Red Rock approaches 10 year anniversary
April 12, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
Lori Nelson can’t believe it’s been 10 years since Red Rock Resort, the $1 billion getaway built for locals, first opened in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin.
Nelson, a vice president of corporate communications for Station Casinos, was part of the inner circle that pulled off quite a shocker for some 3,000 VIP guests who were treated to a poolside concert by Sting, the English musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
“We’re not just talking three songs and get off the stage,” Nelson said. “He performed a full set.”
It was back on April 18, 2006. Nelson and company somehow were able to keep their secret from being leaked before guests started to arrive and were informed of what was in store for them at the grand opening.
“It’s very difficult to keep a secret in this town,” Nelson said. “The closer it got to opening, the more excited we all became that we were able to really keep it a secret. It’s really special when you can pull off the element of surprise.”
Sting was just part of the big night.
“We also had one of the most enormous and spectacular fireworks shows you’ve ever seen,” Nelson recalled. “Dom Perignon was free-flowing.
“Typically, you see that kind of splash on the Strip. To do it at that scale for the locals’ market was really kind of unheard of.”
Red Rock is celebrating all of those memories, and many more, with a month-long birthday bash that features gaming promotions (10-times Boarding Pass points on all slot machine games) and dining options ($10 specials in the Grand Café).
One lucky customer will even have a chance to win up to $250,000 at the end of the month.
The highlight for most – assuming there isn’t another Sting-like surprise in the plans – will be another massive fireworks display on Saturday night (April 16 at 9 p.m.) that Nelson promises to be unforgettable.
“The true surprise will be the magnitude of the fireworks show,” Nelson said. “Fourth of July has kind of been our shtick for all these years.
“But people who are used to what we do for Fourth of July here, their jaws are going to drop, and that’s a fantastic show for Fourth of July.
“We’re going all out to do a colossal fireworks show to commemorate the 10-year birthday similar to the day we opened up.”
Red Rock quickly became known as the “crown jewel” for Station Casinos, a chain that began back in 1976 at Palace Station (then called The Casino) and now includes, among others, Boulder Station, Sunset Station and Green Valley Ranch.
These popular hangouts for locals were the vision of Frank Fertitta Jr., at a time when casinos only existed on the Strip or downtown.
The Casino, attached to the Mini Price Motor Inn on Sahara Ave., just west of the Strip, debuted with 100 slot machines and a snack bar in a 5,000-square foot facility – or about the same size as the current hotel lobby at Red Rock.
Fertitta, who got his start in the casino industry as a dealer at the old Stardust, believed “locals wanted to do what tourists wanted to do, they just didn’t want to do it with them,” Nelson said.
Fertitta eventually turned the business over to his two sons, Frank III and Lorenzo, and the kids have taken the company, which celebrates its 40-year birthday in July, to another level by dominating the Vegas locals’ market.
Some of their properties, particularly Red Rock and Green Valley, are also popular with tourists who want to experience Vegas “away from the chaos and crowds of the Strip,” Nelson said.
Tourists often would ask cab drivers and hotel/casino workers where they liked to go away from the Strip.
“We started getting a real boost from hospitality workers,” Nelson said.
Red Rock quickly expanded from 400 guest rooms at opening to 800 within a year. A 72-lane bowling alley, at the time the most expensive of its kind built in the United States, opened in April 2007.
Several scenes from the movie “21,” starring Kevin Spacey, were filmed on the property, including the pool, a high-limit gaming area, the casino floor and a penthouse suite.
The race and sportsbook, the hub for all of Stations’ books, underwent a renovation nearly a year ago with the installation of high-end LED video walls.
New restaurants such as Yardhouse, Lucille’s BBQ, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar and 8 Noodle Bar have opened in recent years.
Over the decade, much remains the same at Red Rock, but just enough has changed to keep up with the times and try to stay ahead of the competition.
Dave Dye is a former sportswriter for the Detroit News and FoxSportsDetroit.com. He has covered six Stanley Cup Finals, five Final Fours, three NBA Finals, three Rose Bowls and one World Series. Email: DaveDye@GamingToday.com.