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For this Vegas resort, it’s time to cash in with F1

Updated July 29, 2023 - 11:15 am

The Tuscany Suites are off the Strip, though not by far. The hotel-casino is just a horseshoe’s toss from the Horseshoe.

Standing comfortably just off the beaten path, the Tuscany is, by coincidence, the middle of the action for the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix. The hotel neighbors the paddock, the race’s operational epicenter.

The Tuscany’s three southernmost buildings abut the F1 paddock site. The racing facility is across from the Tuscany property on Rochelle Avenue.

Five months before the race makes its debut, F1 organizers have made their presence felt. A 20-foot wall has risen between the Tuscany’s three south-facing buildings and the paddock area.

This is not a Barrier of Broken Dreams, built to intentionally block a view of the race course, which runs just to the west on Koval Lane. Hotel owner Brett Heers says he was not shaken down to pay a fee to prevent the wall’s construction or even notified it was being planned. It was going to happen anyway.

Beginning in March, officials applied through Clark County channels to have the improvement approved. Rochelle Avenue is essentially a service street for race operations, with that barrier preventing any outside vehicles (or pedestrians) from trespassing.

“The F1 is treating the entire build-out like a TV or movie set, to be built and taken down at their pleasure,” Heers says. “What they are doing in Las Vegas is unprecedented. But the revenue is also unprecedented.”

The work behind Heers’ hotel has been extensive. For guests in 60 rooms in three buildings, the enlarged wall obstructs the view of activity in the paddock area.

The ground level is home to the start-finish line, driver pits and garages and grandstand seating area. That ticketed position includes a facility along pit row on the east side of the property, seating 18,000 fans and featuring VIP hospitality suites.

The property is unrecognizable to those of us who remember it as the Drink & Eat Too location.

Construction equipment digging and hammering for six months can be an imposition. But asked if this discomfort is worth it, over the long term, Heers says, “absolutely.”

Heers is a Las Vegas native, the son of construction trailblazer Charles Heers. The family bought the 17.5-acre property where Tuscany Suites stands in 1990. They built and launched the hotel in 2001. The younger Heers took over operations in 2009. Charles died in January 2021.

Heers has seen it all in Vegas, building a niche hotel-casino friendly to locals and conventioneers. The Tuscany is appealing for its free parking, high-quality dining at Tuscany Gardens Italian steakhouse, affordable shows at the Copa Room and no-cover entertainment nightly at the Piazza Lounge.

We miss the human dealers at the table games, but generally, the Tuscany is a great hang, especially on the way home from a night out.

Some tips from the chat with Heers: F1 is building go-cart paths to tote VIPs from such resorts as Wynn Las Vegas/Encore and The Venetian/Palazzo to his parking lot less than 100 feet from the paddock.

A nighttime golf-cart ride for well-heeled VIPs on the Strip in the middle of November might seem to be a good idea, on paper, but …

“If it gets cold and windy, it’s gonna be crap,” Heers says. “It’s beautiful in Vegas until Halloween. This is a night race, outside, in November. We really need the weather to hold up.”

The forecast should be sunny for Heers. It has come time for him to cash in, and the F1 race is a bountiful opportunity. Heers has signed a five-year contract to host all catering and affiliated media, who are booking rooms through F1, at his hotel.

The Tuscany is the unofficial headquarters of the elite Austrian DO & CO catering team and international media representatives in town for the race. That’s 600 of 716 guest rooms, all booked at a premium rate of $1,000 (well, $999) per night.

“Typically, our weekend run anywhere from about $130 to $300 per night,” Heers says. “We are at $999 per night, which is great for us. We are getting a high rate for an entire month. I’m spending millions of dollars right now, because I believe in what F1 is bringing here.”

That’s a just-in-time, property-wide refresh. Heers has had the entire place repainted, with new carpeting in the guest rooms, convention center and hallways, and new elevators throughout the property.

“I’m spending a lot of money, because the first impression is the most important,” Heers says. “I’ve got to blow it out the first time. I want them to say, ‘This place was awesome.’ I don’t want just the first five years; I want the 10 years and the 10 years after that.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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