Las Vegas & RenoJanuary 20, 2023

Las Vegas Looks Back at Its Storied History to Forge Ahead By
January 20, 2023

Las Vegas & Reno

Las Vegas Looks Back at Its Storied History to Forge Ahead
The Venetian Resort Las Vegas. Courtesy Photo

The Venetian Resort Las Vegas. Courtesy Photo

Las Vegas leans in to the luxe and the luck with a slew of glam, posh and extravagant options for corporate groups, even as its history continues to inspire.

Northern Lights

When the self-contained universe of Resorts World Las Vegas first sprang to life in late 2021, it reinvigorated the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, bringing back some of the excitement that must have been felt when the El Rancho Vegas, the first resort on the Strip, opened 80 years earlier.

As the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s Las Vegas News Bureau celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022, it encouraged visitors to look back to those first heady days. The property the El Rancho was sited on changed hands frequently over the years — Howard Hughes owned it at one point, as did MGM Resorts — and today the Las Vegas Festival Grounds sits on-site.

Like the original El Rancho, Resorts World is not a reimagining of a previous failed hotel, but a new build. The 88 acres include three different hotels — the 1,774-room Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World; the 1,496-room Conrad Las Vegas and the 236-room Crockfords Las Vegas — as well as 250,000 sf of meeting and event space. The resort is closest to the Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall, and a ride on the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop gives attendees an option for reaching the otherwise somewhat remote North and South halls.

Crockfords’ top-tier suite’s 7,000 sf include a grand foyer, dining room, movie theater, billiards room and four bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. The terrace includes a pool, and the outdoor space has a spa, gardens and an outdoor kitchen and dining area. And of course, floor-to-ceiling windows look out over the Strip.

The resort’s Famous Foods Street Eats features 17 options, including the Texas-based Blood Bros. BBQ. Intriguingly, it’s also home to a speakeasy, the Here Kitty Kitty Vice Den. The only clue to the speakeasy’s existence is a golden lucky cat sitting atop what otherwise appears to be shelving.

Miami on the Strip

Having secured a $2.2 billion construction loan just before the holidays, the new 67-story, 3,700-room Fontainebleau Las Vegas now confidently expects to be ready to welcome attendees late this year on the 25 acres that once held the El Rancho. Four miles from the airport and a block from the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Fontainebleau follows in the Las Vegas tradition of bringing Art Deco/Miami Beach to the Strip.

The Fontainebleau will add yet another whopping 550,000 sf meeting space, of which 105,000 sf is a pillar-less ballroom. Outdoors, only the palm trees dotting the 25,900-sf Meridien Garden with water wall will suggest Miami Beach; otherwise, the building is shimmering glass and steel. A 90,000-sf theater and 90,000-sf shopping district are also planned.

Caesars Palace Las Vegas recently completed a redesigned main entrance, complete with mosaic tiling, a new domed ceiling and a 15-foot statue of Augustus Caesar. Courtesy Photo

Caesars Palace Las Vegas recently completed a redesigned main entrance, complete with mosaic tiling, a new domed ceiling and a 15-foot statue of Augustus Caesar. Courtesy Photo

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Fans of actor Warren Beatty know that the first luxury property on the Strip, the 105-room Flamingo Hotel & Casino, was developed by mobster Bugsy Siegel, who Beatty portrayed in the movie “Bugsy.” Complications with financing The Flamingo would ultimately lead to Bugsy’s premature demise. The Flamingo would go on and change hands and its look often in the ensuing years. Bugsy would likely not recognize the hotel he developed, but the name persists. Current owner Caesars Entertainment toyed with the idea of selling last year, but for now, Caesars continues to carry on its legacy at the Flamingo and at the other properties the company owns or manages.

As for what’s new, the man who introduced a grateful nation to the pleasures of the Cronut and the Cookie Shot and brought the Galette des Rois, or King’s Cake, tradition to New York has made his way to Las Vegas. Dominique Ansel Las Vegas at Caesars Palace opened in mid-fall, offering not only Ansel’s signature treats, but a pastry series only available here. The unique collection of pastries is called “Lucky 7” and plays on the idea of good luck charms: Lucky Penny Pig, Ladybug, Goldfish, Four-Leaf Clover, Fortune Cookie, Feather and Evil Eye Éclair. The pastries not only look like actual charms, but include unexpected gastronomic surprises.

Stanton Social Prime, a steakhouse transplant from New York, where it has closed, is set to be resurrected in Caesars Palace, where it will join fellow New York legend Peter Luger Steak House, both set to open this year. The new entrants will join the existing Mr. Chow, Gordon Ramsey Hell’s Kitchen, Nobu and the Las Vegas outpost of MICHELIN-starred Chef Guy Savoy’s eponymous restaurant. Early in 2022, Caesars Palace Las Vegas unveiled its bottom-up redesign of the main entrance, complete with mosaic tiling, a new domed ceiling, and a 15-foot statue of Augustus Caesar, first Roman emperor and heir to the estate of the famously betrayed Julius.

Luxury Within Reach

“How do we support and put together a great event? With buses from seven different hotels? No, luxury properties in close proximity,” says Stephanie Glanzer, CMP, chief sales officer & senior vice president, MGM Resorts International. The Luxury Meetings District by MGM Resorts is a campus of meeting spaces, and luxury hotel rooms and venues, able to accommodate groups up to 15,000 attendees: ARIA Resort & Casino, Bellagio Las Vegas, Vdara Hotel & Spa, Park MGM and Dolby Live at Park MGM, NoMad Las Vegas, T-Mobile Arena, The Park and, added last year, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. “It’s perfect for dinearounds,” Glanzer says. “As many as 300 can stay under one roof and do appetizers, a main course and dessert at three different places. We can brand the group along the walkway so they feel they own that space.”

A six-minute stroll from the Park MGM is BrewDog Las Vegas, the newly opened rooftop bar, restaurant and microbrewery that recently opened with 360-degree views of the Strip, 96 taps and arcade games. The 30,000-sf fourth-floor rooftop bar beckons visitors with a 30-foot illuminated sign.

Las Vegas Convention Center’s new West Hall.

Las Vegas Convention Center’s new West Hall.

Keeping up Appearances

When the $15 million Tropicana Las Vegas opened in 1957, it was the most expensive build on the Strip. As of early fall, Bally’s Corporation owns the 1,467-room hotel, which is now part of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel portfolio. Talk has circulated of a possible stadium for Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s to be erected on the property. But so far this year, nothing has been decided, and it’s business as usual.

“We continue to have great options for our groups when they are not in the meeting spaces, and those include favorites like Robert Irvine’s Public House, Red Lotus Asian Kitchen and, of course, Oakville Tuscan Grill. All of these venues have seen seasonal menu changes to keep the options fresh for our customers,” says Gavin Mealiffe, vice president of sales at Tropicana Las Vegas.

“There is no doubt we are seeing groups look at nontraditional spaces for some breakouts or meal functions to ‘mix up’ the flow of their events, and we certainly love this idea as it allows them to experience more on property,” Mealiffe says. “Some examples of this include utilizing the theater for short general sessions or presentations during the day, or even meetings in restaurant spaces combined with meals. We also offer some inspiring spaces, such as the Havana Room or other outdoor spaces like The Terrace that have a view of the Las Vegas Strip to spark creativity.” The 12,000-sf Havana Room can accommodate up to 300 seated attendees and 800 standing.

New to the Strip

After the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, the second highly anticipated opening of this year is the MSG Sphere at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas. Envisioned by the group behind New York City’s Madison Square Garden, the entertainment venue will be 336 feet tall and 516 feet wide — the world’s largest sphere — and will hold up to 20,000 attendees. The venue features a 160,000-sf, 170 million-pixel LED screen. MSG Sphere Studios will allow filmmakers and artists to create immersive experiences.

The UK pub-themed Flight Club Las Vegas has opened in the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. At 16,000 sf, it features 20 spots for dart playing along with dining. The Venetian offers 2.25 million square feet of meeting and convention space, as well as 3,016 suites in The Venetian Tower; 1,013 suites in Venezia Tower and 3,064 palatial suites in The Palazzo Tower.

Its dozens of eateries include: Bouchon Bistro, offering French bistro classics such as steak frites, roasted chicken, leg of lamb and delicious desserts from two-time James Beard Award-winner Thomas Keller; Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, which offers American burgers featuring 12 distinctly different burger options, salads, wings, sandwiches and newly added vegan options; BRERA osteria, offering Italian cuisine featuring homemade pastas, wood oven-baked breads, cured meats, olive oils and mouthwatering mozzarella; and CUT by Wolfgang Puck, the award-winning, super-chic Beverly Hills steakhouse from master chef Wolfgang Puck.

MGM is investing $100 million into Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, to be completed in 2024. The upgrade includes refreshing and updating the technology, soft goods and lighting of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Renovated Reno

With its more than 200,000 sf of event space and 1,989 guest rooms and suites, Grand Sierra Resort and Casino is on track to renovate more than 600 rooms as part of a $55 million upgrade. Recently opened is the Philadelphia-based sports bar Chickie’s & Pete’s, which seats 260. Lest anyone doubt its Philly bona fides, for opening month, the venue offered a Grand Opening Burger composed of lobster, bacon, the bar’s signature Crabfries, cheese sauce, American cheese, chipotle aioli, friend onions and lettuce on a brioche bun. The obligatory cheese steak is also on offer, albeit in the form of nachos. Sports fans among attendees can watch events on a 45-foot-wide viewing wall.

Also just recently, the 170-room Element Reno Experience District welcomed its first guests. The space includes 1,820 sf of meeting space, each unit has its own kitchen, and the venue boasts a heated rooftop pool, fire pit, hot tub and electric vehicle charging stations.

Within walking distance is the Reno Public Market, which has a newly opened food hall. The entire Reno Experience District is expected to be up and running in the next few months. When complete, it will offer 65,000+ sf of retail. The district is a five-minute walk from the privately owned Peppermill Resort Spa Casino. The 1,623-room resort features three ballrooms totaling 62,000 sf and offers 10 restaurants on property, including casual quick bites, seafood, high-end cuisine, 24-hour cafe and in-room dining. The newest eatery, a taqueria called Sabroso, recently opened.

“Reno and the Peppermill will always come well within the budget of planners that might be looking at San Francisco, Chicago or New York: high-end destinations with much higher rates. I see a lot of corporate groups considering us more because they are being shut out of some expensive locales,” says Travis O’Donnell, regional sales director – Midwest with Peppermill. “F&B is 30% lower than the national average, so that savings spreads across the board. And being non-union really plays a huge role,” But cheaper doesn’t mean down market, O’Donnell says. “Once you get to Reno, you can see firsthand that you’re not sacrificing. We don’t skimp on quality of food or service.”

One East Coast-based agricultural soil company had never met in the West. The planner was considering both Reno and Las Vegas for the meeting of 300 attendees, and O’Donnell’s team took the planner on a city site visit that included the Reno Rodeo. “Time spent with the client definitely helped and probably carried their decision,” O’Donnell says. “The owners are committed to capital improvements — they’re always ongoing. Since I started in 2009, our guests always know when they come they’re going to have a more upscale, up-to-date product. Over the last 10 years, we continue to update all the rooms, carpets; beds. We don’t wait until it needs to be done; we get ahead of it.” Coming soon, the remodeling of the resort’s Tuscany Tower Suites.

“Reno has the biggest little-city feel, small-town homey feel,” O’Donnell says. Reno’s Riverwalk District of shopping, dining and entertainment is 2 miles from the resort, as is the 3.5-mile Truckee River Walk Trail. Lake Tahoe, “the most attractive thing about the destination,” is a 45-minute drive from the resort.

In the summer, Peppermill partnered with the WorldHotels Collection, which O’Donnell says opens up more booking opportunities for corporate travelers, attracting attendees the resort hasn’t seen before. In fact, O’Donnell’s team recently was working on securing Tesla for an upcoming meeting.

Those driving to events in Reno in their own electric vehicles can take advantage of the six Tesla Supercharger stations available 24 hours at the AAA Four-Diamond Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. Atlantis prides itself on offering the last word in Reno luxury with its 27th-floor Penthouse Suites. The penthouse’s two villas feature three-sided fireplaces; a powder room with bidet and Italian marble sink; wet bar and Sub-Zero refrigerator; a pool table and a 75-inch TV. The 27 North Villa, at 1,734 sf, also has an infrared sauna; a Zen meditation room that offers self-serve heat, color, light, sound and aromatherapy and floor-to-ceiling views of the city lights.

The 1,847-sf, 27 South Villa has a private tasting room with crystal decanters and glassware, where attendees will be attended to by one of Atlantis’ sommeliers. This villa’s views are of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and both villas connect directly on either side to the King Penthouse Suites, doubling the square footage.

Planners can arrange private dining for groups of up to 50 attendees at Atlantis Steakhouse, where guests are encouraged to leave their cellphones at the hostess stand — the better to prepare them for the Old-World fine dining to come. The menu is studiedly non-contemporary, with classic dishes such as foie gras, prawn cocktail and lobster bisque, while Steak Diane is prepared tableside. C&IT

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