Monday, Aug. 31, 2015 | 2 a.m.
The Riviera closed about four months ago, but in a way, the historic hotel still is running strong.
Several elements of the property have moved to new locations, including the Neon Museum and the Westgate just across Paradise Road. And public safety workers have been training inside the former casino, which closed May 4 after being bought by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for $182.5 million.
Much about the future of the Riviera site remains unclear. The LVCVA has not set a date for when the structure will come down, and details of the convention space that is expected to replace the resort still are a long way off.
But as those plans work themselves out, the Riviera’s second life already is underway.
Executives from Paragon Gaming, the company that operated the Riviera, received approval in May from Nevada gaming regulators to manage the Westgate.
Meanwhile, the Culinary Union has been helping former Riviera employees find new jobs. Some are attending the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas to further develop skills or train for new positions — for example, a housekeeper learning to become a prep cook, spokeswoman Bethany Khan said.
“Some are upgrading their current skills, some are doing interview preparation, many have updated resumes, and some are getting trained in a new classification,” she said.
Others already have found work at other Strip resorts, Khan said.
For years, the iconic “No ‘Ifs’ ‘Ands’ Or …” statue greeted visitors to the Riviera. The bronze ladies proved to be a popular photo backdrop for guests and passers-by.
A related “Crazy Girls” topless burlesque show inside the Riviera also was a fixture of the resort.
And “Crazy Girls” didn’t fade away when the Riviera closed. In fact, it’s arguably more visible.
Both the show and the statue moved to Planet Hollywood. The show runs in Sin City Theater, and the statue is on the casino floor.
Patrons of the Neon Museum downtown can see Riviera signs, including an illuminated one from the resort’s porte cochere and an older one from a parking garage. The museum has additional Riviera signs in storage, but needs to find the appropriate locations to display them, said Danielle Kelly, the museum’s executive director.
Kelly said the process of getting the Riviera signs was “special” because the museum didn’t have to ask for them; hotel officials reached out before the resort closed.
“Everyone was very respectful to the legacy of the Riviera and making sure we were able to celebrate it,” Kelly said. “That rarely happens.”
It was unheard of to receive a sign that could be plugged in immediately, Kelly said.
A number of public safety agencies, including the FBI and multiple fire departments, have used the Riviera for training exercises since it closed. The empty resort provides a unique setting for simulating an emergency situation in a high rise.
The LVCVA recently approved plans to demolish the Riviera for $42 million. A date hasn’t been finalized, but staff members say it should be sometime next year. Once the Riviera is taken down, the LVCVA will rent out the empty space.
At the same time, a tourism committee convened by Gov. Brian Sandoval will help shape the vision for the convention space that eventually will replace the Rivera. That committee has about one year to send a report to the governor.
When the Riviera closed, it threw a wrench in the plans of many people and groups who planned to stay at the resort after the closing date. But Southern Nevada hotel operators have been able to keep nearly all of the Riviera’s room reservations in the market, Paragon officials said.