Located on 67 acres between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, the CityCenter development is noted as one of the largest privately-funded construction projects in U.S. history. Developed by MGM Mirage and Infinity World Development Corp., the expanse of shopping, dining, entertainment venues and other ritzy indulgences is anchored by the 21st century model for Las Vegas hotels and casinos, the Aria.
Helping safeguard patrons and employees of the 61-story resort are video surveillance capabilities considered to be among the most advanced in the worldwide gaming market. Completed in late 2009, the installation called for blending 720p and 1,080p high definition cameras with analog models to achieve a best in class hybrid design. Also, 360° degree cameras are strategically placed throughout the casino to provide near total coverage of the facility. All told, the surveillance project at CityCenter comprises multiple network nodes for connectivity between all its properties.
How the multimillion-dollar project was conceived, designed and executed seamlessly is a testament to dogged attention to detail and coordination among dedicated staffs.
Select Vendors, Integrators Compete to Win Project Bid
Months before he would formally assume his position as director of surveillance for the Aria in 2006, Ted Whiting was already neck-deep in the CityCenter project while still plying his full-time day job in a similar capacity at the Mirage.
As planning and construction was under way, a momentous juncture in the project arrived for Whiting: a shootout would be conducted among half-a-dozen manufacturers to determine a lead vendor that would provide the majority of recording, cameras and other surveillance equipment. Honeywell ultimately prevailed; the vast surveillance system would be managed under a single software platform using the MaxPro video management system (VMS).
The next item to check off Whiting’s Herculean to-do list was to conduct a similar selection process to identify the systems integrator that would take his designs and vision and make them come to fruition. Three integrators, each with requisite experience in the casino industry, were put through the paces. Whiting traveled around California and Nevada to scrutinize the integrators’ previous installation work at multiple venues. A decision was rendered.
“We ended up picking North American Video [NAV] because they had the best pitch and they really impressed us with their wire management,” Whiting says. “That’s what really set them apart — wire management. To me that proved they had great attention to detail and were doing something better than the others were doing.”
The “something” includes a proprietary wire management scheme that NAV demonstrated for Whiting and other MGM management personnel during a visit to one of the integrator’s offsite build facilities in Las Vegas. NAV came up with a roadmap of where current technology was heading and how integration would benefit Aria’s operations, as well as provide cost savings. A focus of the visit was studying NAV’s future-proof network backbone design.
“I strongly feel that seeing the finished product, as well as the work that takes place during the build process was instrumental in their decision to elect NAV as their chosen integrator for this massive surveillance project,” says Laurie Smock-Jackson, NAV’s vice president of sales. “We have installed over 350,000 channels of enterprise-class recording in the gaming market to date. MGM’s corporate surveillance and IT team came to the decision that NAV was the only integrator that could take on the size and complexity of the CityCenter project without fail.”
Coveted Cable Management Design
NAV designed and implemented a custom cable management system that was utilized on all of the racks for the CityCenter project. They worked closely with strategic partners, including American Fibertek, to develop a UTP input fiber transmission system for the analog signals. This allowed for straight connectivity between Honeywell’s VideoBloX matrix system, which significantly reduced costs. Infrastructure savings were also realized by distributing hardware throughout the property rather than all at the head end.
NAV designed the racks with a style that minimized the number of cables going in and out of each rack, assuring that all connections are accessible in the future. “We bundled the cables according to destination and purpose,” says Smock Jackson. “We wanted to avoid large bundles so each cable can be replaced with minimal labor, providing ease of service and troubleshooting for the owner.”
A true testament to cable management is if it looks the same years after it was installed. NAV designs the cabling so each wire can easily be traced individually with ease. Any connection that needs to be changed is designed to be at the splice point.
“I’ll tell you what happens when you don’t have wire management, you get that rat’s nest we all have pictures of and we all laugh when we see it,” Whiting says. “Then you realize that most casinos have been open for 20 or 30 years and have a rat’s nest somewhere. We wanted to make sure we avoided that forever here at CityCenter.”
Prior to coming over from the Mirage and joining the project full-time, Whiting assigned a video surveillance tech manager, Eddy Collier, to supervise — micromanage, even — the progress of the installation. Collier, who had worked with Whiting at the Mirage, was equally adamant the Aria would not suffer from sloppiness or other cabling chicanery he had seen in his previous experiences.
“I wanted to stress my level of cable management here. From the infrastructure and backbone and how the backplane should be done to where we wouldn’t have to touch it on day two,” Collier says. “Where everything could be done on the front-end easily, accessible and changeable. And everything on the back-end was never touched. That’s something I stressed and it worked fantastic. We’re three years in and this place still looks beautiful, just like day one.”
Collier worked closely with NAV’s project management team, along with the low-voltage contractor’s personnel and three other consultants. Despite close attention to detail, hiccups did happen. In an issue with cable infrastructure, the property’s fiber backbone didn’t account for video surveillance since the Aria’s needs were handled internally. However, Aria’s video surveillance feeds needed to be made available in the separate security department, which itself has more than 1,600 cameras to cover the perimeter, retail stores and other venues.
“We had six buildings going up, so we had six external monitor rooms going up. To get infrastructure back, I kept being told it was broken into a pie. There was A, B, and C; so, A, B and C had different consultants,” Collier explains. “Every consultant would pick up their piece and say, ‘the infrastructure is in to point B, and this is how the fiber backbone is going to work.”’
Aria’s 5,000-square-foot surveillance monitoring room is equipped with 64 monitors and seven workstations.
Not so much. The individual consultants failed to communicate as a coordinated whole and everybody ended up with pie on their face. Collier was stressing “where is my cable backbone?” and it didn’t exist. They had crossed the point of no return. Installing the infrastructure as envisioned would have cost an additional $1 million and that wasn’t in the budgetary cards. A secondary plan had to be devised that included leveraging the IT department’s network.
“Fortunately IT put in an extensive fiber backbone in connecting all our properties, so I was able to utilize that,” Collier says. “And actually they were friendly. I have a really good relationship with them, so we were able to accomplish that with not too much headache.”