Las Vegas Strip Trees Fall Prey to F1 Race Grandstand Construction

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On the bustling thoroughfare of Las Vegas’ celebrated Strip, right outside the famed Bellagio, there stands a sad spectacle – a spectral parade of bare branches and dried roots. Once a verdant avenue of saplings, the 14 fir trees replanted last autumn have met a sorry end. Out of the lot, 13 are no longer alive, fallen like their robust predecessors who once stood stalwartly in that very spot.

Their mature counterparts were cut down to accommodate a grandstand for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, a part of the much-anticipated Formula 1 series. Nestling within the extremes of the desert, these 45 evergreens were known to form one of the Strip’s scarce tree-lined stretches for nearly a quarter of a century. Since the time the resort flung open its doors, they eminently served as a verdant oasis, providing elusive shade to parched spectators of the Bellagio Fountain show.

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On discovering the diminished state of the replanted firs, a representative from MGM informed the Las Vegas Review-Journal of the casino corporation’s intentions to replace the deceased trees with a hardier species, with the hopes of achieving this as early as next week. The new saplings are scheduled to be fully nestled into their spots by the week’s end, signaling a new beginning.

This cyclical process of removal and replantation is deemed necessary and will continue for a foreseeable future, with the annual F1 race orchestrating its return to the Strip on November 23, 2024, and perhaps for several Thanksgiving weekends thereafter. To streamline this process, the trees are now planted within boxes, thus enabling easy removal when required.

It was in November 2022 when MGM unveiled the hopeful blueprints for its ambitious Bellagio Fountain Club. The proposed model, boasting a 3,600-person capacity grandstand, celebrity chefs, a rooftop deck and a staggering admission cost of $13,000 per person, naturally, warranted the removal of the Bellagio sidewalk trees.

Several of these felled trees were as old as the resort itself, having been planted in front of the Dunes, Bellagio’s predecessor imploded by Steve Wynn in 1993. Despite an MGM Resorts spokesperson’s assurance of preserving and safely removing the trees gracing the front of Bellagio, the rash removal caused quite a furor on social media.

With younger firs taking the place of the fallen ones last December, their initial declaration of good health by arborists was short-lived, as their rapid deterioration set in by March. This sad incident brings an end to a chapter of natural tranquility residing amidst the neon flash and jangle of the great Las Vegas spectacle, a chapter that began as a hopeful story of urban-natural harmony.