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September 20, 2018

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OPINION:

Successful Red Rock Resort offers evolving SLS something to aspire to

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Red Rock Resort’s luxurious environs are fresh as ever.

Updated Sunday, April 24, 2016 | 2:36 p.m.

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Kid Cudi performs a sold-out show at the Foundry on Sunday, March 13, 2016, at SLS Las Vegas.

The week of the opening of Red Rock Resort in April 2006, I toured the property with the president of the hotel, Scott Kreeger. I recall him being especially responsive to my questions about Rocks Lounge, Cherry nightclub and the new sports book.

Kreeger said I would be spending a lot of time at the hotel, and he was right. Over the past decade, I’ve made Red Rock Resort a fairly regular stop, especially Rocks Lounge.

Building the resort a decade ago on a parcel at the 215 Beltway and West Charleston Boulevard was putting a pin on a map where a mass of residents previously had no such option. Red Rock stood alone as a resort nearly equal to any on the Strip but was still a neighborhood casino.

As a testament to the working environment forged by Station Casinos at Red Rock, 1 in 5 employees who opened the hotel 10 years ago remains on staff today. One who no longer is there is Kreeger, who has since taken over at SLS Las Vegas.

We’ve been keeping a close watch on SLS since it opened in August 2014 and especially since Kreeger took over for Rob Oseland five months after that. While Red Rock Resort experienced swift success, SLS has fought to find the right mix of amenities to draw a consistent balance of locals and tourists.

Its partnership with Starwood Resorts, which in September is scheduled to open W Las Vegas in the hotel’s Lux Tower, should boost convention business at the property. The W will have a separate entrance and its own pool and spa, which are under construction.

The latest move by the hotel was to pull out one of its restaurants, a really good one, Jose Andres’ Ku Noodle. The Asian restaurant, bedecked in white and in a prime location just off the casino floor, closed April 1.

Similar to how the hotel shed its Fred Segal stores and closed its jewelry store supplied by the Jewelers of Las Vegas, the decision to close Andres’ restaurant can be explained in one word: reality.

“Ku was a great concept, and Jose Andres is an amazing chef,” Kreeger said, noting Andres’ excellent Bazaar Meat at SLS. “He is a big part of our plans. The venue was very popular with the foodie crowd, and that is a testament to Jose’s culinary skill. We will look to a concept in the future that has a little broader appeal and complements our existing, highly successful restaurant platform.”

SLS already has the popular Umami Burger and the grab-and-go 800 Degrees pizza café. Katsuya is the equal of any sushi place I’ve tried in Las Vegas, and Mediterranean restaurant Cleo is refined and worth the trip. Northside Café also is consistently good and — most important to my schedule — open 24 hours.

Still, the changes will continue at SLS, which also cut its buffet. (Don’t expect a return to that concept, maybe ever.)

“We like to stay fresh and offer new experiences at the property that keep us top of mind and introduce new concepts to the market,” Kreeger said. “In order to do this, you have to take a few risks. We do this with our restaurants, our hotel product and our entertainment. We will do this with the brand as well, as we continue to define ourselves as a fresh alternative to the typical Las Vegas resort.”

I chatted with Kreeger at the opening of T-Mobile Arena, and he essentially repeated that last sentence as he hung near the bar at Hyde Lounge. He seemed really relaxed and confident, same as a decade ago when he launched what many Las Vegans feel is the city’s finest locals resort.

Kreeger is embarking on a more challenging path today. It’s not easy on the corner of Sahara Avenue and the Strip, but it is a great locale for a fireworks show. Scott Kreeger, for one, believes it.

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