Renovation is transforming downtown’s Plaza Hotel

A look at a newly refinished Derby room suite at the Plaza Wednesday, June 22, 2011. The Plaza is undergoing a $35 million dollar remodel and plans to open in September.

Plaza Remodel

A look at a newly refinished Derby room suite at the Plaza Wednesday, June 22, 2011. The Plaza is undergoing a $35 million dollar remodel and plans to open in September. Launch slideshow »

Plaza Hotel & Casino: Before Renovations

Symphony Park is under construction with the Plaza Hotel & Casino looming in the background. Launch slideshow »

In the blistering June heat construction workers stand perched under the iconic dome at the Plaza Hotel, swapping out the 45,037 light bulbs that illuminate the downtown Las Vegas casino’s facade.

The joke is too obvious, but here’s the answer: It takes two of them, at a rate of about 3,000 a day, over the course of several weeks.

But it’s not a punch line. It’s all part of the $35 million renovation at the Plaza and its grand reopening this summer.

The workers are swapping out the 45-watt bulbs for 3-watt bulbs to save energy and cut down on costs in leaner times, which is what much of the Plaza renovation has been about. The property purchased furnishings and fixtures once bound for the never-opened Fontainebleau at bargain prices to update its hotel rooms.

The property got almost everything it needed from Fontainebleau to outfit the new rooms — beds, chairs, accessories, carpeting and marble. The rest of the furnishings ended up at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm for the resort complex’s $8.5 million renovation.

Tony Santo, CEO of PlayLV that runs the Plaza and its sister properties, wouldn’t share the cost of the Fontainebleau deal but said it was “cents on the dollar.”

The result hardly looks like a hotel full of bargain furnishings. The Plaza’s new rooms are sleek and modern with high-end chrome fixtures, new Jacuzzi tubs and marble in the bathrooms. In the bedrooms and sitting rooms, new linens, couches, wall coverings and flooring have been added.

It’s a major improvement for a hotel that has not seen a major renovation in so long that its new operators can’t recall its last update. At least not in the past 20 years, Santo and Chief Marketing Officer Steve Rosen agreed.

“I wouldn’t even call this a renovation. It’s a complete remodel. I think when the Plaza closed, people didn’t believe what we could do. It’s a big investment in the Plaza and a big investment in downtown,” Santo said.

The rooms in the South Tower have been completed, and the North Tower is expected to be finished within the next few weeks. The rooms will reopen to the public Sept. 1 with rates starting at $44.

The new Plaza will be a blend of old and new Las Vegas, with murals and old photos the hotel in its prime mixed in with the new décor. Preserving the property’s 40-year-old history was something the hotel’s operators kept in mind when redesigning the property.

“The whole thing is trying to get the existing customers that were here mixed in with some new customers. We want everyone to feel comfortable,” Rosen said.

They’ll also be adding more lounges and bars to the hotel that go with the new young, relaxed vibe downtown — but without the $300 bottle service Strip casino lounges charge, Rosen said.

“It’s more of a traditional Las Vegas experience downtown, but then you have Fremont East where you have that new generation of customers coming down here,” Santo added.

Click to enlarge photo

Workers work on the casino floor at the Plaza Wednesday, June 22, 2011. The Plaza is undergoing a $35 million dollar remodel and plans to open in September.

On the main level of the Plaza, the casino floor has been gutted — taking with it the smell of stale smoke — and is awaiting new slots, table games and a sports book. On the edge of the casino floor, the Plaza will be adding new food and beverage offerings, but neither Rosen nor Santos were willing to give details.

And everyone is curious what is going in the Plaza’s glass dome overlooking Fremont Street since the restaurant Firefly will not be returning. The hotel’s operators are also keeping those cards close to their vest.

The Plaza is exchanging its Rat Pack show for more updated entertainment, but is leaving the showroom the same. Santo said it’s one of the few Las Vegas showrooms that has remained the same through the decades.

The next challenge will be marketing the new Plaza. Rosen said they’ll be launching a new ad campaign once the renovations are finished, mainly in Las Vegas.

“We wanted to get people while they are here instead of just going out and reaching any individual anywhere,” Rosen said. “That’s really what we want — the people who are coming to Vegas to say ‘Hey, there’s a new experience.’ ”

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  1. Do not underestimate the Downtown crowd. However, the rapid increase of vendors and music bands on Fremont Streets makes it oftentimes annoying walking there. Not all visitors of the Downtown area are actually valued customers to the casinos and instead only go there for picture taking and enjoying the scenery. Not the real plan of these casinos I guess...
    As for walking the noisy Fremont Street on any given Saturday evening, I usually avoid this area and walk on Odgen on my way down to the El Cortez. Watch your back if you do so, though....

    The Golden Nugget and the Plaza might be the future survivors in this rundown. The Vegas Club is pretty much in trouble now and it wouldn't surprise me if they shut down their hotel operations once the Plaza opens its one.
    I booked one night at the Plaza for October, just to see the rooms. Hopefully the pool will be in operations then and everything will be fine. Very curious to see the new old Plaza :)

    From Switzerland

  2. Unfortunately, the "pennies on the dollar" came from the Plaza acquiring products and fixtures that were originally intended for the Fontainebleau. Now, with the Fontainebleau BK Receiver having first ordered a fire sale for these very same products, the Receiver has now gone back to the supppliers and ordered them to repay the Receiver for these very same products. And, in some cases, the suppliers of the product never received payment for delivering the products in the first place. So, this might be a bright day for the Plaza (and others who benefited), it is a sad day for the suppliers -- who are most likely going to have to file BK and/or go out of business because of the BK Receiver's actions. Another day, another vendor/supplier is screwed.

  3. Las Vegans: We're taking it back to where it all began. Thank you to the people at the Plaza (and the El Cortez, too) for having the vision to make this happen.

  4. Now that they are redoing the Plaza and providing 800 jobs that we need I hope they go back to the service of the years past and not what it was the last few years before closing.

    They forgot for a few years that the customer is the one that pays the bills. The new top dogs made a lot of changes that effected the customers and the attitudes of their employees.

    Good luck, will try visiting again. We love downtown and it will be nice to see the Plaza with open doors once again.

  5. Good Luck, Plaza! It has been quite a few years since I've stayed and played at your establishment but by the look of things, I'm willing to 'return' to this venue. Like El Cortez, this will be upliftingly wlcomed by both locals and visitors. Keep renovating/refurbishing old Vegas such that we non-high-rollers can once again enjoy the multitude of exciting experiences that are Las Vegas. GO PLAZA... Show yo' stuff!

  6. Yeah, with all the remodeling they apparently are performing right now the Plaza might become a real uplift and attract the people. Just like the Golden Nugget, it is evidendt that some class and style is never a mistake. Even the Gold Spike upgraded heavily and deserves my business once in a while when visiting this neighborhood.

    I see the Vegas Club hotel shut down with the Plaza opening as it absolutely would make no sense to have that many hotel rooms available and vacant , especially because the Vegas Club rooms desperately need do be re-done. They will probably never do that.

    Will be quite interesting to see the new old Plaza but I really hope that the chandellier on the 2nd floor is still there as it's one of the joint's true jewels, and in a way, it belongs to its look.

    From Switzerland