June 20, 2021

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Travel Finishes First

Rio’s new house owners hope to breathe new lifestyle into off-Strip lodge

10 min read

The Rio will continue to be the Rio in name and concept.

But that does not indicate the hotel’s new proprietor, New York Town-dependent Dreamscape Providers, is doubling down on the status quo.

Substantial variations are coming to the 31-yr-outdated off-Strip vacation resort, which has dropped its shine in new decades.

Those adjustments won’t be achieved by functioning absent from the Rio’s earlier. As a substitute, the new house owners think they can faucet into what designed the residence successful in the first location when incorporating new elements guests have occur to anticipate in a modern-day Las Vegas resort. To that conclude, they’ve assembled a staff of field gurus to suggest them and aid put into practice their eyesight.

Rio’s new possession team is headed by two self-explained “real estate guys” from the East Coastline who are building their very first foray into the gaming market via the vacation resort.

“When we to start with purchased it, I consider every person explained, ‘You’re likely to rebrand it, improve it entirely and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,’” Dreamscape founder and CEO Eric Birnbaum explained during a Might 3 tour of the assets with Review-Journal journalists. “And we claimed, ‘No, basically, we’re likely to do the entire opposite. We’re going to lean into it and embrace what it is.’ And that to us was very clear.”

Dreamscape acquired Rio from Caesars Leisure Inc. for $516 million in a offer announced September 2019. Under conditions of the sale settlement, Caesars will function Rio and pay lease to Dreamscape by way of December 2023 at the latest.

Dreamscape options to renovate the Brazilian-themed assets with the rainforest in thoughts, said Birnbaum, however he and Chief Investment Officer Tom Ellis, his longtime organization spouse, declined to divulge several particulars in the course of the tour.

Birnbaum reported the “underloved” Rio needs new lifetime with “everything from the instant you walk in, to the instant you depart.” Nonetheless, he mentioned, there is adequate “meat on the bones” for Rio to when again develop into a go-to location for locals and tourists alike.

“We’d enjoy to believe it is time for a minimal bit of a reinvention in Vegas,” he mentioned.

Not in Disneyland

“We just can’t go wrong” by remaining accurate to a jungle motif, Birnbaum stated. He stated themed resorts are commonly a “played out” notion simply because they normally resemble, in his see, a comic strip rendering of the topic.

That won’t be the situation with Rio’s renovations, Ellis reported. Dreamscape intends to produce a more authentic atmosphere, a person rooted in the imagery of Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, he explained. Their goal is compound and an “approachable luxury” consumer base.

“If you wanna go to Disneyland, go to Disneyland,” Birnbaum said.

The new proprietors are maintaining most particulars of their strategies close to the vest. They are hoping to begin renovations someday in 2022, Birnbaum mentioned.

But they are prioritizing updates to the property’s rooms with the hopes that performing so will entice trade exhibits and conventions to host their situations at Rio’s 220,000 sq. toes of conference area, he explained.

Dreamscape will “clean up” Rio’s cerulean, maroon and violet facade: “Exactly what that usually means, we’ll depart to your creativity,” Ellis stated.

The resort’s sportsbook will get a facelift and stay in the similar location, he reported. It’s probably a third get together will operate the sportsbook, but they hadn’t still determined which one particular, Birnbaum claimed.

A 3rd occasion, Plano, Texas-primarily based Aimbridge Hospitality, will handle lodge functions at Rio as the home transitions and rebrands underneath the Hyatt Accommodations Corp. umbrella.

Dreamscape announced a franchise arrangement with Hyatt in March that will convey “multiple Hyatt comprehensive-support offerings to Las Vegas.” Attendees will be capable to generate and shell out Globe of Hyatt loyalty benefits points for keeping at the home.

Public areas like Rio’s gaming, retail, foodstuff and beverage, spa and health and pool offerings will be redeveloped, and just one of the Rio’s hotel towers will be reworked into a 1,501-room Hyatt Regency Lodge, with guest rooms averaging 580 sq. toes. The remaining guest rooms will be branded or affiliated with a person or extra of Hyatt’s other models following renovations.

Familiar confront

Rio’s new entrepreneurs say the residence desires the overhaul, but they like what they have to operate with: 117,300 square toes of casino room, 1,050 slot devices, 70 table game titles and 2,520 resort rooms and suites, in accordance to Caesars’ 2020 annual report.

The house also includes the Palazzo Suites, a private selection of luxurious suites that have accommodated celebs this sort of as Elton John and Prince and that have been showcased as section of CBS’ “Love Island” truth exhibit.

Rio’s first proprietor, Tony Marnell, built and opened the assets in 1990. He ongoing to operate Rio until finally marketing the home in 1999 to what was then Harrah’s Entertainment, now Caesars Entertainment Inc.

“We assume the bones of this area are as excellent or if not far better than everything else in Vegas,” Birnbaum said. “Marnell realized what he was executing when he constructed this. It is just that it went into other people’s arms. It requires to be up-to-date and brought into this century.”

To support them do that, Dreamscape has hired Marnell as the architect of document for Rio’s renovations. Marnell and his architecture division at Marnell Firms will support Dreamscape’s improvement workforce with the undertaking.

Marnell Organizations workers users supply vital insight, as they know better than any individual else the making by itself and what is driving the walls, Birnbaum claimed.

In a Could 19 cell phone job interview, Marnell reported he transformed anything major at Rio each and every year he owned the home, and he and firm team sense fortunate for the prospect to decide on up exactly where they left off since its sale to Harrah’s.

It’s an interesting process, Marnell mentioned, where by his architects have the possibility to increase some of their creativeness when serving to Dreamscape’s “great young people” understand their own vision for the residence.

“They’ve got some seriously fantastic strategies, and our aim is to carry out their desire,” Marnell stated. “I got to apply my desire when I was there as the owner. Now it is their transform.”

The architects’ enthusiasm for the venture is evident to Dreamscape’s management crew.

“Their senior guys, they’ll tell tales like, ‘I was a junior architect when we developed this position. I was a superintendent on this tower. I was this on that tower,’” reported Jack Behrens, vice president of asset administration and progress for Dreamscape, and a Las Vegas resort industry veteran.

Provides Ellis: “They’ll tell us 5 different stories about how they selected the faucet fixtures, and then we get to go have 5 extra stories about how we’re gonna decide on the new kinds.”

Require to energize home

Even so coy Dreamscape executives were being about sharing specifics of their programs for Rio for the duration of the May perhaps 3 tour, they were being notably less so about their thoughts towards the present condition of affairs.

Through the tour on a Monday afternoon, Dreamscape executives walked past the vibrant, but dormant, on line casino-ground stage while a handful of attendees casually pushed buttons on slot equipment. Audio speakers previously mentioned their heads echoed “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang throughout the two-story gaming and searching atrium. Birnbaum grimaced.

“This is on their mix from 1994,” he quipped.

“We’re gonna be renovating the playlist, too,” Ellis added.

Birnbaum experienced but to remain a night at Rio. Superstition, he claimed. It provides him anything to seem forward to. Ellis, on the other hand, has stayed at Rio, and involving 20 and 25 other lodges in Las Vegas. He reported he’s seeking to get to know the resort and the city.

Dreamscape executives have invested the past 12 months planning and budgeting for renovations, of which the business has declined to share estimates.

Birnbaum is hoping to inject some energy and existence into the vacation resort. Proper now, it doesn’t have it, he stated. That wasn’t usually the case.

Previous, present and future

The vacation resort opened in 1990 as the valley’s very first all-suite vacation resort and initially with flooring-to-ceiling glass in all rooms. Rio was the to start with Las Vegas resort to set the buffet kitchen area in the eating region, open up a big-scale nightclub and boost its pool with white sand and functions. In the late ’90s, it was home to well-known chef Jean-Louis Palladin’s Napa restaurant, which opened in 1997.

“In the ’90s it was really awesome,” recollects gaming historian and UNLV ombudsman David Schwartz. “I try to remember I genuinely liked … the competition, the carnival demonstrate. Individuals on the keep track of going over the on line casino, and variety of neat like the carnival floats. It was a thing unique.”

It was the location to go in its early days for gaming mentor and specialist Debi Nutton. Marnell’s Rio recognized the buyer and what the client wanted, she stated. The off-Strip home catered to locals and tourists, used “the most gorgeous cocktail waitresses in town” and “phenomenal” dining establishments, she stated.

The vacation resort dropped some of its spark and vision when the house adjusted arms from a sole proprietor to company possession, she claimed.

“I almost certainly have not been there in 12 years,” Nutton mentioned.

Rio was rumored to be for sale for many years and was excluded from Caesars’ prepared $600 million area reinvestment programs considering the fact that at the very least 2014, the Review-Journal reported in Might 2019. Marnell claimed at the time: “The Rio desires a minor TLC, and it has not gotten a dime’s well worth.”

Caesars reps did not react to an emailed listing of thoughts regarding the residence, its functions and attainable investments. Birnbaum explained Dreamscape’s romance with Caesars “couldn’t be better.”

Clients at a hotel or casino expect very good assistance from a “courteous and considerate staff members,” Marnell reported final thirty day period. They also expect the income they invest will be reinvested into the things they like about the house or new items to encounter.

“That wasn’t finished at the Rio. That has not been carried out over there,” Marnell reported. “The new ownership has a chance to adjust that.”

For Rio to be productive at the time again, Schwartz stated, the residence must embrace its location just off the Strip and look at techniques to develop the location all over it.

“You make it up as a little something that persons want to arrive to Vegas to see, as opposed to a place that persons continue to be at whilst they are in Vegas,” Schwartz explained.

Nutton explained she thinks Dreamscape is on the ideal monitor. She praised the company for its franchise offer with Hyatt and bringing in knowledge by means of Marnell and Monthly bill McBeath, president and CEO of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, who is consulting for the task. McBeath could not be arrived at for comment.

“When you speak about some of the men and women that they’re speaking to as consultants, I imagine the moment you know wherever you’re heading and your correct vision, I think you are in a terrific location,” she explained. “I never know that there’s a draw back.”

‘Doing it the proper way’

Rio is Dreamscape’s initial key acquisition as a organization. In Birnbaum’s best entire world, it will be the first of quite a few.

Because buying Rio in 2019, the business has purchased The Warwick lodge in Philadelphia very last calendar year and The Saint Resort in New Orleans in April. Birnbaum also previously formulated the Goodtime Resort in Miami from the floor up, with Pharrell Williams and nightlife expert David Grutman. The Goodtime Hotel opened in March.

Dreamscape is targeted on retail, hospitality, household, gaming and enjoyment, in accordance to its website. Corporation executives watch actual estate as “a resource of each worth and diverse cultural engagement,” the web page states. “By galvanizing bespoke and specialized ordeals, we attempt to nurture exclusive, energetic and worldly communities.”

Birnbaum and Ellis have worked alongside one another at numerous New York Town actual estate advancement businesses considering the fact that 2003., when they ended up the two working at business office and retail area enterprise Vornado Realty Have confidence in. Ellis joined Birnbaum when the latter led his individual hospitality and residential development firm, ELB Holdings, from 2008 to 2014, in accordance to biographies on Dreamscape’s web-site

Birnbaum then co-launched Imperial Corporations with former Vornado President and CEO Michael Fascitelli in 2014. Ellis was vice president till 2019, when he joined Birnbaum at the latter’s recently started Dreamscape.

The company is on the lookout to purchase and create other authentic estate assignments all through the nation, stated Birnbaum, noting they’re looking in Las Vegas, far too.

“If you know of anything, explain to us,” Birnbaum mentioned.

But in the meantime, Rio’s new entrepreneurs want to be viewed as great stewards of the house and great citizens of Las Vegas, he stated. They “want to do appropriate by this place” and let the finished products talk for by itself.

“I hope the neighborhood, real Las Vegas resident who is familiar with the Rio and has historical past with the Rio will be proud simply because I imagine we’re performing it the appropriate way,” Birnbaum explained.

Get in touch with Mike Shoro at [email protected] or 702-387-5290. Adhere to @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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