Published Friday, Jan. 27, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Updated Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012 | 12:24 p.m.
If you’re the president of the United States and are in Las Vegas, where do you spend the night?
If you’re Barack Obama, you stay at the Element — an eco-chic, environmentally friendly hotel some 13 miles from the Strip that features such green amenities as in-room recycling bins for paper, plastic and glass, carpets made from recycled materials and energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
While Obama could have slept at one of the Strip megaresort’s over-the-top suites during his one-night stay, the LEED-certified Element by Westin seems a good fit for a president giving a speech focused heavily on energy policy.
David Smith, the hotel’s general manager, said he doesn’t know why Obama chose his hotel, but he suspects it was because of its environmental stance. “I believe the topic of his time here was along those lines,” he said.
Element — 10555 Discovery Drive, next to the Nevada Cancer Institute in Summerlin — also features charging stations for electric vehicles and designated hybrid-only parking spaces. Never mind that when Obama stayed there Wednesday night the lot was filled with heavy, black Chevy Suburbans driven by the president’s entourage.
Democratic sources say Obama was keeping the Las Vegas economy in mind when he chose to take lodging off the Strip. Sources say that because the president stayed at Element, a hotel about 15 miles from McCarran International Airport, private airplanes were able to continue flying in to McCarran during Chinese New Year, one of the busiest times for Strip casinos. Federal Aviation Administration guidelines allow for the restriction of airspace around locations where the president is visiting.
Smith, who had a chance to meet the president, said Obama “has a very impressive presence.”
Smith and the hotel staff had 12 hours notice that Obama, his Secret Service security detail and White House traveling staff would be booking the entire second floor — 47 rooms — of the modern, four-story hotel that caters mostly to corporate visitors and families.
A team that travels ahead of Air Force One secured the perimeter of the hotel and did a sweep of the building prior to Obama’s arrival.
“They really do button it down real tight,” Smith said. “When the motorcade came up, it was just extremely impressive.”
The last time Obama spent the night in Las Vegas, in May 2009, he stayed on the Strip at Caesars Palace.
The Element staff readied a one-bedroom suite with a king bed — a step above the deluxe room and studio suite, but smaller than the hotel’s two-bedroom and executive suites.
You, too, can sleep like a president for about $170, although Obama received a discounted government rate of $99.
A tour of a room identical to the one Obama stayed in revealed a comfortable living room with a sitting area and queen sofa bed, a desk and a kitchenette with stainless steel appliances.
The bedroom has a king-size bed with bright white linens, and the bathroom features a glass shower with a water-saving rain showerhead and modern appointments.
“He said that he had a good night’s sleep,” said Smith, who noted that the president also worked out at the hotel’s gym.
A workout might have been in order considering what the president and his entourage ordered for dinner — 20 cannolis and 12 pizzas: six cheese, two sausage, two pepperoni and two with sausage, mushroom and pepperoni.
Albert Scalleat, co-owner and general manager of nearby Dom DeMarco’s pizzeria, said he had no idea when he set out to make the delivery that the order was for the president and his staff.
“It was almost like being in a movie,” said Scalleat, 67.
Dom DeMarco’s doesn’t usually make deliveries, but when Scalleat heard the order was for a VIP, he decided to make the run himself, assuming he might get to meet a movie star.
“I had no idea who it was,” he said.
When he arrived about 8 p.m., he noticed about 50 black Suburbans parked outside the hotel and heard helicopters, he said. He saw snipers positioned on the rooftops of surrounding buildings.
Three men who appeared to be Secret Service agents helped Scalleat carry the pizzas inside the hotel, he said. A while later, the president’s chef came to the lobby to pay for the order, he said.
“The president wanted me to tell you he loved the pizza and the cannolis,” said Scalleat, repeating the chef’s words.
“I’ll remember it for the rest of my life,” he said.