Writer Kim Pryor attended the grand opening of the newly
expanded Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno, Nev., which went off July
28 despite a fire and some water damage in the old tower. She took
a tour of the expanded property just before it reopened. Her report
Reno, Nev. -- The last time I had driven past the Atlantis
Casino Resort here, South Virginia Street was an ordinary strip of
asphalt. But now the stretch of road warranted a second glance.
The Atlantis' new glass-enclosed Sky Terrace arched over the
street, and two 100-foot-high Grecian columns with 35-foot-high
torches towered above. As I watched, real flames blazed inside the
torches: a Vegas-like display.
But even Las Vegas can't boast anything similar to the Atlantis'
newest addition. Light spills over the silk bird-of-paradise
flowers that add splashes of color to the interior of the terrace.
The glass walls are an exception in an industry where a cave-like
atmosphere is the rule.
Relaxing with coffee and pastries or seafood from the oyster
bar, travelers can watch traffic glide under the terrace or admire
the distant downtown neon lights. Slot players nabbing one of the
terrace machines almost float above the road.
"Today, travelers take it for granted that service will be
great," said John Farahi, the property's chief executive officer
and general manager. "They're looking for an experience. You've got
to keep pushing the envelope; you've got to do something
And the Sky Terrace certainly fits that bill. It's just one
component of the resort's just-completed $75 million expansion, a
project that has turned the Atlantis into one of the largest casino
hotels in northern Nevada.
The expansion includes a 27-story hotel tower with 400 new
rooms, two 4,000-square-foot Grand Penthouse Suites, four
2,000-square-foot Grand Paradise Suites and 46 additional Jacuzzi
suites, expanded services at the health club and the high-end
MonteVigna Italian restaurant.
I recently spent a night at the 1,000-room Atlantis to observe
the expansion first-hand. After the friendly front desk agent
checked me in, I made my way to the glass elevator. As I ascended
from the atrium, I gazed out over the cluster of shops toward
"You see a lot of glass and openness here," said Farahi. "We
believe the days that the casinos had to be dark, with red and
orange neon light, are gone."
From a window, I gazed out over a sea of shops, trees and houses
to an unobstructed view of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains.
I could see why Farahi and his staff rave about the property's
location, on the south side of Reno, away from the downtown
The hotel's ideal location includes its proximity to Lake Tahoe.
A 45-minute drive lets guests experience hiking, mountain biking,
snow skiing and boating. Twenty-eight golf courses also are located
a short drive away from the Atlantis.
From a business perspective, the property's location across from
the Reno Sparks Convention Center couldn't be better. It was this
location that motivated the expansion of Atlantis' meeting
facilities to include an extra 20,000 square feet of space.
Aware of the importance of convention business, Farahi gave his
blessings to an increased hotel room tax that will go toward
expansion of the convention center. At 12%, it's still almost a
percentage point below the national average in a town with already
lower-than-average-priced hotel room rates.
On my way to dinner, I detoured through the casino. Thatched
roof huts hovered over the table games. Waterfalls tumbled down
wherever I looked. Another nice touch: the tall ceilings, creating
a more open feel and funneling the cigarette smoke upward.
"We hear from our guests continually that this is one of the
freshest casinos they have been to," said Farahi. I arrived at the
property's Seafood Steakhouse, an undersea world swimming with
painted whales, faux coral walls and brightly colored fish that
dart back and forth in a giant tank.
One of the friendliest maitre d's I've ever met, Frank Perez,
seated my dinner companion and me. Soon after, the food began to
arrive -- coconut prawns presented with a flaming pineapple crown,
onion soup in an onion bowl, scampi a la Atlantis, Alaskan halibut
and chocolate truffle cake.
After dinner, I returned to my room, where I spent the next half
hour in hot-water heaven, unwinding in the Jacuzzi.
The next day at lunchtime, I sampled the fare at Toucan
Charlie's, which locals voted to have the "Best of Reno" buffet. I
feasted on shrimp and cocktail sauce, hot spinach salad, Mongolian
barbecue, fruit and one of the largest selections of desserts I've
seen. With all the variety, I couldn't believe the buffet was on
the verge of an expansion.
The new menu will include more stations -- Southwestern,
rotisserie, pasta and Asian -- and additional seating. Farahi takes
pride in Atlantis' attention to food service and claims it's one of
many reasons the property earns a fair share of repeat
Said Farahi, "The bottom line: If guests leave here and have
such an experience that they say, 'I can't wait until I come back,'
then we have accomplished our goal."
For 1999, rates at the Atlantis range from $39.95 for a midweek
luxury tower room to $159 for a paradise suite. Rates are subject
to change and are based on availability. Golf packages range from
$89 to $229.
The Atlantis has purchased an Internet reservation system and
the property hopes to have it on line in six to eight weeks.
Atlantis Casino Resort
Phone: (800) 723-6500