UNLV flexes its hospitality muscle with new building

More than a decade ago, the vision for an education building dedicated solely to the study of hospitality included a location at the very edge of UNLV’s campus.

But the Great Recession hit, state funding dried up and the plans were halted, much to the eventual delight of former Dean Don Snyder.

He hit refresh on the plans, to include a building not tucked away in the corner of campus but at its heart.

“He got the state and the university to believe that instead of being over on Swenson and Flamingo … we should be in the center of campus,” said Stowe Shoemaker, current dean of the school. “We were the No. 1 hospitality program in the world. For years we’ve been the beacon of light at the university. And so it seemed natural that we should be at the focal point, at the center of campus.”

Hospitality Hall, the new home for the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, will debut in a grand opening ceremony Jan. 25, 2018 . Students will begin attending classes in the building Jan. 16.

The four-story, 93,500 square-foot building is located only a few steps from the university’s Lied Library and the well-trafficked Classroom Building Complex. The $59 million building was paid for with $29 million in state money and $28 million in private donations.

In addition to 16 classrooms, the building features numerous meeting and office spaces, a high-tech kitchen, a student-run cafe and a PGA Golf Management learning center which boasts a putting green and retail store along with a club repair shop, a golf simulator and a swing diagnostics lab for use by students studying golf management and the university’s golf team.

Its location on campus mirrors the importance of the Strip to Clark County — the gaming and hospitality hub of Nevada — and carries sweeping views of the iconic tourist site to match.

“In the old days hotels were the center of a community. That’s where everybody gathered,” Shoemaker said. “So we wanted to create that same sense. We’re a hotel school, we’re a hospitality space, we should be at the center of everything.”

The building’s design, however, was just as important as its location, Shoemaker said.

When entering through the main doors of the building, a grand staircase beckons students, faculty and visitors inside and up the stairs into the classroom and office space.

Sunlight floods the first-floor lobby through its floor-to-ceiling windows, creating an airy space for students to meet, study and complete work.

“The whole idea is we wanted to create a space that represents the type of space students will be working in once they graduate,” Shoemaker said. “When you think of hospitality space, you think of wanting to be pulled right in.”

Even the bathrooms, with their silver-speckled white-quartz countertops and doorless entries, received special attention.

“We wanted these restrooms to be as nice as you’d find in a major casino,” Shoemaker said.

Important details like these can be found all over the building.

A second-floor, 120-seat auditorium features soundproofing that clearly carries the voice of a professor, without a microphone, to a student in the back row.

“The acoustics are amazing,” Shoemaker said. “It shows the care that went into this building. We really made it student-focused.”

When asked to share his favorite spot of the building, Shoemaker said he loves all areas. But the fourth floor, which houses a state-of-the-art kitchen and sweeping views of the Strip, holds a special place for him and encapsulates what the building was meant to accomplish.

“We want to show the world that we’re not a business school with hotel examples,” he said. “We’re doubling down on hospitality. We want to take pride in our roots of being a hospitality school, and we thought this was the best way to do it.”

And the views of the Strip give prospective and current students more than just a pretty view.

”We want to say, if you come to UNLV, we’re totally tied into the industry,” Shoemaker said. “We’re not a hospitality school located in the middle of nowhere, but we’re very much tied into the industry. And what better way than to show the Strip?”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands Corp. operates The Venetian and Palazzo.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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