gone are the days when Las Vegas casino owners booked the Rat Pack and did whatever was necessary to keep patrons at the gambling tables. With the arrival of Cirque du Soleil, family-friendly venues, spas, and world-class restaurants, Sin City has reinvented itself as a vacation destination for a broader swath of the public. This Thursday, Jim Murren, CEO of the MGM Grand, announced that he will be investing $100 million to create a New York-style park and promenade outside of its Monte Carlo and New York-New York casinos. Bringing a little East Coast landscape architecture out to the desert, he hopes to counter the long-held mindset of keeping visitors close to home base.

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In the 1980s and ’90s, Murren says customers were excited to roam around a single building, sampling what and individual establishment had to offer. Now, patrons are more “spontaneous,” choosing to meander from one place to another. The new park will transform the outside of the MGM New York-New York and Monte Carlo casinos from traffic-clogged pedestrian sidewalks into an outdoor plaza complete with a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, Hershey’s Chocolate World, shade trees, beer garden, food trucks, and NY favorite Shake Shack.

The project located on Las Vegas Boulevard near Tropicana Avenue will lead to a 20,000 seat arena that MGM is planning to construct behind the two casinos. The facades of the establishments will be renovated as part of a retail and dining district. The undertaking will be designed by New York firm Cooper, Robertson & Partners, the group responsible for Battery Park City Esplanade and Zuccotti Park in New York City.

“A visitor to Las Vegas no longer wants to be shackled to one resort. That visitor wants to move around and be social. That’s what this type of development offers a customer,” Murren said.

The big question is whether people will be willing to deal with the soaring daytime temperatures. The rise of pool parties and the success of Cesars Palace’s statue garden seem to indicate that the new visitor to Las Vegas appreciates a little fresh air despite the heat, and MGM Grand hopes to capitalize on the tastes of this new generation. The plaza is expected to be completed in three phases, debuting sometime in 2016.

+ MGM Grand

Via Associated Press