Monday, April 1, 2013 | 2:45 p.m.
Map of Plaza Hotel and Casino
1 Main Street, Las Vegas
First came Venture for America’s college graduates, several of whom were hired by Downtown Project for two-year stints to study, learn and help startup businesses.
Then a few weeks ago, 14 students from the University of Iowa in a class devoted to "reimagining" downtown Las Vegas spent their spring break here and will return this summer.
Now students from Cambridge University – yes, that Cambridge, the second-oldest university in the English speaking world – are getting in on the act.
While British tourists are frequent visitors to Las Vegas, “Cambridge” and “Las Vegas” seldom share the same space in a sentence.
But, in fact, four of the school’s graduate students will spend the next month in downtown Las Vegas studying the casino business at the Plaza, which, at 43 years of age is venerably old by Vegas standards.
Living at the hotel for a month, the students will “focus on identifying ways to capitalize on the Plaza’s extensive renovations and developing strategies to better serve the baby-boomer age group,” a press release about the students said.
Built in 1971, the hotel is currently owned by Tamares Real Estate.
"These students are very talented and have a great business acumen,” said Jonathan Jossel, Tamares’ director of Las Vegas properties. “We believe that they will offer us new ideas and that we can help them better understand the gaming industry."
Student Dugal Bain characterized the symbiotic relationship as a “win-win.”
“We get the opportunity to apply what we've been studying and learn about the casino industry from a great management team,” he said in a news release from the company. “"We hope to provide the Plaza with new ideas about how to cement the Plaza's position as the place to play, stay, relax and eat in downtown Las Vegas.”
The Plaza, renovated in 2011, has a lobby that features marble and inlaid mosaic tiles, chandeliers and a plush front desk that matches the classic Las Vegas feel with a contemporary look.
The hotel has 1,003 rooms and suites that showcase views of the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Amenities include world-class entertainment, a casino floor that offers an array of classic gaming choice, which include 600 slot machines, a 400-seat bingo room, 18 table games and 57,120 square feet of casino space.
Among the dining options is Oscar's Beef * Booze * Broads, a steakhouse opened by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, which is located in the glittery dome enclosure above the hotel's main entrance.
The Plaza sits at the west end of the Fremont Street Experience on the site of the first train depot and auction site in Las Vegas, dating back to the San Pedro-Los Angeles-Salt Lake Railroad in 1905. The railroad was sold to Union Pacific in 1921 and the depot was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Union Plaza Hotel, built in 1971.
The hotel has been featured or is visible in several movies, including the 1971 James Bond film, "Diamonds are Forever;" the 1989 film "Back to the Future Part II;" the 1995 move "Casino," and the 2000 movie "Pay it Forward."
Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.