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April 17, 2014

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New hotel banks on Lake Las Vegas bouncing back

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Justin M. Bowen

A look at the new Dolce Hotels and Resorts’ Ravella at Lake Las Vegas, that will open to the public in place of the former Ritz-Carlton Friday, February 11, 2011.

Ravella at Lake Las Vegas

A look at the new Dolce Hotels and Resorts' Ravella at Lake Las Vegas, that will open to the public in place of the former Ritz-Carlton Friday, February 11, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Since the beginning of the Great Recession, Lake Las Vegas has become more mirage than the shimmering resort oasis it was marketed to be in travel brochures.

The once-shining lakeside community filed for bankruptcy protection in summer 2008. Two of its three award-winning golf courses closed by the next summer. Less than a year later, Casino MonteLago and its luxury hotel, the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas, shut their doors.

The situation at the 3,600-acre Tuscany-themed master-planned community in Henderson looked dire.

But with the opening of the Ritz-Carlton location as the Ravella at Lake Las Vegas, neighbors and merchants are feeling more hopeful about the future of the community. But some observers are not so sure.

“It’s a real positive step for our community,” said Jim Coyne of Atalon Group, which manages Lake Las Vegas. “We’ve been out of bankruptcy for the last six months. This is another sign that Lake Las Vegas has turned a corner.”

Valerie Treaster could not agree more. The 15-year resident will be among the hundreds of locals gathering at the Ravella, 1610 Lake Las Vegas Parkway, on Saturday to celebrate its open house. The first guests stay tonight.

“I can’t wait for it to open,” Treaster said. “It’s no secret we have been through some tough times. This is huge for Lake Las Vegas.”

But amid the excitement and fanfare of a hotel reopening, some question whether the Ravella can succeed where the Ritz-Carlton didn’t.

“New hotels are a lot like new restaurants,” said Mehmet Erdem, a professor of hotel management at UNLV. “The initial three months are good, but within two to three years, they’ve closed shop.

“The news (of a new hotel) will definitely spark interest, but will it translate into profit?”

New Jersey-based Dolce Hotels and Resorts, which took over the lease on the 15-acre, 349-room hotel in September, hopes so.

The hotel “will revitalize Lake Las Vegas,” said Stephen Bello, Dolce’s corporate director of operations. “This demonstrates we are making a commitment to Lake Las Vegas.”

When the Ritz closed in May, local businesses felt the rug get swept from under their feet.

The number of patrons plummeted at The Auld Dubliner in nearby MonteLago Village, causing management to cut back hours and close the Irish pub and restaurant one day a week.

“We took a significant hit,” general manager Joseph Serrano said. “We’re ecstatic (about the Ravella). This is a great kickoff to 2011.

“Even the hotel workers, that’s extra bodies traveling out here every day,” he added. “That’s business in and of itself.”

A similar tone can be heard at the golf course still open in Lake Las Vegas. Although club membership at the SouthShore Golf Club has swelled to 210 people, it’s been “slow growth,” director of sales Mark Barnett said.

The Ravella “will only help the community,” he said. “If we have more people come out to play golf, it will help us out tremendously.”

Dolce, a boutique hotelier that manages 27 properties around the world, will take a different approach from the Ritz, officials said.

The new hotel is expected to be a AAA Four Diamond hotel, one level lower than the Ritz’s Five Diamond rating. Dolce is hoping its more approachable luxury hotel will attract more locals to Lake Las Vegas.

“The service level is as high as the Ritz, but in a more casual way,” Bello said. “We want people to come as they are. Jeans or shorts, black tie or not, you’re going to feel comfortable in the Ravella.”

But being 17 miles from the Strip and seven miles from downtown Henderson, the Ravella may have a difficult time attracting locals.

“They will have an uphill time marketing,” said Stephen Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economics at UNLV. “Unless the area develops into a separate tourist attraction, I don’t see any hotel out there doing much to compete with the hotels closer to the Strip. It’s just not the same draw for locals.

“The Ravella will be competing with a lot of other places, not just the Bellagio and MGM but with hotels all over the West that offer a vacation experience,” he added. “It doesn’t seem promising to me.”

Officials contend, however, that the Ravella will offer an experience that will make the drive worth it. It will maintain the Ritz-Carlton’s Italian theme, even hiring an Italian manager to execute its vision of a Mediterranean oasis in the middle of a desert.

“Lake Las Vegas is about family, friends and creating memories,” Bello said. “We just think that there is a whole other part to Las Vegas aside from the Strip.”

Brian Jorgensen, a spokesman for the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“When people think of Las Vegas, they think of gambling and the lights, but not the setting of mountains, the desert and the lake,” Jorgensen said. “It’s really a special place out there.”

Resorts near cities such as San Diego and Phoenix have eschewed courting large conventions like Consumer Electronics Show, instead capitalizing on the emerging small meetings market, Erdem said. Religious groups, events like weddings and small business meetings are examples of clientele the Ravella should court, he added.

“Some people don’t want to be in the heart of the Strip,” he said. “Lake Las Vegas is not a gaming destination, but it’s nearby if you want it.”

The Ravella will also try to differentiate itself from the two other hotels in Lake Las Vegas: the Loews Hotel and Resort and the Aston MonteLago Village Resort.

“We don’t see the Ravella as competition. We have different things to offer,” said Loews spokeswoman Jennifer Duffy, noting Loews’ family-friendly atmosphere and cuisine. “There is plenty of room in the Lake Las Vegas community.”

Maurice Talley, commercial manager of MonteLago Village, echoed Duffy.

“People should have choices,” he said. “We are a condo hotel with bedrooms and a kitchen. This is way different from staying in a hotel room.”

Looking forward, the three hotels will be able to host larger events, Atalon Group’s Coyne said. In September, the community will host its first Ironman World Championship, which is expected to bring 60,000 athletes from around the world to Henderson. Coyne expects a hotel sellout.

MonteLago Village’s Talley also added he hopes the Casino MonteLago might reopen by then.

“Lake Las Vegas is out of bankruptcy, and we can get a feel for a new casino operator,” he said. “This hotel is a great trend that’s getting started.”

The jury is still out, however, on whether the new Ravella, and Lake Las Vegas as a whole, can sustain itself, UNLV’s Brown said.

“Lake Las Vegas is an experiment that didn’t get a chance to be tested,” he said. “The timing for Lake Las Vegas was terrible with the collapse of the real estate market, and the recession hitting especially hard in the West.

“I don’t think we’ll see if it’s successful for another five years or so.”

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  1. New ideas and a new model for Vegas. Whether they succeed or fail is up to the market, but this and the Cosmopolitan are the types of effort needed to turn Vegas around.

  2. do they have full pay videopoker ?

  3. its a great place out there..a great option against the strip's "hum drum" of the mega resorts where service is truly in the crapper...we love LLV for the quiet and getting away from the strip...we hope they succeed!

  4. Good luck with that one.

  5. It was a great looking community until the golf courses turned brown. Nice place to leave 3 years ago or maybe 10 years from now. Casino needs to reopen.

  6. Hoping the best of luck for these guys. The more properties success the more employees and locals will succeed too.

  7. Every few months we had gone out to Lake Las Vegas for the evening to spend some time and a few bucks.

    It was always a good experience. The employees and managers we dealt with always treated us great.

    Hopefully the new owners let the crew be casual to the visitors also and it will once again be a great place.

    This is a start, one step at a time and in time things will come back.

  8. I have done some reasearch on Dolce Hotels. What this article fails to mention is that Dolce is in the business of large groups and wedding etc. It's what they do in all of their hotels across the world and they are very successful at it. All of their properties are set outside the city hubs. This is the experience their guests want.

    They will bring their own captive group to Lake Las Vegas. A smaller percentage of their business is the leisure traveler.

    The article also doesn't mention how Dolce's presence is different than the Ritz by partnering with the village busineses so they can use their room key to purchase their meals and charge to their Dolce room.

    Dolce brings a whole new ball game to Lake Las Vegas.

    The reporter of this article should have mentioned more about what Dolce Hotels is all about instead of the partially negative spin.

  9. Henderson is always on my must-visit-list. I love the view at nights when standing in downtown Henderson and looking at the far distant lights of Las Vegas boulevard.
    The Lake Las Vegas village has it tough in one way because it's so far out there. On the other hand, people wishing the peaceful silence will appreciate it and bring some business to the casino and its facilities.

    From Switzerland

  10. Thank you and best wishes to the Dolce Group. (Clearly, the doers do and the haters hate ... Nothing changes.)

  11. SouthShore wants over $200+ for a round in the Summer. No one talks about locals on Dolce Management Team, fact is there isn't any. Their key local staff left Dolce during pre opening. Notice the comments are more about the wanting the casino to re open. Expect a suit and tie experience at a hotel that will scream Ritz Carlton and have tons of short cuts taken. Loews doesnt view them as competition? Huh? This UNLV Professor seems really out of touch, has he worked for a hotel or just read books?

    Says as much for the hotel as it does their game plan that they did not bring locals on board or that locals may not have wanted to leave management positions at Vegas hotels based on key locals leaving this property a month prior to opening. If no one read the paper today, would anyone even know about this hotel? Will a single cab know how to get there? They use the word Resort, which every hotel in Vegas has dropped from their name due to a backlash from groups.

    The comments of those around the hotel - they root for the casino to come back, there is an under current of distrust.

  12. If they have a good marketing campaign to sell a portfolio of destinations; LLV being one of them. They might very well succeed. Clearly the Ritz business model didn't work. I wish them well.

  13. I'll be staying there and giving it a try. Let's see if it will be worth a return visit. That is the key.

  14. There is a 6 months to one year time lag from the time the Strip recovers and vice-versa. The amenities at Lake Las Vegas, are geared towards the locals (read-Henderson) and seasonal (read-summer.) They need to count on both locals and tourists to make it. I honestly don't feel this will happen in the near future.

  15. "$200 for golf in 100 degree heat? i'll take a pass on that one.( i know, but its DRY heat!)"

    We exceed 100 degrees two months a year. The rest of the year ranges from "nice" to "beautiful." For the next three days -- that's Feb 11, 12, & 13 -- we have sunny skies, no wind, and temperatures from 65F-73F. Much like Palm Springs ... Another premier golf destination.

    The internet is chock full of agenda-pushers.

  16. Southshore is charging this rate and then it gets adjusted for peak seasons. You are right, when Tuscany is selling $50 golf rounds when South Shore is selling at $200 - something is out of touch.

    With airline lift down and no one addressing how to bring back DOMESTIC long haul flights at McCarran that usually have the best customers, Vegas can not add more hotels without it taking away business from other hotels to keep them full. The Village at LLV is hit and miss with nothing really down there that is a must go to facility.

    This is a savvy hotel market. We just saw how Cosmopolitan launched, like it or not they got your attention and have the buzz. This hotel has done nothing, no grand opening event, no ads - if the article was not written would you even know what the hotel was? When you have no local talent on board, we see out of town hotel "experts" struggle to understand this market - especially non Strip. Drive by Rumor - Seigel Hotel - see how empty that place is Midweek. They too just had their local GM quit as well.

    400 people lost their jobs, 125 have jobs now at same place. 275 people went somewhere and the majority of the 125 are going to out of towners. How many large salary jobs are going to out of town people - alot if not all. Does that help out our economy or is it a scenario established by local management not wanting to be a part of this hotel?

    Agenda no - true facts about what should be a feel good story - yes. What property opens in town with so little fan fare? Those with no cash to create any.

  17. I hear ya Art.... We should send BlondeinGv over to Afghanistan...she would find Osama!