Thursday, April 6, 2017 | 12:02 a.m.
You may have noticed a whole lot of action lately at the previously inactive Tropicana, and I’m not talking about when Food Network chef Robert Irvine rappelled 22 stories down the side of the bright-white building last year. That was pretty cool, though.
The action these days is inside the Trop, where a new partnership with ever-expanding local company Red Mercury Entertainment is streamlining entertainment operations at the 60-year-old south Strip resort and filling up the Tropicana Theater. Just this month, the showroom will see Irvine’s live cooking TV show today (the chef is opening a restaurant here in July), a Golden Rainbow benefit production of Jesus Christ Superstar on Saturday, a Kool & the Gang concert on April 15, a standup set from comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay on April 22, and country concerts from Wynonna & The Big Noise on April 28 and John Michael Montgomery on the 29th. Another country star, Sara Evans, is booked for the theater for May 13.
This is only the beginning. Howard Weiss, vice president of entertainment, daylife and nightlife at the Trop and Penn Gaming’s other Vegas property, the M Resort, says a series of ongoing shows are under development for both the theater and the Havana Room — site of the short-lived Bagatelle nightclub — including Jeff Timmons’ Men of the Strip, a male revue that could open by the end of May in the latter space. Another show will be magic-based, starring new-to-Vegas talent.
“The biggest thing we [were looking for] is exposure for our shows and how to drive ticket sales,” Weiss says. “We looked at all potential partners in the market and found Red Mercury to be the best, and the big bonus with them is their relationship with all the brokers of all the shows on the Strip. We are seeing that big ticket sales drive 24 to 48 hours before the show, and that’s a benefit we didn’t have before.”
Red Mercury is not just bringing new shows and events to the Trop. It’s also managing theater and box office operations in an arrangement similar to Red Mercury’s deals with Westgate Las Vegas and the Stratosphere, where the company produces shows including MJ Live and the new World’s Greatest Rock Show and Spy Escape & Evasion.
“The Tropicana is great, obviously the location is wonderful with its high volume of traffic between pedestrians and tourists that stay there, and Penn does a great job operating it,” says Red Mercury founder Darin Feinstein, whose company also operates the Fatburger on the Strip, Downtown’s Beauty Bar and the El Dorado Cantina restaurant next door to Sapphire gentleman’s club. “They have a great team, but the thing we bring to the table is we’ve got 30 or 40 people who just handle shows. Some of these properties have to compete against bigger properties in casinos with much larger marketing budgets, so being able to tap a group like Red Mercury to assist with entertainment becomes beneficial.”
Choosing concerts and creating new shows will be a collaborative effort between the Trop and Red Mercury, whereas before the partnership, the casino was less involved in supporting entertainment options — the results of the “four-wall” system where the venue basically rents its space to the production.
“I think our goal right now is testing to see what works and trying out some different programming,” Weiss says. “We’ve had a lot of leadership changes over the last year and a half with Penn, and we’ve been working on the things that needed to be added to the property to focus on the overall experience for our guests. With shows and also restaurants, we are adding amenities that are giving more reasons to come back. If you look at that corner [of the Strip], there is still a lot of stuff to do there, so we’ve been focused on how to get people back into the Tropicana.”