For Linq’s Future, Image Is Everything

Tenant mix is crucial—and the Polaroid Fotobar might be a perfect start

Photo by Jon Estrada

Photo by Jon Estrada

As Caesars Entertainment pushes toward the planned December opening of its Linq retail-and-entertainment center, the company knows that its success in many ways depends on the fine art of the tenant mix.

Caesars invested heavily in Strip real estate in the early 2000s, but the recession ended the “build it and they will come” era, when adding hotel capacity seemed to magically boost the number of visitors. The new formula is “You’ve built it; now give them somewhere to spend their money.”

That’s where Linq comes in. As with most Caesars decisions, each element of the development has been meticulously analyzed. The observation wheel, for example, was chosen over other attractions because, in survey and focus groups, customers indicated that this was the single attraction they would walk 1,250 feet to see. Likewise, the list of tenants has been carefully calibrated by Caesars management to entice a significant number of the 20.4 million people who, according to a 2009 study, walk past the Linq’s Strip frontage each year. One of those tenants, the Polaroid Fotobar, gives us a glimpse into the kind of experiences Linq is trying to create.

The first Fotobar—the brainchild of entrepreneur Warren Struhl—opened in March in Delray Beach, Florida. The store allows customers to wirelessly upload photos, improve them with digital tools and print them for posterity on anything from traditional photo paper to metal. The store also offers a range of framing and shipping options. “I think that we are doing a service for visitors by making their memories live on,” Struhl says, “rather than them just get stuck in digital quicksand.”

When Struhl announced the birth of Fotobar at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, he immediately saw that the city would be a perfect place for him to set up shop. “Walking around, I couldn’t believe how many human beings had their smartphones held close to their eyes,” he says. “I really think that, per capita, Las Vegas has more pictures taken than possibly anywhere else in the world. Then the Linq folks called and practically demanded that we consider being part of the project. After learning more about it, I agreed that this would be a great flagship location, to show what we do for domestic and foreign tourists.”

As the new flagship store, the Linq Polaroid Fotobar will have more than the standard retail; it will also house the world’s first Polaroid Museum. “It’s going to have an incredible collection of art, artifacts and history, as well as a view into the future of where photography is going,” Struhl says. “I think many people will appreciate the museum, because everyone is a pro photographer today, thanks to the available digital tools.”

Struhl’s new landlords are happy to have him as part of Linq’s opening-day lineup.

“We’re excited about Warren being a charter tenant,” Linq general manager Jon Grey says. “He’s very entrepreneurial, very passionate, and he’s got great technology backing up a great concept.”

What’s more, Fotobar seems to be launching at just the right cultural moment—crucial for a marquee location where being now is almost important as being good.

“Warren’s timing is perfect,” says John Doffing, CEO of Vegas-based online wall-art site WALLS 360. “The first ‘affordable’ digital camera was introduced in 1999; it was 2.7 megapixels and cost just under $6,000. Today, 350 million digital photos are uploaded every day on Facebook alone. At least some of these digital photos belong on real-world walls.”

Doffing thinks the Polaroid Fotobar might even help Las Vegas discover its future. “The sheer scale and scope of it is a great addition to Las Vegas’ ‘creator culture,’” he says.

It may turn out that Vegas visitors not only want to create memories here, but also help craft the products they bring home. Linq would do well to become a hub of such creative consumerism.


David G. Schwartz is the director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research. Follow his Tweets @UNLVGaming.