On its fifth birthday, Stratosphere grows up, up and away

Jun 5, 2001 6:44 AM

Things are looking up at The Stratosphere. All the way up.

"The last 12 to 13 months have been outstanding," says Richard P. Brown, chief operating officer for Carl Icahn’s Nevada casinos. "The hotel has been running at 98 percent occupancy, and our EBITDA is going through the roof."

Considering the Stratosphere’s roof is 1,150-feet above the ground, its EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) must be in orbit.

"Our EBITDA is up 49 percent from a year ago," Brown says, adding that projections indicate it could improve even further.

Brown says the encouraging financial and operating results at the Stratosphere didn’t occur overnight. For the five years since the hotel was built, it has endured several changes of direction before finally finding its niche.

"We have endeavored to make the Stratosphere the best destination value while offering an array of amenities," Brown says. "The goal has been to become the No. 1 destination value in Las Vegas, and with the $75 million expansion, the best is yet to come."

At the heart of the expansion is a 24-story hotel tower that will add 1,002 new guest rooms and 100 suites to the mix, many with oversized spa tubs and sweeping views of the Las Vegas Strip.

Perched on the eighth floor of the new tower will be a 67,000-square-foot pool and recreation deck, complete with hot tub spas, palm trees and a poolside cafe and cocktail bar.

Already open is the new Lucky’s Cafe, a 24-hour coffee shop located on the casino level next to Images Lounge. In addition, the buffet will be expanded, and a new Crazy Armadillo Tex-Mex Grille and Oyster Bar will be built later this summer.

"We’re working on creating more excitement and fun at the property level," Brown says. "There’s a strong commitment to our goals. We don’t believe in throwing a lot against the wall, hoping something will stick."

While continuing to cultivate its tourism clientele, the Stratosphere may try to tap further into the locals market.

"We’re taking a hard look at what it takes to bring locals, along with their friends and families, into the property," Brown says.

Several new components of the expansion may help in that endeavor.

A 3,750-seat Outdoor Events Center will debut on September 14 with a Beach Boys concert. The Events Center will also host headliner entertainment and special sporting events such as world-class boxing.

The hotel is also close to announcing a new thrill ride to go along with the roller coaster and Big Shot at the top of the tower.

"It will be the highest and fastest thrill ride in the world," Brown says. "Riders will feel the force of about 4 G’s and fly 120 mph - all at the 700 foot level of the tower."

Other changes in store for the Stratosphere include converting the old poker room into a new entertainment venue. Options are open, Brown says, including an adult show. And the sports books at Icahn’s three properties - the Stratosphere, Arizona Charlie’s West and Arizona Charlie’s East - will soon be consolidating into one operation, Brown says.