Meetings & Conventions - FeelingLucky - June
Fun amid the foliage:
The Peppermint Hotel Casino in RenoFeelingLucky
Gaming towns are investing high stakes in new casino hotels,
expansions, renovations and other draws
By Amy Drew Teitler and Terence Baker
he business of risk seems less of a financial
gamble than ever before, if the pace of growth within the gaming
industry is any indication. Las Vegas, a one-horse desert outpost a
century ago, was rated the fastest growing city in America in the
2000 edition of the Places Rated Almanac.
Mergers are big news, with MGM Grand Inc. swallowing the Mirage
Resorts empire in one huge $4.4 billion gulp, padding its portfolio
with some of the most desirable properties in Las Vegas (Bellagio,
Mirage and Treasure Island) and elsewhere. Plans for The Borgata,
Mirage’s $750 million project scheduled to break ground this summer
in Atlantic City, still are rolling on schedule.
Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. also has been busy, having recently
absorbed the Lady Luck Gaming Corp. by means of a cash merger. This
deal will include the acquisition of the Lady Luck Casino &
Hotel in Las Vegas before the end of 2000, provided Nevada’s gaming
regulators OK the matter.
Every state in the union is making money from some form of
gambling, be it Powerball or poker. Here are the latest
developments of pertinence to planners.
Big news of late is the MGM/Mirage merger, of course, but
properties all over town are making themselves more meeting- and
family-friendly, spending dollars to revamp conference space and
draw visitors to their doorsteps.
Although plans for an additional tower at Bellagio have been put
on hold since the merger, the Mirage
properties still have plenty to report. The 3,054-room Mirage
recently announced plans to double its convention space as part of
a $125 million renovation. The new areas will be completed in two
phases, with a 17-room meeting complex scheduled to open this month
and a 60,000-square-foot events center to be available in April
2001. Six of the 17 meeting rooms will combine to form the
10,000-square-foot Montego Ballroom, which will have built-in
teleconferencing and videoconferencing capabilities. The events
center will include a 60,000-square-foot ballroom that can expand
to 90,000 square feet. The new space, totaling 160,000 square feet
(including an existing 40,000-square-foot ballroom), will hold
groups of 10 to 7,450 attendees.
Treasure Island at the Mirage recently
installed high-speed Internet access using T-3 lines in select
guest rooms and meeting rooms. Groups meeting here can use the
Internet to enhance events for an initial fee of $700; $200 for
each additional day.
Treasure Island recently completed a $100 million remodeling
that added Francesco’s, an Italian restaurant, which features
celebrity artwork. Work also involved refurbishing its 2,700 rooms
and adding a new lounge, the Hideaway.
In a town where just having a casino is never enough, two new
resorts have made a dramatic European-themed splash. The 2,196-room
Paris Las Vegas opened in September 1999, complete
with re-creations of the Paris Opera House, the Louvre and the Arc
de Triomphe, as well as a 540-foot Eiffel Tower (three of its legs
spring from the resort’s 85,000-square-foot casino floor).
Switchboard operators answer with “Bonjour!” Dining and
entertainment also are suitably à la française.
The other European-styled newcomer, the 3,036-room
Venetian, welcomed its first guests in May 1999.
Noted for gondolas and the Vegas version of Venice’s Bridge of
Sighs, the property also has a sprinkling of non-Venetian
attractions, such as Madame Tussaud’s Celebrity Encounter. When the
Venetian was built, it took over the old Sands Hotel and its expo
center; the result is 1.7 million square feet of exhibition space
and the world’s largest pillarless ballroom. Just as lavish, the
120,000-square-foot casino is a replica of the Doge’s Palace in
Venice. Reopening this spring is the New Aladdin
(its namesake closed in 1997), a 2,567-room hotel and casino
costing a reported $1.3 billion. Nearly 100,000 square feet of
meeting space will be offered at the new property, which will be
much more elaborate than its predecessor.
Stratosphere, which features the tallest free-standing
observation tower in the United States, is adding 1,000 rooms
(2,400 in total) in an extension that is intended to boost the
hotel’s resort image. Coupled with the expansion is a large pool
and spa complex. Work is due to be completed by the end of March
At Mandalay Bay, new amenities include Rock
Lobster, a hip new restaurant from the creators of China Grill. Its
high-end lobster-intensive menu will score points with VIPs, and
the innovative conveyor belt bar delivers serve-yourself sushi to
patrons dining barside. The venue seats 220.
The new Spa Mandalay overlooks the resort’s lagoon and features
a wide array of massage, aromatherapy and body-scrub and wrap
treatments from all over the world.
Opening this summer is Shark Reef, the newest entertainment
attraction at Mandalay. Featuring fearsome and unusual aquatic
animals, it comprises a mock-up of an ancient temple that is slowly
being claimed by the sea. More than an aquarium, Shark Reef will be
a total sensory experience.
A $20 million transit system linking the Mandalay Group’s three
South Strip properties (Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay) has been
completed. This cable-propelled driverless monorail is the
country’s first “cable liner” transit system. Shuttles leave every
15 minutes, 24 hours a day.
The NASCAR Cafe, a new 75,000-square-foot, 400-seat restaurant,
has opened at the 1,782-room Sahara Hotel &
Casino. The NASCAR theme carries throughout the complex
and includes giant projection TV screens featuring famous drivers,
the latest news and actual races. Nearly 20 authentic stock cars
are displayed, including “Carzilla,” a three-ton Pontiac Grand
Outside of the Strip’s neon glow, the Regent Las
Vegas (which in March changed its name from the Resort at
Summerlin) has added Aquae Sulis, a 40,000-square-foot luxury spa,
and Nevada Nick’s, a restaurant that seats 320 and is designed
around a huge exhibition kitchen with wood-burning ovens. This
property also has completed a new six-story tower, its second,
which includes 255 rooms, a restaurant and lounge. Featuring 21,000
square feet of meeting space, a 40,000-square-foot spa and 540
guest rooms, the Regent Las Vegas lies adjacent to three golf
courses; the hotel controls half the tee times for one of the
The 2,034-room New York-New York Hotel &
Casino has completed renovations that began last April.
Improvements included room upgrades, new guest lounges and an
expansion of meeting space from 12,000 to 15,000 square feet.
Progress is the word here. The city of Reno recently authorized
Cordish Co. to develop an entertainment complex and modernize the
downtown area. Market analysis is under way, with an emphasis on
entertainment uses. Featured attractions that are up for discussion
include historical museums relating to the culture and wildlife of
Northern Nevada, an aquarium, retail shops, partnerships with local
arts organizations and the creation of new restaurants.
Developers have begun converting the closed Riverside
Hotel into 35 artists lofts and first-floor commercial
space. The estimated project cost is $7.9 million, funded from a
series of government grants and tax credits. Retail shops should
open early in 2001.
Atlantis Casino Resort finished a $70 million
expansion and renovation, which added 390 rooms (for a total of
982), an expanded casino and a health club and spa. Also new is an
oyster bar and the Monte Vigna Italian Ristorante, which offers
winemaker dinners complete with award-winning wines of Marchesi
Antinori Estates and a five-course gourmet meal.
The 950-room Harrah’s Reno expects to unveil
its new plaza this month near the famous Reno arch. Harrahs’
recently acquired Harold’s Club and the Nevada Club and demolished
both to make way for the plaza, which will include landscaping,
lighting and a covered walkway into Harrah’s north entrance. The
area, expected to host major musical acts, will accommodate
525-room Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, all 70 suites have
been remodeled, as have two restaurants, the Forest Buffet and
Friday’s Station. The resort also has added Seafood Cove, a $26
million seafood restaurant that has replaced Café Andreotti.
Reno-based Sapphire Gaming has purchased the 310-room
Comstock Hotel Casino and has agreements in place
to buy both the 604-room Flamingo Hilton-Reno and
46 percent of the Sands Regent company, which owns and operates the
836-room Sands Regency Hotel Casino.
Peppermill Hotel Casino is in the midst of a
$300 million expansion due to open this summer. It will feature two
restaurants, an 85,000-square-foot convention center, a 1,700-seat
entertainment complex and a 17-story tower that will bring the room
total to 1,702.
The 458-room Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort &
Casino is to undergo a $47 million renovation that will
include a remodeling of 250 rooms (10 rooms also will disappear),
the casino, the lobby and all on-site restaurants. Much of the
interior work will be completed this year, with the rest continuing
Plans are in development for the revitalization of this entire
town. City and county officials are searching for ways to make
Tunica a more compelling destination to the area’s 10 million
annual visitors, many of whom are meeting and convention attendees.
Dining, shopping, sightseeing, day-trip itineraries and other
options are being explored.
The Paul Battle Jr. Arena & Exposition
Center (named for prominent local Paul Battle) is set for
completion next month. The facility features 48,000 square feet of
exhibition space, a 13,000-square-foot concourse, 2,000 permanent
arena seats (with capability to expand to 8,000), banquet seating
for up to 2,500 and 14 luxury skyboxes that seat up to 24 and are
equipped with wet bars. The Expo Center is the largest facility of
its kind in Mississippi and was designed for a wide array of
events, from conventions to concerts to livestock shows. A
full-service catering kitchen will be on site.
Robinsonville casino area, the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel
Tunica is in the midst of a $38 million expansion that
will include an enlarged parking area, 17,000 square feet of added
gaming space and several new restaurants. The 505-room property
already offers a wide selection of dining options from steaks to
Southwestern and Southern fare and the Bluesville Showcase
The 860-room Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling
Hall is about to undergo a $21 million renovation that
will remodel the entire casino, add a new restaurant and revamp the
prominent atrium, which will host seasonal and special events.
Tunica County has allotted $10 million to be spent over the next
three years for the development of the River Experience
Park. Phase One will include a marina and ecotourism park.
Under a five-year plan and an additional $15 million investment, a
golf and tennis facility will be developed within the park.
Locations are still being scouted, but it is expected to be built
in the casino resort area.
Tunica Airport is gearing up for a
modernization and expansion with the hope that many visitors will
be soon able to bypass Memphis and fly nonstop to Tunica. The
airport currently serves only small aircraft, but plans are under
way to expand the runway to more than 7,000 feet, allowing aircraft
as large as Boeing 737s to land. The project is slated for
completion in 2004 at a cost of more than $35 million.
Plans have been submitted to local and state planning committees
for the development of an entertainment and retail complex. This
city project will stretch five blocks between the Atlantic City
Convention Center and the boardwalk but will not be connected to
the convention center.
The 644-room Resorts Atlantic City is expected
to complete a $50 million renovation next month. The refurbishment
will include a bright new casino floor, redesigned rooms, grand new
entrances, porte cochères and lobbies, and several new restaurants,
such as Exotic Asian Spice and the Breadsticks Café and Grill,
which overlooks the ocean. Eleven33, the property’s new nightclub,
is now open and is to feature well-known musical acts. The property
offers 40,090 square feet of meeting space, including nine meeting
rooms and a 12,028-square-foot ballroom.
The Borgata, a planned $750 million property,
is about to break ground in the marina district and is expected to
open late in 2002. The joint venture, initially between Boyd Gaming
and Mirage Resorts, will go on as planned despite the massive
buyout of Mirage by MGM Grand Inc. The Borgata (named for the
Italian word for “hamlet” or “neighborhood”) will be
architecturally inspired by the buildings of Tuscany, combined with
the energy of Milan. Its 27-story tower is to have 1,207 rooms, and
another 559 rooms are planned for the site.
Plans for the property include eight restaurants (including a
trattoria, steak house and Asian noodle shop), a spa, a bus
terminal, a large parking lot, 133,000 square feet of casino space,
and 63,000 square feet of meeting space, with a special events
center at the heart of the conference area.
Atlantic City Hotel Casino unveiled the $280 million,
26-story Centurion Tower, adding 620 rooms, for a total of 1,144.
The Palladium Ballroom on the Tower’s second floor holds up to
2,000 people for events and banquets. Plans are under way for a $30
million expansion that will connect Caesars to Bally’s Park Place
and Wild Wild West Casino; completion is expected by Labor Day.
Future plans call for adding 8,000 square feet of meeting space and
a Boardwalk-level promenade.
Boardwalk Hall, open since 1929 and the home of
the Miss America Pageant, is in the process of a $72 million
renovation. New seating to accommodate up to 12,000, along with
other remodeling plans, is scheduled to be completed by 2001.
Renovations of all 1,175 rooms at Harrahs Atlantic
City have been completed, and all on-site restaurants
should be revamped by the end of this summer. In December, 142 slot
machines were added to casino floor space that now totals 86,000
square foot. Expect more additions and more gaming space by the end
of the year.
The 904-room Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino has
two new additions, one of which is Asian-influenced, the other
health-influenced. The Shangri-La is an Asian-styled
casino-within-a-casino that features Asian trimmings, games and
food, the latter via the new Shangri-La Café. Two large dragons
greet arrivals to the new space. Also new is the Salon at Trump
Plaza, a 2,700-square-foot facility on the 7th floor.
Harrah’s Atlantic City announced plans for a
450-room expansion that would bring the hotel’s capacity to more
than 1,600 rooms. The project, expected to cost $110 million, is
scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2002.
Mississippi Gulf Coast
The big news is Isle of Capri Casinos Inc.’s purchase of the Lady
Luck casinos. Among other developments:
A new 30,000-square-foot convention center has just opened at
the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino. Connected
to the casino’s 1,086-room hotel, the center adds to the resort’s
existing 20,000 square feet of meeting space and can seat 3,000
theater-style and 2,500 classroom-style.
The Palace Casino opened the 236-room Palace
Hotel on May 25. (The casino dropped the word “New” from its name
at the end of last year.) The 11-story hotel, which connects to the
casino and overlooks Biloxi Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, features
7,500 square feet of banquet and meeting space and a 45-foot-high
atrium crowned with a domed skylight. A restaurant, spa and a
4,800-square-foot elevated patio area with two pools round out the
Twice-weekly air service serving Gulfport/Biloxi
Regional Airport from Toronto began on April 7. The Canada
2000 airline will provide an extra 348 seats a week.
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