Monday, April 10, 2017 | 2 a.m.
You can’t say the new $59 million, 93,500-square-foot building under construction at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration signals a coming of age for the program if only because the program has already grown up.
According to Stowe Shoemaker, dean of the Harrah College, 2,500 students are enrolled in the program, which will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary and is routinely ranked in the top five in surveys of the best hotel colleges.
But you can say, as Shoemaker does, that the new Hospitality Hall clearly communicates to students and visitors alike that the college is closely connected to a city considered to be one of the centers of the hospitality industry.
“If you’re studying hospitality, and you’re here in a building that overlooks the Strip and you have a classroom that has views that look at the mountains around Las Vegas, you know that you’re not in Lansing, Mich., or Ithaca, N.Y. (locations of other top hotel schools). But you’re really in the heart of hospitality,” Shoemaker said.
The 2015 Legislature earmarked $24.4 million for Hospitality Hall. MGM Resorts International, Station Casinos and Boyd Gaming each contributed $2.5 million in 2015. Fundraising started in 2010 with a $2.5 million donation from Caesars Entertainment, which was followed up in 2014 with $2.5 million each from Konami Corp. and Las Vegas Sands. The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation and Engelstad Family Foundation also donated $2.5 million each.
Construction on the building started in March 2016. Staff should be moving in by Halloween, and the first classes will be held in January.
When students begin using the building, they’ll find a space designed with many of the elements that are found in the hotels on the Strip, Shoemaker said.
The first floor lobby has a grand staircase “just like a great hotel,” Shoemaker said. It’s is “designed to pull you in and pull you upstairs,” he said.
The building’s bathrooms were also designed to resemble those of casino resorts, with one main entrance that leads to the left and to the right, for the women’s and men’s areas, respectively.
In terms of practical learning elements, Hospitality Hall will have a student-run cafe, golf shop and putting green on the first floor.
Because all hospitality students are required to take a cooking class, the building has a 2,800-square-foot, fully functional kitchen on the top floor, not far from meeting rooms and indoor/outdoor reception areas. In addition, the fourth floor will have a beverage lab.
The school is missing one thing you might expect in a Las Vegas hospitality school — a gaming lab. Shoemaker said that’s because UNLV’s International Gaming Institute already has one in its building across campus.
The college has 80 staff members, including administrators and teachers, and the building will be able to house them as well as 14 more employees, Shoemaker said,
According to Angela Ramsey, director of communications for the Harrah College, the building will have 10 spaces designated for classes, including a 120-seat auditorium.
Shoemaker said the building will help sustain the college’s reputation.
“In a study that was just undertaken, we were ranked the No. 1 hotel school in the world right now,” Shoemaker said. “And we think this building will make it very hard for others to catch up to us.”