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Next Stop - Station Casinos' Aliante

Station debuts in North Las Vegas

Next Stop - Station Casinos' Aliante

The growth of the Las Vegas Valley didnÆt always progress step by step and block by block. It often leapfrogged large parts of the valley to establish a community in what seemed like a remote area at that time. For example, Howard HughesÆ Summerlin development was, at the time of its inception, considered to be in the hinterlands of Las Vegas.

Today, most of the valley has been developed, with the land in between the developments filled in. The lone remaining large tract of vacant land is located in the northern part of the valley, in the city of North Las Vegas. Like other communities, it begins with a master plan, which includes homes, retail, restaurants and, of course, casinos.

But the difference between the early developments and the more recent ones, particularly in North Las Vegas, is a closer scrutiny on casino development. Gaming-eligible sites are closely held by the city of North Las Vegas, with only four sites currently approved for casinos.

Northern Exposure
When the community of Aliante was started, Station Casinos partnered with the developers to create an appropriate gaming property that fit the development. Aliante Station, a $662 million project, will have 2,550 slot machines, 40 table games and a 202-room hotel, along with 5,000 parking spaces, 3,500 of them in a garage. There will be a 16-screen movie theater and a 1,200-seat showroom.

Like Green Valley Ranch, Aliante Station is a joint venture between Station Casinos and the Greenspun family, owners of the Las Vegas Sun and other media outlets in the valley.

Joe Hasson, vice president and general manager of Aliante Station, says his property is a combination of the best of the previous Station developments, with a personality of its own.
 
“WeÆve put together a terrific locals resort with all the amenities and all the bells and whistles that our neighbors have asked for as part of the build-out of their community. WeÆre excited to be able to fulfill that expectation,” he says.

Designed by Friedmutter Group, the property is designed to fit seamlessly into the area.

“We tried to make sure that the project fits within the area that it was built for; itÆs not just something that will stand out and totally contrast with the neighborhood,” said Albie Colotto, director of design for Friedmutter. “We really want to create these properties that look like they were always meant to be there, like it was master-planned from the beginning.”

That process includes using color schemes and materials already in use in the area, including the blue glass of the hotel tower, and green and blue hues on signage around the property. Inside, the use of stone and wood adds to the organic feel of the property.

“We wanted Aliante to feel warm, but to also be on the cutting edge of design,” Colotto says.

Carol Thompson, assistant general manager at Aliante, believes the 30 percent of the more than 1,000 Aliante employees who came from other Station properties will bring with them the corporate culture.

“WeÆve done a good job here in terms of our leadership team,” she says. “TheyÆre all people who have worked for our company for a period of time. You transplant the culture through your leadership experience, which has been really helpful. This includes people in our managerial positions as well as our frontline team members. So weÆve definitely injected the property with enough current team members that we feel the culture will be alive and well when we open the doors, and thatÆs important to our business model.”

ItÆs the local community that is important to every Station Casinos property. And it may be even more important to Aliante Station, since it is the Aliante development that surrounds the new property.

Hasson says the operation is truly a partnership with the Aliante community.

“WeÆve spent a good amount of time getting to know our neighbors, meeting with them one-on-one, meeting with them in small groups and in large groups, and talking to them about the project,” he says. “We truly view ourselves as a neighbor in the community, and so far, weÆve been warmly welcomed with terrific enthusiasm, and we want to extend that same warmth to those who are our neighbors and will become our guests. You want to start on the right foot, and you want to do that with hospitality; you want to do it with a warmth and a sincerity that allows the people to understand that weÆre part of this neighborhood as well. What can we do to help and what can we do to be of service? What can we do to be a good contributing member of the community?”

Full-Service Resort
The Aliante property is designed to blend into the neighborhood, as well as serve its needs.
 
A small hotelùin comparison to other Station casinosùwill become a welcoming home-away-from-home for visitors to the area, whether it is a one-night getaway for locals or a comfortable getaway for their friends and family.
 
“Each room is about 400 square feet,” says Thompson, “which is close in size to the rooms at Green Valley Ranch. It is local in that it will be comfortable and appealing, but it is absolutely a place where you can feel youÆre on vacation. We have great flat-screen TVs, mini-bars, 24-hour room service, beautiful furnishings. ItÆs appealing in a local sense, but itÆs really more of a ÆyouÆre close to home but you got away on vacationÆ feel when you walk into the room. We have nine suites; 202 rooms altogether in the hotel tower. ItÆs very delightful. We donÆt feel that itÆs at all intimidating. It has a very warm feel to it overall in the hotel tower, but I do think that people will be very pleasantly surprised when they walk into the rooms for the first time.”
 
Hasson says the value will be notable for the locals.
 
“We have it priced in a manner that recognizes that the community will be lodgers in our hotel,” he explains. “Those of use who live here in Las Vegas understand that we get a lot of visits from friends and family.”

Food and beverage is another hallmark of all Station casinos and Aliante is no different. It borrows from other properties, but has some unique twists of its own.

From the Station restaurant roster comes the Original Pancake House, CamachoÆs Cantina, T.G.I. FridayÆs and the Feast buffet, as well as a fast-food court that includes such favorites as Villa Pizza, Panda Express, a Johnny Rocket burger stand and DunkinÆ Donuts.

New to Aliante is MRKT Sea & Land, a higher-end steak and seafood house, and PipÆs Cucina, the first restaurant operated by wine expert and former Southern Wine & Spirits executive Rino Armeni.

“We think the community will really, really enjoy PipÆs,” says Thompson. “ItÆs a nice place for after work or even for family diningùvery light, just light and fun environment, which should be fantastic.”
 
The engine of any gaming property is the casino. With 2,500 slots and 40 table games, Aliante will mirror most other locals casinos, with more than 1,000 video poker games, and 1,500 multi-denom machines that start at pennies and top out at $25.

A 12-table poker room will complement the signature Station race and sports book, a tradition that began at Red Rock and now has spread to nearly all Station casinos. At Aliante, the 180 seats are only the start. A circular bar gives fans views of dozens of flat-panel televisions.

Visitors can also expect the full range of entertainment at Aliante Station. In fact, the casinoÆs Access Showroom seats 650 people comfortably, with first-class sound and sightlines; all seats are within 75 feet of the stage. While Smokey Robinson will perform for the opening weekend, Hasson says donÆt expect to pigeonhole Aliante Station into any one category of entertainment.

“We cover every genre, every style, every taste of music venue performances,” he says. “Our job there is to make sure that we try to make ourselves more aware and to let our guests know that weÆre looking to satisfy them. So weÆll do some country, weÆll do some rock, weÆll do some contemporary. WeÆll cover every base in that regard. WeÆll do oldies; weÆll do current. WeÆll find the sweet spot when it comes to entertainment.”

ItÆs the Economy, Stupid!
While you canÆt predict the state of the economy two years down the road when you start building, itÆs unlikely Station executives believed that the Las Vegas economy could have been hit as hard as it has been. But both Hasson and Thompson believe that Aliante was built for the long term and will survive the current economic slump.

“ItÆs really about just building that loyalty with the community and with our guests, and just really providing a place where they want to come repeatedly,” says Thompson. “Whether itÆs good times or bad times, sometimes when times are tough, thatÆs when you need to get away and get out and go have a little dinner or have a cocktail or a cup of coffee and forget what you have going on. So, again, although itÆs a challenging time, weÆre excited about having a place for people to get away to and start to build those relationships. WeÆre optimistic; we remain optimistic that things will get better, and weÆre going to be in this for the long run.”

Hasson agrees.
 
“When it comes to the economy,” he says, “itÆs very easy for me to define that we build our businesses for the long term. We have come to this neighborhood and built a house. We plan to live here for a long time. We want to create relationships. We want to become an integral part of this community. And we want to make this a great business that evolves, much like any other Station Casinos property that our company has operated in the Las Vegas Valley over the last 30 years.”

Even if it just served the Aliante neighborhood, Hasson says the market would be substantial.

“There will be about 20,000 people living here when the community is built out,” he explains.
“ThatÆs just what is immediately adjacent to us. There are plenty of other neighborhoods and other communities that are not immediately adjacent, but next adjacent. Beyond that, that will ultimately be the guest that we take care of as well.”

Aliante StationÆs market, however, will hopefully reach beyond the limits of the community of the same name. Hasson explains that the propertyÆs marketing efforts reach across the valley and across the country.

 ”Like all of our business throughout the Las Vegas Valley,” he says, “guests have a propensity to go to the place where they find convenience.

“But we also have a terrific hotel which extends our reach. Whether weÆre attracting guests from Southern California, whether weÆre attracting guests from the other side of the valley, whether weÆre attracting a guest who wants to a round of golf at the great Aliante golf club and also stay overnight in the hotel, we can accommodate that. Our reach expands based on having the full array of abilities to take care of people, including to lodge them. So all of that helps to work as part of our formula for who will be our guest.”

And Hasson believes that the travelers on I-15 could also stop by.

“WeÆre a company that never gets tired of outdoor advertising,” he laughs, “so of course weÆll have some messages on 15. WeÆll have some messages on 95, as well, and weÆll dot the rest of the Las Vegas Valley so that people have a reason to know of us and have an ability to find us.”

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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