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Remaking the Rio: New LED lights arrive, more upgrades coming

Updated February 15, 2024 - 6:09 pm

Renovations at the Rio are quietly transforming the iconic off-Strip property — but some changes are visible from miles away.

Dreamscape Cos. is in the midst of a $350 million multiyear redevelopment of the resort that first opened in 1990. The renovations include a full refresh of the 2,500 guest rooms, 150,000-square-foot casino floor, 220,000-square-foot meeting and convention space and pools, among other amenities.

Several projects that began shortly after Dreamscape took over operations on Oct. 2 are complete or are near completion. Those include the installation of a new OLED marquee on Flamingo Road, new exterior paint and LED neon lights — with production coordinated by rock band Phish’s creative director. Inside, crews have remodeled 1,400 rooms in the Ipanema Tower, refreshed the convention and meeting space and added the six-stall Canteen Food Hall, among others.

The goal of many of these projects is to restore the Rio with a “wink and nod” to a previous era of the property, Dreamscape founder Eric Birnbaum said in a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“There’s so many people that come up to us and say how much they used to love the Rio and they’re so happy to see someone investing the capital and the time and energy to making it really like it once was,” Birnbaum said. “We’re hopeful to execute on that and deliver.”

After the Super Bowl, the resort began remodeling the casino floor, Birnbaum said. It has already added 500 new slot machines; now resort officials will focus on remodeling with new carpet, wall coverings, lighting, furniture and table games. The remodel will be done in sections to minimize disruptions to the casino floor.

Dreamscape previously announced a partnership with Hyatt Hotels to attract their customer base. Birnbaum said that is expected to launch in March.

Resort officials expect the majority of the remodeling projects to be completed in early fall. The last of the changes should wrap up by spring 2025.

Will Rio’s room rates, which are around some of the cheapest starting in the $20-range midweek and rising to the hundreds for weekends, go up after the renovation? While Birnbaum didn’t explicitly say so, he said the company wants to bring up the quality of the resort while still appealing to a larger market than luxury competitors.

Birnbaum also wouldn’t directly answer whether or not the company would bring back the popular Masquerade Show in the Sky or add a different free show in the renovation.

The colorful spectacle that ran from 1997 through 2013 included performer-laden floats traveling along a track on the ceiling. Singers and dancers also performed on a two-story, floor-level stage. Audience members were tossed beads from the performers.

“I mean, I think there’s lots of things that we’re going to be bringing back that will feel, you know, I guess like somewhat nostalgic, but hopefully in a modern vibe that will pay homage to the past but be relevant to today’s customer,” Birnbaum said.

Birnbaum said he hopes that customers recognize the changes for the investment that they are. While there may be a big public push to welcome all the changes once complete, he said the company isn’t working to promote the new changes as of now.

“Every time that we have a new venue or a new portion of the asset that repositions, we hope that will speak for itself,” Birnbaum said. “This isn’t about us pumping our chests. This is about the asset, the Rio and bringing it back and letting that do the talking.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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