Atlantis nears completion of $70M addition

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RENO, Nev. -- The Atlantis Casino Resort here is poised to become this city's premier property, thanks to an expansion project totaling more than $70 million.

The construction, which began last June, includes a glass-enclosed skyway pavilion, a 27-story luxury hotel tower and an additional 20,000 square feet of convention, meeting and special-event space, all of which are slated to be finished by the beginning of summer.

tower illustration"We're going to be done by the first of June," said John Farahi, the property's chief executive officer and general manager. Some project elements, however, will be finished sooner than others. For example, the skyway pavilion opened March 19, and several of the new tower's guest rooms will be ready in April, Farahi said.

The skyway pavilion connects the resort, located two miles from the Reno/Tahoe Airport and across the street from the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, with Atlantis' newly expanded parking lot on the west side of South Virginia Street. The diamond-shaped, all-glass structure is designed to carry the resort's lost city of Atlantis theme and is flanked on either side by 100-foot-high Grecian columns containing lighted torches.

The pavilion's interior features an oyster bar that is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., the Java Coast Espresso Lounge & Pastry Bar, which offers round-the-clock service, and about 100 video poker and slot machines. "Inside, we have made [the pavilion] so that it is not only a skywalk by itself but an entertainment center with fabulous views of the [Sierra Nevada] mountains and the city lights," Farahi said.

Atlantis' newest hotel tower -- which will add 500 rooms to the property's existing 486 -- will be the highest building in south Reno and will include 46 suites offering either a Jacuzzi or a steam shower. Of these suites, four will be designated concierge suites measuring 2,000 square feet and two will be grand penthouse suites with 4,000 square feet of space.

The tower's top seven stories will be concierge floors -- a first for Reno -- where the guest rooms offer more space and floor-to-ceiling tinted windows with mountain views. These floors can be accessed by three glass express elevators whose use is exclusively for concierge floor guests.

According to Farahi, the concierge floors will raise the bar for the Atlantis' standards.

"We are taking the property to a four-star level by adding [these] floors," he said.

The resort's gaming space, too, will be expanded by about 50%. When the construction project is finished, Farahi said, the casino will boast 1,500 slot machines and 40 table games.

A 250-seat Italian restaurant also will be added to the list of Atlantis' offerings, as will a health club with mountain views and an enclosed swimming pool.

All of this is a far cry from the property's modest beginnings more than 30 years ago as the Golden Road Motel and Copper Kettle Coffee Shop. Over the years, the hotel was affiliated with the Travelodge and Quality Inn brands, and when a franchise agreement with Clarion was not renewed in 1996, the Clarion Hotel Casino -- as it was known then -- began operating independently under its current name.

Two other times within this decade -- in 1991 and 1994 -- the property was expanded, and if Farahi has his way, this most recent work project will not be the last. "We have one more phase approved by the city that would take us to 1,500 rooms that we are hoping in the next few years to accomplish," he said.

Then, too, there is the matter of 16 acres across the street from the Atlantis that is held by the property's parent company, Monarch Casino & Resort Inc. "Our goal is to put a separate hotel and casino property [there]," Farahi said.

Farahi is a member of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, the airport authority of Washoe County and a representative of the Reno Tahoe Airport Task Force on the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors board of directors.

"We [Monarch Casino] have a lot of confidence in this destination for tourism," he said. "Unfortunately, people compare us to Las Vegas. We are not a Las Vegas, nor do we want to be a Las Vegas.

"The Las Vegases of the world will never be able to buy or duplicate the Sierra Nevada mountain range or Lake Tahoe," Farahi said. "For us, frankly, once you shift into talking about things that attract tourism, such as natural beauty, that's a strong selling point to drawing visitors.

"Where we've missed the boat -- the [Reno-Sparks] Convention and Visitors Authority and the industry as a whole emphasized gaming, gaming, gaming." This change in the area's marketing strategy, combined with Monarch's history, adds up to winning futures for both the city and the company, he said.

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