Historic Tropicana poised for pricey renovation

New Tropicana co-owner and chief executive Alex Yemenidjian is still getting himself and his team acclimated to their new surroundings.

A former top executive at MGM Grand Inc., Yemenidjian is working 15-hour days trying to revitalize one of the Strip’s remaining historic properties, which he acquired July 1.

Without the luxury of being able to tear the property down in the current economic environment, Yemenidjian and his partners, Canadian private equity firm Onex Corp., are launching a nearly $100 million plan to renovate the 52-year-old property.

Much of what the Tropicana of tomorrow will look like is a project in flux.

The boardroom outside his office is covered with sketch boards, photos, and carpet and floor samples of what the new rooms will look like.

Yemenidjian, who ran MGM Studios after leaving the gaming industry, plans to transform the property into a South Beach Miami-themed resort.

He plans to go before county planners later this year with extensive construction plans that include building a new nightclub that will overlook the Strip.

The property’s revitalization took its first public step Aug. 6 with the unveiling of a new "Tropicana Las Vegas" logo.

Question: You talked about a large remodel of the property before the gaming regulators. Has that begun and what changes should the public notice first?

Answer: It has definitely begun. I spend approximately 40 percent of my time in design and construction meetings dealing with the physical transformation of the property. The first phase is the complete refurbishment of the employee dining room, the construction of a new employee lounge, and the renovation of all back of house offices and common areas. This phase has been designed, permits are being pulled and construction begins August 24th. It will be completed before the end of this year.

The second phase is our convention and exhibition center, all our hotel rooms and all related common areas. We are about 75 percent done with the design of this phase and we expect to complete construction by next spring.

The third phase is the renovation of most of our dining facilities. The design of our new buffet is almost done and we will start designing the remaining restaurants in the next few weeks.

The balance of the project is more complex. We are now in the design development stage and, as soon as we have complete construction documents, we will go out to bid. But we will be implementing many cosmetic changes in the casino as we go along, so the public will certainly begin to notice meaningful changes before the end of the year.

Question: What has been the biggest challenge in the first month since taking over the ownership and operation of the Tropicana?

Answer: Without question, the biggest challenge has been dealing with issues that are left over from the bankruptcy proceeding. I have never before acquired a company that was in bankruptcy, and the process is long, inefficient and very expensive. For someone who thrives on efficiency, the bankruptcy process is very frustrating.

Question: One of the issues that is still pending from the bankruptcy is the use of the Tropicana name. What is the status of the pending lawsuits on the use of the Tropicana name and are you talking to Tropicana Entertainment to get the dispute resolved quickly?

Answer: We are not currently in discussions with Tropicana Entertainment regarding the pending lawsuit, so most likely this issue will be resolved in court.

Question: Is there anything that has surprised you in the first month?

Answer: I have been pleasantly surprised by the tremendous reservoir of good will that exists in our work force. The team members love this company, love their jobs and are beaming with pride. Considering how previous administrators have neglected the property, neglected the operations and neglected the employees, it was very refreshing to find that despite all that neglect so much pride and passion can be harnessed. And regardless of what happened in the past, I am keenly aware that change can be scary for many of our team members. But change also irrigates the human condition.

Question: What is the biggest challenge for your team being new to the market and operating in this environment?

Answer: Actually, most of our team has very extensive experience in the Las Vegas market. Of the 11 vice presidents, only one has no experience in this market or in the gaming industry for that matter, and that is by design. That is Nancy Gregory, our vice president of entertainment. Given that the execution of a successful entertainment strategy in this fiercely competitive environment is probably the most difficult challenge we face, I wanted to have someone who was only constrained by the limits of his or her imagination.

Question: What has been the biggest challenge building a gaming company from scratch?

Answer: The biggest challenge right now is the lethal combination of the economic downturn coupled with a severe supply-demand imbalance in Las Vegas. To be sure, building a gaming company in the midst of an economic downturn like the one we are currently experiencing is akin to trying to build a house in the middle of an earthquake. Room revenue is the only segment of our business that has any meaningful pricing power, and that segment has totally collapsed. And to make matters worse, there is a huge supply of additional capacity coming into the market in the next 12 months while demand is actually contracting. So we are all hoping that the excitement of the opening of the CityCenter project creates more demand than it consumes.

Question: Your partnership with Onex Corp. is the property’s fourth ownership in three years. Many of the employees have been here through the upheaval from the absent ownership of Aztar to Columbia Sussex’s mismanagement and bankruptcy. How do you heal the morale and convince the staff of you and your partners’ vision?

Answer: In an environment characterized by broken promises and sustained neglect, in order to have any credibility with the work force, any new promises have to be followed by swift execution and delivery. It is no accident we are fast-tracking the physical transformation of the property, and that we are starting with the employee dining room and the employee lounge before anything else.

Question: How are you reaching out to customers to let them know about the changes?

Answer: We are not reaching out to the customers just yet. We don’t want to promise anything if we are not ready to deliver on that promise.

Question: When you left MGM Grand you said you had wanted to return to the casino business as an owner. Did you think the opportunity would be on the Strip?

Answer: Frankly, I didn’t know. Since December of 2007 my partners and I have seriously looked at more than 20 opportunities, both domestic and international. We did not limit ourselves geographically. We continue to look for additional acquisitions or greenfield opportunities in various markets, including additional acquisitions in the Las Vegas market. That our first acquisition happened here is fortuitous because we always wanted our new gaming company to be headquartered here. And we are keenly aware that this is the major league: (MGM Mirage majority shareholder) Kirk Kerkorian is the smartest man I know, Steve Wynn is the best designer of hotel-casinos in the world, Sheldon Adelson went from 0 to 60 faster than a Ferrari, and (Harrah’s Entertainment Chairman and CEO) Gary Loveman presides over the largest hotel-casino company in the world. In this league, you don’t lose your lunch.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Happie Home Startup Establishing Headquarters In Las Vegas
Digital companion startup company Happie Home is establishing its headquarters in Las Vegas after receiving tax abatements from the Governor's Office of Economic Development on Nov. 15. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Facebook-branded space inside of Macy’s at the Fashion Show shopping center
A Facebook-branded space inside of Macy’s at the Fashion Show shopping center will showcase 13 small businesses in November and December and seven in January. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
T-Mobile uses ticketing data to plan for event
T-Mobile Executive Director of Arena Operations explains how ticket sales data and demographics help plan staffing, vendors, parking and operations for an event.
Costco opens its doors in southwest Henderson
Costco has opened its fifth Las Vegas-area location near the intersection of St. Rose Parkway and Amigo Street. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas strip mall and office park
The Krausz Cos. and WG Group bought a strip mall and an office park in Las Vegas for nearly $80 million total. They acquired a portion of Tropicana Beltway Center in the southwest valley for $59 million. They also acquired the Westbay office complex in the Las Vegas Medical District. The buyers are former owners of The Gramercy, a once-mothballed mixed-use project in the Las Vegas suburbs. They sold The Gramercy in phases for more than $100 million.
Mario Barth talks about the growth of the tattoo industry
Celebrity tattoo artist and business owner Mario Barth talks about the growth of the tattoo industry at The World of Tattoo industry trade show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas
$7.5M Las Vegas pot dispensary opens near Las Vegas Strip
Planet 13, which bills itself as one of the largest dispensaries in the world, opened to the public Thursday. It has entertainment including an interactive floor and floating orbs. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars CEO to step down next year
Caesars Entertainment Corp. CEO Mark Frissora will leave the casino company in February. Frissora has been CEO since July 2015. He was named CEO right after Caesars' operating company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Caesars Entertainment emerged from bankruptcy protection in October 2017 Before Caesars, Frissora spent seven years as chairman and CEO of Naples, Fla.,-based Hertz He led the consolidation of the rental-car industry through Hertz‘s acquisition of the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.
Planet 13 in Las Vegas adds twist to marijuana dispensary look
Planet 13, which bills itself as one of the largest dispensaries in the world, opened to the public Thursday. The dispensary is located near the intersection of Desert Inn Road and Sammy Davis Jr. Drive, near Trump International, in Las Vegas. Planet 13 has plans in the future for a coffee shop, a tasting room for marijuana-infused beer and wine, a lounge for consuming marijuana on site if that is legalized and space for food.
Caesars Entertainment opening 2 resorts in Dubai
Cove Beach will open on Meraas’ Bluewaters Island in Dubai in November and Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai and The Residences at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai will open in December. (Caesars Entertainment)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Facial recognition software at G2E – Todd Prince
Shing Tao, CEO of Las Vegas-based Remark Holdings, talks about his facial recognition product. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Bobby Baldwin to leave MGM
MGM Resorts International executive and professional poker player Bobby Baldwin is set to leave MGM.
Caesars has new armed emergency response teams
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has created armed emergency response teams. They are composed of former military and law enforcement officials. "These teams provide valuable additional security capabilities,” Caesars spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish said. Caesars is hiring Security Saturation Team supervisors, managers and officers, according to LinkedIn. The company did not say how many people it plans to hire for the units. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas, airlines prepare for CES
CES in January is expected to attract more than 180,000 attendees. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
AGS partners with Vegas Golden Knights
AGS is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of Class II slot machines used primarily in tribal jurisdictions. It announced a marketing partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like