The Best of Times, the Rest of Times

This weekend is a significant milestone this year for Las Vegas. There are three major events that will dominate the headlines:
  • Mayweather vs Pacquiao: the fight of the century
  • Riviera's last weekend: after 60 years, the casino will close at noon on May 4
  • Kentucky Derby: American Pharaoh is the favorite in the run for the roses
Big Las Vegas weekends typically revolve around cyclical events; the Final Four NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Super Bowl, New Year's, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January. But this weekend is different. This weekend is filled with events that seem taylor-made for Las Vegas. Every weekend is big in Las Vegas, but when something special is happening, it's bigger. And this weekend, it's the biggest it's been a long time.

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao
This match up is a huge deal. Big fights used to be the norm in Las Vegas, especially at the MGM Grand. But then something funny happened on the way to the ring: ultimate fighting. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has moved to the forefront in hand-to-hand (and face-to-foot) combat. It may be the natural progression of boxing - a more modern, fast-paced and dangerous sport, UFC embodies the changing landscape in a younger, more cutting-edge Las Vegas.

It seemed as if boxing was all but dead, even in Las Vegas where it was a mainstay.

But then along came the brawl to end it all. Whether or not Mayweather vs. Pacquiao lives up to its hype remains to be seen, but reports of boxing's death are greatly exaggerated.

Kentucky Derby
One of my favorite pastimes in Las Vegas is taking a break from the tables, the crowds… well, everything, and just relax in the sports book. All of the books have horse races on a few of the TVs, and I've always enjoyed placing a few bets on a long shot or an exacta. Horse racing and Las Vegas go hand-in-hand. It's a tradition to look at the racing forms and study them, putting all of your knowledge and experience into picking the right horse to cash, only to have it all fall apart when the 35-1 dog surprises everyone. If you have a system betting on the ponies, it's a lot like having a system for blackjack or roulette; it just doesn't work.

But that doesn't mean I don't try. Hope. It springs eternal in horse racing and spring in Las Vegas. I can't wait to watch the Derby this year. There's something magical seeing the race, watching history.

The Riv
The Riviera opened April 20, 1955. It has undergone many changes and has lived nine lives. I had always hoped that the powers-that-be, the folks with lots of money and good ideas, could save the Riv. But it was not meant to be. The Riv is no longer profitable and does not show any promise for the future, so it will succumb to the same fate as its neighbors, the Sahara (now the SLS), they Desert Inn (now the Wynn) and the Stardust (soon to be the Resort World). And this weekend is its last hurrah. Thank you, Riv, for entertaining us for 60 years. You deserve your retirement.

So as I think about the importance of this weekend in Las Vegas, I think about the memories and good times I have always had in Sin City. That's what this memorable weekend comes down to: experiences. People will remember the fun, the fight, the Derby and the last time they gambled at the Riv. Classic Vegas.