In Las Vegas, annual gaming revenues are in the billions. The Strip’s extravagant mega resorts draw big-spending tourists while off-Strip casinos appeal to the large local market. To take advantage of a site located just one mile west of the Strip, visionary casino owner George Maloof set out to create a destination for both tourists and locals. Maloof selected The Jerde Partnership to design Palms as a resort destination that would be experiential and highly differentiated. In contrast to the illustriously themed casinos that sprang up along the Strip in the 1990s, Jerde designed Palms Casino Resort as a non-themed place that is both a hip hotspot attracting young, sophisticated tourists and celebrities and a comfortable, casual casino appealing to locals who do not want to be inconvenienced by the typical tourist traps.
The success of Palms Casino Resort is clear. The resort welcomed 7,000 guests on its opening night in November 2001. Though industry experts were skeptical that one place could successfully attract both locals and tourists, Palms exceeded first-year revenue projections by 15 percent, capturing 70 percent of its business from locals. Additionally, the chic establishment was the first hotel to be selected by MTV for its reality-based Real World in 2002. Located near Rio and Gold Coast casinos, which are also frequented by local residents, Palms is expected to help establish the Flamingo/I-15 address as a major off-Strip district in Las Vegas.
To satisfy Las Vegas’ large market of local casino patrons, in 1994 entrepreneur George Maloof built Fiesta Casino Hotel on a site 15 minutes from the Strip. Maloof surmised that local gamblers did not enjoy the typical casino experience created for tourists, so he established Fiesta as a friendly, accessible, informal place focusing on slot machines,affordable restaurants and customer service rather than the embellishments of tourist-oriented casinos. In 2000, he sold the successful Fiesta to competing local casino operator Station Casinos. With Palms Casino Resort, George Maloof envisioned a new type of Vegas experience: a hip but comfortable place offering a diverse range of venues and amenities that would appeal to the very different needs of tourists and locals. Maloof hired Jerde to design Palms based on the firm’s success designing other Vegas landmarks, including Bellagio, Treasure Island and Fremont Street Experience, also a popular spot among Vegas residents. The Maloof companies, diversified business ventures are headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico and include hotels, casinos, banking, food and beverage and transportation. In 1999, the Maloofs purchased majority ownership of National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings, Women’s National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Monarchs and National Soccer League’s Sacramento Knights.
In order to bring visitors off the Strip and to the Palms, Jerde knew it would have to be different. So by departing from the decade-long trend on the Strip of importing design motifs from other places, such as New York, Paris, Venice, and the Pyramids, Jerde looked to the Las Vegas desert for inspiration. The design for the project is simple, using a palm frond as the primary visual to represent both an oasis from the desert climate and a retreat from the congested, conjured Strip destinations. The project’s predominant feature is a white, 36-story tower crowned with a light feature resembling an abstracted palm frond. The simply designed tower is an icon intended to mark a welcoming, relaxed communal place away from the Strip.
Further differentiating Palms is its site, which is long and narrow opposed to the wide and square sites of most properties along the Strip. Jerde took advantage of the odd-shaped site to create a central casino anchored on one end by tourist amenities, including the resort-style pool deck and spa, gourmet restaurants, night clubs and valet parking, and on the other by conveniences appealing to locals, such as a food court, movie theater, children’s arcade and self parking. Reinforcing the project’s role as an oasis, the design of the gaming area is organic and intimate with soft colors and natural materials. Surrounding the central pit bar, a quiet, relaxing place with dark lighting and leather seats, is a series of abstracted ceiling palapas that give the large casino space an intimate scale. A hardwood walkway runs the length of the casino, defining the nature of the gaming area, along with great beams that arch over the promenade, echoing a river’s curves.
On the 28th floor of the tower is a 2,900 square-foot swank suite, which Jerde designed by converting six rooms into a set for MTV’s The Real World. Atop the tower is an elegant restaurant, Alize, and Ghost Bar with an open-air deck. Both set within a 21-meterhigh metal and glass structure that affords stunning views of the Vegas skyline.
Phase I Tower: November 2001
Phase II Tower: May 2006
• Tower I: 455 rooms with seven restaurants
• Tower II: 347 rooms and suites, including 46 mega-suites
• Nearly 100,000 square feet of casino space
• Three-story, 20,000 square-foot spa and salon
• A 14-screen cinema and IMAX theater
• A 2,200-seat multi-use theater/entertainment venue
• A 10,000 square-foot Hardwood Suite with halfcourt basketball court
• Hugh Hefner Sky Villa & rooftop Playboy Club
• Three pools with private cabanas and bungalows
• A 8,000 square-foot recording studio
• First-year revenues exceeded projections by 15 percent
• 70 percent of business comes from Las Vegas locals
• Turned first monthly profit two months after opening
• MTV’s “Real World” filmed in hotel for first time in show’s 12 seasons
• Two episodes of CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” filmed at Palms
• 2,400 new employees
• Has won 17 “Best Of” Awards, including Best
Locals Hotel, Best Movie Theater, Best Nightclub, and Best Use of Las Vegas in TV or Movies
• Tower II (Fantasy Tower) chosen as one of the best new skyscrapers of 2006 by Emporis.com
Tower I: (455 rooms) 42 floors
Tower II: (347 rooms) 40 floors
Casino/gaming: 95,000 square feet
Food court: (220 seats) 40,000 square feet
Spa and salon: 20,000 square feet
Parking: 3,000 spaces