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October 19, 2014

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Tropicana ‘changing everything’ in favor of new South Beach vibe

As part of $165 million facelift, casino losing parts of its history

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Steve Marcus

A view of the gaming pit on the casino floor at the Tropicana. The property is going through its first major renovation in nearly 25 years.

Tropicana Gets a Makeover

The Tropicana Resort and Casino is getting its first major renovation in 25 years, and 500 of the 1,700 new rooms are already open. Come along on a tour of the new 3,000-square-foot suites, redesigned restaurants, and four-acre tropical pool area - where Nikki Beach will have its Beach Club, nightclub and restaurant next year.

Tropicana Renovation

A view of the bathtub in the 3,000-square-foot Chairman's Suite at the Tropicana. The property is going through its first major renovation in nearly 25 years. Launch slideshow »
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Alex Yemenidjian

If the halls of the Tropicana could tell their stories, they’d have a rich history to share as one of the few Las Vegas hotels still standing more than 50 years after its opening.

They’d tell tales of Tropicana's mobster owners and performers such as Sammy Davis Jr. But history doesn’t sell rooms in a city that more often implodes its landmarks to make room for something bigger and better.

The Tropicana’s new management team is scrubbing much of the property’s history — such as the Tiffany-style, stained glass ceiling above the casino floor — to make room for a trendy South Beach theme as part of a $165 million facelift. The stained glass has been a fixture at the vintage Strip property since the late 1970s, but like the Folies Bergere showgirls and headliners such as Wayne Newton, it isn’t hip enough to hang with new Vegas. Time to bring in Tropicana version 2.0.

The hotel, which hasn’t been redone since 1985, will get a head-to-toe makeover, with everything from the rooms, pool, casino floor and restaurants getting some sort of update.

The property emerged from bankruptcy in July 2009 as a stand-alone company under the leadership of former MGM Mirage executive Alex Yemenidjian. Renovations were announced soon after, and a new executive team was brought in to help revive the property, including former Planet Hollywood President Tom McCartney as the resort’s new president.

When Tropicana’s new management team took over last summer, they knew they wanted to keep the tropical décor but wanted more focus, Arik Knowles, vice president of hotel operations, said.

“With the Tropicana in the past, there were a lot of different elements of tropical introduced into the property over the years.” Knowles said. “It was bit of a mishmash.”

Though the first phase of the renovation won’t be done until the end of the year, hints of the changes are evident as soon you walk in the front entrance. Bright white marble tiles line the floor and run alongside the stained glass ceiling in the new casino pit.

The changes are most obvious in the recently revamped Paradise Tower rooms and suites.

The rooms have been updated to match the South Beach-feel the property is going for with rattan and bamboo furniture, plantation shutters and an orange-and-tan color palate. They also feature new mattresses and name-brand 42-inch plasma TVs, which the property is advertising on its new signage.

The rooms aren’t ultra-luxurious, but they aren’t trying to compete with Las Vegas’ luxury properties. Tropicana is branding its new rooms as “best in class” — a step above a property such as the Excalibur and more on par with Luxor or Treasure Island, Knowles said.

“Ultimately our goal is to become a (AAA) Four Diamond hotel,” Knowles said.

Tropicana’s themed suites, such as its Moroccan and Japanese suites, have also been remodeled to reflect the rest of the Paradise Tower’s updated rooms. But some of old Vegas remains: the Jacuzzis in the living rooms of many of the suites are staying put.

The Paradise Tower was chosen to lead the room renovations because of its proximity to the casino floor, Knowles said. The Island Tower will follow in fall 2010.

Most of the Garden Rooms, which date back to Tropicana’s 1957 opening, will be demolished, but the remaining rooms will also open in the fall.

The restaurants have also received a facelift. Tropicana remodeled and rebranded its coffee and sandwich shop, updated its Legends Steakhouse and added an Italian restaurant called Bacio.

The property just finished resurfacing and refurnishing its four-acre pool deck and recently announced the coming of Nikki Beach, which operates pool parties in places such as Miami and St. Tropez.

Tropicana brought in comedian Paul Rodriguez for stint through June, and Knowles said more entertainment options will be announced later this year.

Knowles said the second round of renovations will include a sports book with an entrance from Las Vegas Boulevard, a nightclub, spa, more restaurants and the completion of upgrades on the casino floor.

Management’s next task is getting the word out about the new Tropicana, a brand has been plagued with service and room cleanliness issues during recent years. That’s why Tropicana has launched a new ad campaign to get across exactly what executives want customers to know — “Tropicana: We’re changing everything.”

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