Will the SLS change the game for the north Strip?

A view of renovation work at the SLS Las Vegas resort (formerly the Sahara hotel-casino) Thursday, July 25, 2013.

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SLS President Rob Oseland

Work Continues on SLS Resort

Workers demolish the old porte cochere at the SLS Las Vegas resort, formerly the Sahara, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The renovated resort is expected to open in the fall of 2014. Launch slideshow »

Robert Oseland remembers the excitement he felt opening the Mirage as a blackjack dealer. He was part of something big and cutting edge, part of the future envisioned by Steve Wynn.

Oseland, a Chicago native who came to Las Vegas to study at UNLV, has chased that feeling throughout his career.

In the years since, he has worked as a slot executive at the Bellagio, chief operating officer at the Wynn and Encore, and now president of SLS Las Vegas.

The brainchild of SBE Entertainment CEO Sam Nazarian, the $415 million, 1,600-room resort budding on the former grounds of the Sahara has been considered a key factor in the recovery of the Strip’s struggling north end. The resort is scheduled to open next fall.

Oseland recently sat down with VEGAS INC to chat about the project.

On the benefits and challenges of taking over the Sahara …

We’re sort of forced into the past by taking over a 1950s building versus re-creating something. We’re excited about the concentration of energy.

In the past, casinos were the focal point of the resort experience. As Las Vegas grew up, we built bigger and bigger and grander places, and we lost that connectivity. The lure and luster and excitement of the casino has been left behind for other experiences. It’s food and beverage and nightlife oriented. The casino ends up competing for the space.

As a result of us having to work within the Sahara’s four walls, we’re able to re-create the energy we lost over the past two decades.

On being a model for the north end of the Strip …

A lot of people handicap the location. You know, “Might as well be 10 miles away from the Strip.”

We’re turning on the lights again, and that’s simply exciting. It’s a dark half-mile.

But the city was built around the four corners of the Sahara. The roadways, the infrastructure systems, the access? It’s all there. The fact that we’re able to sit on that corner again is a really big advantage. It means we’re going to be accessible.

On the location of the SLS …

It’s like 40,000 cars a day that pass by. It’s the fourth-busiest intersection in the state.

As we move north, it’s a matter of time and recovery. When we look at the reflection of when things were good, everything was moving north.

We’re reminded by all of the failed projects, but when the economy upturns, it’ll come back north again. We just happen to be the first.

On the Riviera helping the recovery …

The Paragon Gaming Group has come in as a management group. They are the former owners of the Sahara. They’re going to help push some life back into it.

On his role developing some of the Strip's biggest resorts …

What I’m passionate about is partnering with visionaries and entrepreneurs to help bring ideas to life. I may not be the guy who has the cutting-edge vision, but I’m smart enough to smell it. I’m the one who can help shape it and make it come to life. I’ve found success in that kind of role.

So my passions are around design and development and the tension of tying one of these things down and stabilizing it.

I was a blackjack dealer when I got to watch the Mirage open. So the excitement of being associated with that is what set the tone for me. I was fortunate to grow up with a visionary (Steve Wynn) who just had a ferocious appetite for growth. I got lucky and got on the wave and said, "Hey, you know what? I want to help figure things out." And I got put in the game to do it.

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