Planet Hollywood Resort gives casino a new look

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If the just-completed casino revamp at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is any indication of what's to come at the former Aladdin Resort & Casino, the transformation is widespread and thorough. Although the rebranding of the property occurred on April 17, work on the facade is obscured by a construction shield; the changes behind it are taking place in rapid succession toward a planned Sept. 28 grand opening.

In addition to some skepticism about a Planet Hollywood rebranding -- the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain has emerged from bankruptcy twice -- many in the industry couldn't understand the need to overhaul a 7-year-old hotel/casino.

Ups and downs

The Aladdin opened in 1966 and was soon beset with legal troubles surrounding its links to organized-crime figures. A series of owners took possession of the hotel until 1997, when the property's owners decided to raze it and construct a new Aladdin. 

This thinking ran contrary to previous Vegas hotel rebuilds, which all followed the same two-step formula: implode and rebuild, eliminating all traces of the old, including the name.

In August of 2000, the new Aladdin opened to lukewarm reviews and legal troubles.

Although management touted the new design -- guests could reach their rooms without having to pass through the casino or any other public space, and no room was more than seven doors from an elevator -- the site plan was problematic. 

With no driveway entry from the Strip, cars had to enter via Harmon Avenue, which was inconvenient. Slot floor layout was poorly designed and executed.

Pedestrians on the Strip were hesitant to climb the steps to the casino entrance (most other hotels provide ground-level entry). The adjacent Desert Passage mall wasn't providing sufficient feed into the resort.

All of this resulted in disappointingly low gaming revenues.

Plus, construction-related lawsuits lingered, and the Arabian Nights theme, especially post-9/11, didn't exactly do wonders for product marketing.

The inevitable bankruptcy declaration followed soon thereafter.

In September 2003, the bankruptcy court awarded the sale of the Aladdin to a joint venture involving Robert Earl, founder and CEO of Planet Hollywood International; Bay Harbour Management; and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

The partners soon announced that a complete rebranding, including an extensive renovation, would take place. 

Though much work remains to be done on restaurants and room renovations, the casino makeover is complete, and the result is stunning. The ultramodern look is sleek and sexy.

The walls of the expansive, two-level space are striped with horizontal lighting and majestic architectural touches that create an elegant feel. Subdued overhead lighting projects calm and adds an air of sophistication.  

The casino is free of any vestige of the Planet Hollywood restaurant look, which features movie memorabilia and Hollywood kitsch. Both the look and the message of this makeover are crystal clear: This Planet Hollywood is an L.A. hipster, not a groupie.

Although the casino entrance remains above street level, newly designed entryways are designed to "sweep" pedestrians up a series of moving walkways and ramps into a more inviting opening.

Once inside, visitors will notice an improved gaming layout and the appealing Heart Bar in the center of the casino floor.

New shows and restaurants

The property's signature show, "Stomp Out Loud," recently opened in a custom-built, $28 million, 1,500-seat showroom. The production, from the creators of the international hit "Stomp," features a cast double the size of the original production.

"Stomp Out Loud" is a combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy. Show times are at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily, except Wednesdays. Ticket prices range from $50 to $100.

Dutch magician Hans Klok will weave his large-scale illusions in "The Beauty of Magic," which was set to open June 2 in the 7,000-seat Theatre for the Performing Arts. In a swap of Hollywood babes, Klok named actress Pamela Anderson his celebrity assistant, replacing Carmen Electra, who had been tabbed earlier.

Show times are at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets range from $35 to $105.

Most of the new restaurants are currently under construction, but Planet Dailies, the resort's 24-hour, diner-style eatery, is open on the casino floor.

The Spice Market Buffet remains with an updated look but with its action-station format unchanged.

Still a top buffet in terms of food quality and variety, the Spice Market is the only Las Vegas buffet to feature a Middle Eastern food station.

Future restaurants will include Alfredo of Rome, KOI, Strip House, Yolos Mexican Restaurant and Pink's Famous Hot Dogs.

The Opium Group of Miami will operate three lounges and nightclubs on property, including the Living Room and Prive.

Mandara runs the Planet Hollywood Spa, fitness center and salon on the mezzanine level.

The adjacent Desert Passage mall has been rebranded as the Miracle Mile Shops and will soon welcome low-price fashion sensation H&M, Trader Vic's restaurant and the Hawaiian Tropic Zone dining and nightlife destination. Other new tenants will be announced shortly.

Hallway and room renovations currently under way in the hotel represent a complete overhaul of the previous decor.

Arabian Nights-themed hallway carpeting is being replaced. Hallways will take on a new look with a darker pattern and muted lighting.

All rooms will be furnished with Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds dressed in a modern look; 42-inch, plasma, flat-panel TVs; work desks; and sitting areas. Hard surfaces in the bathrooms will remain, but accents will be updated. 

Planet Hollywood signature movie memorabilia, absent from public areas, will appear in a unique configuration in every guest room.  

Judging by the look of the redone casino and the near-future completion of restaurants and other public spaces, it appears that the Planet Hollywood team may silence its skeptics.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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