Anyone who has parked in a casino garage has probably seen them: thousands of dirty shoe prints stamped onto garage ceilings and support beams.
The prints come in all shapes and sizes and feature varying degrees of darkness. Some suggest the stamper used a bare foot. Almost all of the Strip properties display them.
But the origins of the footprints remain a mystery. No one can say for sure who the original stamper was, what inspired him or her, and what keeps his or her legion of followers going.
Ask local history junkies for the story behind the phenomenon — which is akin to tossing sneakers over telephone wires or carving initials into wet cement — and they're stumped.
It's “so bizarre,” said Anthony Curtis, a longtime Las Vegas publisher.
Curtis' best guess is that the shoe slamming takes place in the wee hours of the night when alcohol-fueled visitors notice existing marks and feel inspired to contribute.
Some say the stamping began at the Stratosphere, but it’s impossible to know for sure. MGM Resorts International spokesman Gordon Absher said they have appeared in garages for more than 20 years.
Absher compared the footprints to graffiti.
“The footprint problem has been just that — a problem — for as long as those who deal with these things can remember,” Absher said. “We view them as an equivalent to graffiti, and anyone caught defacing our property will find themselves banned from our resorts.”
Absher called the footprints a “costly nuisance." He wouldn’t say how much MGM spends to clean them up.
Other casino officials view the shoe prints as more harmless, saying they don't warrant much action beyond new paint or a power washing.
“We’re not trying to stop anybody,” said a veteran front services manager at a center-Strip resort who declined to be identified.
The manager, who has worked in the casino business for more than two decades, said he has witnessed visitors take off their shoes, jump up and slam the soles on garage beams. Some land as high as 13 feet off the ground, requiring a boost from a friend or a high vertical jump.
And the collections grow quickly. The manager said the prints at his property need to be cleaned about once a month.
“The only thing that’s charming about it is people trying to figure out how the prints got there,” he said.