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September 1, 2014

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person of note:

Meet Barbara Davis, Aria’s vice president of hotel services

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Leila Navidi

If Barbara Davis, front row in blue, is a bit nervous today, it’s because she is in charge of ensuring that a couple of hundred workers at Aria, which opens at CityCenter tonight, are properly uniformed.

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Employees ready the bar at the Skybox Bar at Aria, the centerpiece of the $8.5 billion CityCenter project, Monday, December 14, 2009. Launch slideshow »

In recent weeks a couple of hundred CityCenter, employees have cycled through a warehouse on Dean Martin Drive each day to pick up their uniforms.

Making sure the correct number of uniforms in the appropriate sizes are on hand has kept Barbara Davis busy.

“This is the nail-biting part,” says Davis, vice president of hotel services at Aria, which opens tonight as the centerpiece of MGM Mirage’s $8.5 billion CityCenter development.

Managing the creation and distribution of some 8,900 uniforms — since September, some 200,000 pieces of clothing have arrived at the warehouse — is only one of Davis’ many tasks. She also oversees the housekeeping department; the cleaning staff responsible for maintaining public areas; a PBX center that takes calls for Aria and Vdara, CityCenter’s 1,495-room condominium hotel; and hotel services, which designs and maintains just about every fabric used in Aria and Vdara.

Davis was involved in selecting and purchasing the thousands of fabrics for Aria and Vdara, from high-thread-count bed linens to pool towels and terry cloth robes used by spa customers to tablecloths and napkins used in restaurants and banquet rooms.

In total, Davis oversees about 1,800 people — the largest chunk of CityCenter’s labor force and by far its most expensive, as Davis’ employees serve guests but don’t directly generate revenue for the company.

Davis began her career in 1974, working for her father, who managed the housekeeping department at the former MGM Grand hotel, now Bally’s. Four years later, at age 25, she took the reins as the executive housekeeper overseeing uniforms for the MGM Grand in Reno.

She has overseen the openings of five major casino resorts as well as hotel expansions in a career spanning more than three decades.

The process of creating uniforms for both CityCenter hotels was also more involved than any previous resort she has opened.

In years past, Davis would leaf through a catalog of casino uniforms to select those that best fit the bill.

This time Davis worked with fashion designers including New York-based menswear designer Jhane Barnes to create custom outfits. She worked with the uniform creators and met with CityCenter’s interior designers to figure out what looks would work best in CityCenter’s high-end, ultramodern environs.

She then coordinated the manufacture of these garments with various companies in China and other foreign countries, where the vast majority of clothing is manufactured.

“It takes a large amount of coordination to get uniforms approved and figure out the sizing,” Davis says. “Our garments were custom, so we had to modify things and ask them to do things differently. We had to find companies willing to mill fabric from scratch.”

Uniforms at Aria and Vdara contain tags embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips that keep tabs on each of the two or three uniforms used by each employee. When employees turn in uniforms to be cleaned, they are scanned by a computer as the dirty clothes whiz by on an automatic conveyor. Likewise, cleaned clothes are scanned before employees pick them up again.

By looking at her computer system, Davis knows how many uniforms are clean, how many are dirty and whose uniforms are being altered.

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