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March 29, 2017

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OPINION:

Upgrading Plaza hotel plans to make waves in downtown pool scene

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An artist’s rendering depicts the expansion of the Plaza pool atop the downtown resort’s roof. The pool venue is growing to 70,000 square feet, from 20,000 square feet.

Updated Sunday, April 3, 2016 | 10:18 a.m.

At the Plaza, movement is afoot, and that foot is wearing a flip-flop.

The hotel is finishing plans to renovate its “rooftop pool experience,” or as we call it, “the pool on the roof,” in time for summer.

The Plaza Pool is due for significant upgrades over the next several weeks. Specifically, six cabana suites loaded with TVs, furniture, fans and fridges are being added, and several daybeds are being placed around the pool.

That might be relatively standard fare among Las Vegas hotel pool decks, but more impressive is that the expansion covers 50,000 square feet — extending the usable space to 70,000 square feet — with the addition of courts for tennis, basketball and pickle ball (a small-scale mash of tennis, table tennis and racquetball), as well as foosball, table tennis and a sandbag-toss game.

A stage is being built to overlook the entire scene, and the hotel plans to book live entertainment (including DJs) to support such existing events as "Big Blues Bender" in September and Punk Rock Bowling. "We're looking for mora of Palm Springs-chill feel than a Strip dayclub feel," is how Plaza Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Jossel explains the upgrade. The pool is open to all ages, free to hotel guests and also open to non-hotel guests, though how or if to charge those customers is still being sorted out.

The result: It is clear the Plaza now is a player in the pool-party culture. The space represents one of the largest pool decks downtown, expected to rival Picnic at the Downtown Grand and the Tank at the Golden Nugget for customer appeal.

A piece of underwater Vegas trivia: The original pool at the Plaza was on the circular deck overlooking Fremont Street. That platform now is the site of Oscar’s Beef Booze & Broads restaurant. The pool opened with the hotel in 1971 and was wide open with a clear view of the hotels on Fremont Street. I once talked to a lifelong Las Vegan who took swimming lessons at the pool, which later was turned into Center Stage restaurant and was the site of a scene in “Casino” featuring Oscar Goodman conferring with Robert De Niro.

To all of this, we say, “Only in Vegas.”

• SLS Las Vegas has gained some momentum, even while losing a restaurant.

In a welcome boost to business, the Foundry has been booming since it opened Feb. 5 with a show by AWOLNation. This is the former Life nightclub and, before that, the big showroom at the Sahara. A famous space, no question, but Life could not compete as a major nightclub on the Strip, even as it was operated by one of the most successful nightlife companies in the country, SBE Entertainment (which runs Hyde at the Bellagio and Hyde Lounge at T-Mobile Arena).

The animation at the Foundry was evident in my first visit to the venue, on March 13, when Kid Cudi performed for a capacity crowd of 1,800. This was a Sunday night, mind you, and when the show ended past midnight, the crowd flooded the casino. It might not have been the type of crowd to spend the rest of Sunday night bellied-up to craps tables, but it is a far more encouraging use of the venue than a largely vacant nightclub.

Just a couple of weeks later, however, the hotel shed one of its more prominent restaurants. The white-bedecked Ku noodle, operated by Jose Andres (who also owns Bazaar Meat at the hotel) closed April 1.

Since opening in August 2014, SLS has juggled its culinary lineup. The hotel shut down its second-floor buffet and seized operation of the space that opened as the Griddle; it has been the 24/7 Northside Café for more than a year now.

That restaurant is convenient in such instances when the Foundry hosts late-night performances. But what is to become of the Ku Noodle space, which sits just off the casino floor and faces Foxtail Pool, is not yet determined.

• A famous set of wheels has become one of the more popular tourist attractions at Gold & Silver Pawn and Pawn Plaza: the black, 1963 Chrysler Imperial four-door owned by Richard “Old Man” Harrison, which is parked in the Pawn Plaza parking lot. This is a car featured on “Pawn Stars” and one of Harrison’s favorites in a collection that also features a 1966 Imperial convertible, a 1962 Cadillac DeVille, a 1957 Chevrolet 150, a 1955 Ford F100 pickup and a 1937 Oldsmobile.

The Old Man has been a serious car buff for his entire adult life, dating to his days as a Navy serviceman in the late-1950s. He once said what he misses most about automobiles is their unique body designs.

“It’s hard to tell the difference between the Cadillac and the Chevrolet today,” Harrison said in a 2013 interview with Hagerty Magazine. “Don’t get me wrong, the technology they have in the cars today is phenomenal, but they ought to do something about the style. To me, the last American car that had any style was the Plymouth Prowler. That’s one car I’m gonna own one of these days.”

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