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Las Vegas Goes Gaga For Small Scaled Projects

Multi-billion dollar projects are out, so smaller concepts are ruling this next wave of development.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
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Las Vegas’ next big act is getting small. That’s right, rather than invest billions into new mega sized Temples of Gaming, casino resort companies are looking to boost profits by introducing downsized experiences meant to extract visitors from their money.

And the strategy makes perfect sense. The Great Recession may be fading for many in the rearview mirror, but the reverberations are still being felt in Sin City. People simply do not spend the way they used to anymore both on and off the casino floor; and the expectation is customer spending habits are forever altered.

So building a massive complex just doesn’t make fiscal sense anymore. Creating smaller focused projects not only makes sense, however, it’s in line with current consumer trends. For example, Las Vegas mega resorts have grown so large they are no longer at a human scale, which is intimidating for many. So downsizing new hotels and attractions is more appealing to CFOs. Additionally, it’s also making it easier for companies to capitalize on the emerging trend that has folks wanting more personalized, bespoke experiences.

Take Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon, for example. Nestled between the Flamingo and Bally’s and across from Caesars Palace, that Caesars Entertainment Corp. owned property closed last week to be converted to a boutique lifestyle hotel and casino that see a rooftop pool as well as a day club/nightclub added and operated by Drai Management Group, which already operates the nearly mythic Drai’s afterhours club in the building. That project should open early next year under a new name – we think Drai’s will get the honor – and is set to appeal to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas crowd.

Just officially announced this morning as moving ahead and breaking ground is SBE’s SLS Las Vegas Hotel, which will be housed in the now shuttered Sahara. SBE already has SLS hotels in places like Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, Houston and New York.

“We’re creating a mix of approachable offerings with established brands under one roof that are managed and owned by one company,” said sbe Founder, Chairman and CEO Sam Nazarian in the press release. “As a result we’re able to align operations and program a seamless guest experience throughout every square foot of the property.”

Among key elements of SLS Las Vegas will be a collection of restaurant concepts including The Bazaar by José Andrés, Katsuya by Starck, Umami Burger (which LA people have freaked out for) and The Griddle Café.

Meanwhile, Morgans Hotel Group is transforming MGM International’s The Hotel at Mandalay Bay to a hip and swanky Delano. The Delano Las Vegas was originally slated to be part of the ill-fated and partially constructed Echelon Place, a multi-billion resort complex in the style of CityCenter that is now rusting across from Wynn and Encore Las Vegas.

The Delano Las Vegas is expected to open in late 2013.

"In keeping with our commitment to create superior experiences for our guests, transforming THEhotel into Delano Las Vegas will add a new dimension of energy and excitement to the Las Vegas Strip," said Chuck Bowling, president and COO of Mandalay Bay. "The Delano South Beach experience is very special and loved worldwide, most notably in key Latin American and European markets which we have strategically identified for future growth potential."

Morgans is also transforming the property’s ground level food and beverage program set to be managed by The Light Group, a wholly owned entity of Morgans. The Light Group already operates myriad nightclubs, restaurants and more in the city.

Another small scale yet outsized project is The LINQ, an outdoor entertainment and retail district set to open by the end of this year. This project is costing Caesars just $550 million, which is nothing in outsize Vegas dollars and will feature a massive $185 million observation wheel, dubbed the Las Vegas High Roller.

The Linq will bring upgrades to three, large mid-Strip Caesars Entertainment resorts and O’Sheas casino. On The Linq’s north side, guests will now walk behind The Strip starting from the Carnaval Court outdoor plaza at Harrah’s Las Vegas resort through the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino – now called The Quad -- and to The Linq. A pedestrian connection also will be built from The Linq into Flamingo Las Vegas on the south. The Linq enhancements will completely transform the facade, porte cochere, casino and hotel reception areas of The Quad, which is in the middle of a massive makeover.

The LINQ will feature retail, dining, beverage and entertainment experiences, spanning more than 200,000 square feet of gross leasable area directly facing Caesars Palace. The area is meant to appeal to Gen X and Gen Y. The wheel will be the tallest in the world, at 550 feet, with 28 cabins designed as transparent spheres, each of which will accommodate up to 40 people. Each cabin will be available for individual or group experiences.

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