Scottsdale in Las Vegas. The Aliante Station Casino + Hotel, the newest addition to Station Casinos' portfolio, manages to evoke the Southwest quite nicely. The surroundings certainly help: It's located in the Aliante master-planned community in North Las Vegas, about 25 minutes from the Strip, graced with a beautiful desert and mountaintop backdrop.
The use of Jerusalem stone, copper, onyx, pewter, rocky mist marble and wenge wood recalls the architecture of the U.S. Southwest, which uses light, shadows and massing to create memorable structures.
Appealing to the senses is all part of the plan, according to Aliante's vice president and general manager, Joe Hasson.
"We don't build cookie-cutter casinos. Each Station Casinos property has its own unique style, architecture and charm," Hasson said. "Aliante is unique in that none of the inspiration for it was drawn from Green Valley Ranch or Red Rock Station [sister properties located in Henderson and Summerlin, respectively]. This casino complements the neighborhood. There's plenty of natural material and colors: Jerusalem stone, brilliant bursts of orange and pastels and greens and blues. The building picks up on the ambience of the desert.
"We're the newest generation of what a Station casino is supposed to be: a terrific destination for locals and for destination travelers," Hasson added. "We're 10 minutes from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and 25 minutes from the Strip. We're great for locals looking for a staycation in town or for their friends who are visiting and want a distinct Vegas experience."
Up in a down market
Aliante's drawing, and staying, power will certainly be tested. The $662 million resort opened in November amid the worst market for Las Vegas gaming companies in 25 years.
Strip properties scrambling to boost occupancy by discounting room rates have encroached low-room rate territory heretofore dominated by suburban casinos like Aliante. But experts say price gouging on the Strip actually represents an opportunity for outlying properties. Strip resorts will never win a price war with their counterparts on the outskirts.
Suddenly, that narrow, locals-focused customer base isn't so narrow. "We have an 80%-to-20% mix of locals vs. visitors," Hasson said.
Because of the size of their meetings spaces, Strip properties often have a hard time competing on price in the small convention and trade show markets. The 202-room Aliante has 14,000 square feet of meetings space, enough for 700 people.
Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock Station have hosted conventions for American Express, Audi, Citibank, Microsoft Corp., PepsiCo and Wells Fargo, among others. In November, Ensemble Travel Group held its annual conference at Red Rock.
"Convention and trade groups are reaching to Aliante because they like the hotel rooms -- as nice as something they'd see on the Strip -- [and] the banquet and meetings space, which offers both comfort and privacy," Hasson said. "Our proximity to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a good fit for people who have business or pleasure there. Every March, the Nascar event there brings more than 100,000 people, many of them tourists. We will capture some of that market."
Rooms feature flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, Internet connectivity and minibars as standard amenities. Following in its sister properties' footsteps, Aliante is also putting a premium on entertainment.
Sheryl Crow performed on opening night and Smokey Robinson appeared there during the opening weekend. Kenny Loggins and Merle Haggard are scheduled. "We will try a little bit of everything in order to find the sweet spot," Hasson said.
Aliante offers amenities familiar to Station Casinos' loyalists. The casino has 2,550 slots, 40 table games, a poker room and a high-limit room with more than 40 games. There's no nightclub or spa. Of the dining options, the Italian-themed Pips Cucina and Wine Bar is the most notable.
Pips represents the gaming company's first partnership with a well-respected foodie and a move away from reality TV. Red Rock and Green Valley gained notoriety for giving the winners of seasons two and three of Fox reality cooking show "Hell's Kitchen" year-long contracts to manage restaurants inside the resorts.
Pips' proprietor, Rino Armeni, worked as vice president of food and beverage at Caesars Palace before joining Southern Wine & Spirits as executive marketing director. Southern Wine & Spirits is one of the premier liquor distributors on the Strip. Armeni also founded the Epicurean Foundation to give hospitality industry scholarships to underprivileged students.
Off to a good start
Just weeks after opening, business at Aliante appears brisk. Guests packed the food court on successive Friday nights, and families strolled into the 16-screen movie theater. Hasson concedes that it's still too early to declare victory.
"We've been nicely welcomed by locals and tourists alike," he said. "Even in this economy, we're not only a viable option for locals who want a top-notch resort experience but also destination travelers who want to see a different side of Vegas."
Rates start at $59. For more information or to book, call (877) 477-7627 or visit www.aliantecasinohotel.com.