Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005 | 8:09 a.m.
George Maloof has a tattoo of the Sacramento Kings' logo on his upper arm -- a product of the tattoo parlor at his resort, the Palms, as well as a testament to his family's ownership of the NBA team.
But Maloof has something else up his sleeve for his new Fantasy Tower, which will open next spring with about 360 rooms and the kind of bells and whistles designed to one-up the competition and cement his reputation as a premier purveyor of hip entertainment.
First it was the "Real World" suite -- the studio for the hit MTV reality show that became one of Las Vegas' most coveted crash pads. Then came cabanas and regular pool parties with "mermaids," volleyball players and adult entertainers. Then there were suites retrofitted with Murphy beds and stripper poles for impromptu entertainment.
For the past four years, the Palms has helped transform Las Vegas from tired gambling capital to hip outpost for celebrities, their fans and other well-heeled party folk.
No less than four reality shows have called the Palms home, including Bravo's top-rated "Celebrity Poker Showdown" and the most recent "Party at the Palms," a glorified ad for the resort on E! Entertainment Television featuring actress Jenny McCarthy and scantily clad models.
The Palms' anything-goes atmosphere and reputation for hosting events with plenty of eye candy have drawn a following and raised room rates to levels rivaling some of the priciest Strip resorts. When available, one of the Palms' 430 rooms can average $175 per night. On weekends, rates can balloon to $400 and up.
"We've been sold out in our hotel for the last 2 1/2 years," Maloof said.
That's just one reason Maloof, who has been called a younger version of casino mogul Steve Wynn and Playboy Enterprises founder Hugh Hefner, is building the Fantasy Tower.
Key features of the tower are seven themed "party suites" that will be opening in time for New Year's Eve. Located on the 16th and 17th floors and soundproofed with extra insulation, they will include an "erotic suite" with a rotating bed under a mirrored ceiling, a "bowling suite" with two regulation-size bowling lanes and a "hip hop suite" with murals. Each room has a different, bold color scheme.
"This is quality work," Maloof said. "These amenities don't come cheap."
All of the party suites will feature floor-to-ceiling views of Las Vegas as well as views of a different sort. The showers contain stripper poles; at the punch of a button, the frosted glass between the shower and the living room becomes clear, providing another form of in-room entertainment.
"For all of the hundreds of bachelor and bachelorette parties that have been coming to Vegas ... this is something that was created for them," Maloof said during a 90-minute tour of the tower with the Sun.
While such groups have always been a popular market for the Palms, the party suites also will be available for high rollers and business groups.
The suites will be marketed as a package with food, beverages and entertainment at prices that could start at $5,000 per night, Maloof said.
Resorts also are starting to target corporate groups more. Many companies are looking for an opportunity to reward employees, and convention groups are seeking a party atmosphere to spice up visits, Maloof said.
One company that will be in town for the Consumer Electronics Show in January has booked an entire floor, which will allow its employees to move from suite to suite, he said.
Near the top of the tower, high rollers will get to stay in one of six, two-story Sky Villas suites that are up to 9,000 square feet. Each suite has a pool that extends from the building by a few feet.
All Fantasy Tower suites will have access to 24-hour concierge services.
The ground-floor "Hardwood Suite" is a 10,000-square-foot party pad with a basketball court, giant whirlpool tub, rotating couch, glass-walled second floor and enough beds to sleep at least 10 people. That suite, which includes basketball-skin material on some of the walls and a luxurious locker room with personalized basketball jerseys for guests, is reserved for high rollers and special events. Models wearing cheerleader and referee uniforms will serve as hosts.
The room, which opened for business last week after the Sacramento Kings-Los Angeles Lakers preseason game in Las Vegas, will be used to lure big-spending gamblers off the Strip. That means Kings star guard Mike Bibby, who was on hand for the opening and wants to stay in the suite, will have a bit of a problem and may have to pay for it.
"He doesn't gamble," Maloof explained.
The room's rate for nongamblers: $50,000.
High rollers and basketball players alike can avoid the masses by gambling in a new, two-level, high-limit casino pit. The high-end suites on the upper floors will have access to a private elevator into the new pit.
Fantasy Tower also will contain a screening room for films and a recording studio. Both are aimed at further cultivating the entertainment-industry vibe at the Palms, which hosts Las Vegas' biggest film festival and has become a top spot for movie premieres and special concerts.
The recording studio will be more than an add-on, Maloof said. With Las Vegas now playing host to the world's most popular bands, the studio is expected to become a place where musicians can get some work done while they are in town.
It's also expected to make money by charging daily fees in the thousands of dollars.
At great cost, the Palms is hooking up some of the high-end suites to the recording studio so that guests can record music remotely from their rooms.
The biggest musical debut is yet to come at the Palms. A yet-to-be-named, 2,200-seat concert venue is expected to open by next fall.
The concert hall will have a fiber-optic connection to the recording studio so that concerts can be recorded. The new facility wouldn't compete with the Palms' Rain nightclub, which is mainly a dance venue, Maloof said.
As early as next spring the Palms will be building a new pool twice the size of its existing one on the east side of the property. Also being built are several bungalows of at least 1,000 square feet that will be rented for premium prices, Maloof said.
Maloof says he has seen the most exclusive rooms Las Vegas has to offer, and he can't wait to show his off.
"These are unique," he said. "There's nothing like it on Earth anywhere."
Liz Benston can be reached at 259-4077 or at [email protected]