Las Vegas: Top execs. reveal more details of Rio renovations, Fontainebleau’s December opening

Top executives from Las Vegas resorts Rio Casino & Hotel and Fontainebleau shared new details on their respective renovation and opening plans during appearances before the Nevada Gaming Control Board on Wednesday. The board recommended approvals for both properties, with final decisions to be made by the Nevada Gaming Commission later this month.

In August, the Rio will start a two-phase $350 million renovation of the 2,500-suite resort, refreshing all rooms, the casino, many of its food-and-beverage outlets and its pool deck. Managed by Caesars Entertainment, the resort was acquired by Dreamscape Companies in December 2019 for $516 million, with an existing Caesars management agreement ending in October. At that point, Dreamscape will take over operations, if licensing is approved.

Dreamscape CEO Eric Birnbaum expressed his enthusiasm for Rio’s renovation and told the board the pandemic presented a unique opportunity for the team to plan its redevelopment strategy. “COVID really allowed us to implement our business plan and hire individuals to really steer the ship and get us into the position we’re currently in today,” he stated, as reported by Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Dreamscape CEO Eric Birnbaum

The first phase of the renovation will focus on refurbishing the 1,500 suites in the Ipanema Tower, with subsequent phases covering the Masquerade Tower and food outlets at the property. Birnbaum also revealed Dreamscape’s intention to replace the buffet with a food court concept and establish a partnership with Hyatt Hotels to enhance convention business.

Dreamscape’s property lease-back agreement with Caesars ends in December, which enables the firm to either renew that agreement or make different plans. Current Rio employees will be asked to sign on as Dreamscape workers, and the company plans to market the property to both tourists and locals, Birnbaum told commissioners, as per the cited source.

As for the Fontainebleau, the resort’s story is a troubled one. Construction of the property began in 2007 but stopped in 2009 during the Great Recession. It has since had other owners but was taken over by original developer Soffer in February 2021 and is now due to open in December.

Bowtie Hospitality executives Jeffrey Soffer and Brett Mufson expressed their excitement about completing the long-awaited project, with the company investing a total of $3.9 billion on the 67-story property. Soffer stated: “I think it’s going to be fabulous for Las Vegas. It’s definitely a little different than what was originally planned. It’s much more upscale.”

Jeffrey Soffer

Officials provided new details about the resort, including plans for entertainment residencies in a 3,800-seat theater, the payment of 7,100 employees on a weekly basis instead of biweekly and a partnership with the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center. Additionally, the execs. revealed the second floor will feature a retail promenade with a 56,000-square-foot spa and nail salon and a 14,000-square-foot fitness center.

Meanwhile, the property’s 150,000-square-foot casino will include more than 18,000 square feet of high-limit gaming space, a nearly 14,000-square-foot race and sportsbook, along with a poolside gaming area. The company is targeting approximately 1,300 slot machines and 128 table games.

When complete, the resort will have 3,644 rooms with 421 suites and in the fall the company will begin hiring 7,100 employees split between full-time and part-time and through partnerships with affiliated companies. The Fontainebleau will also have 550,000 square feet of meeting space with 11,000 square feet for exhibits, 57 meeting and breakout rooms and four ballrooms, including one that is “the second-largest columnless facility” in the market at 106,000 square feet.

The recommendations made by the Nevada Gaming Control Board mark a significant milestone for both properties. The decisions on the preliminary approvals are expected to be made by the Nevada Gaming Commission during its meeting on July 27. As for Fontainebleau, it will also need a second hearing with gaming regulators for final licensing before the planned opening in December.