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August 16, 2018

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A look inside: Strip’s glamour infuses UNLV’s new $60 million hotel college

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L.E. Baskow

Exterior of UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality’s new building called Hospitality Hall on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. L.E. Baskow

UNLV Hospitality Hall

Exterior of UNLV's William F. Harrah College of Hospitality's new building called Hospitality Hall on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Launch slideshow »

UNLV’s latest building gives its world-renowned Harrah’s College of Hospitality a world-class facility.

The modern-industrial style interior is designed to feel like you are in one of the properties on the Las Vegas Strip because university officials wanted students to feel like they were in the environment they are preparing to work in. The 93,500 square-foot, $60 million Hospitality Hall opens next month for the spring semester.

“If you think about the hospitality industry it’s not so much a job as it is a lifestyle,” said Stowe Shoemaker, dean of the College of Hospitality. “So we wanted to create an environment that mimics the outside. Let’s create a space that mirrors the space of a hotel like you’re working on the Strip.”

This is noticeable when walking in the front door into the Caesars Lobby, as the high-end, modern furniture and winding wooden staircase leading to the second floor is as impressive as any hotel casino a few miles away. An oil on acrylic painting by restaurateur Phil Romano, of Macaroni Grill fame, is set to be placed in the lobby.

Toward the back of the building is a winding staircase to each of the four floors, with a nostalgic piece of Las Vegas art on each floor.

The building was paid for by a split of donations and state funds. So, instead of one name on the building, each of the major donors, which accounted for more than $24 million of the funding, will adorn different areas of the building.

The four-level structure features learning, meeting and office space and a state-of-the-art kitchen. Hospitality Hall brings all student services onto one floor, as opposed to having them scattered throughout their former home at Frank and Estella Beam Hall.

Every classroom is convertible and features interactive elements to enhance the learning experience. To encourage student and educator interaction, instructor offices are located near their classrooms, with student gathering areas in between, to increase the opportunities that outside the classroom interaction occurs.

“There is a lot of chance for kids to interact,” Shoemaker said.

Located on the first floor is UNLV’s PGA Golf Management program, which brings its entire program from several buildings into one space. The space features a golf retail shop open to anyone, classroom, swing simulator that features several different courses and an outdoor putting green.

To help learn what makes a successful golfer there is a biomechanics lab that will allow students to analyze player movements. The space also features a club repair lab where students learn how to assemble and dismantle golf clubs, which is a basic requirement of golf pros at courses.

“It’s really dedicated to understanding the golf swing how it works, why it works and what the best players in the world do,” said Kyle Helms, assistant director and internship coordinator for the PGA program.

The program will work with the UNLV golf team to help them with their game, while they analyze and collect data to use in their instruction.

The student-run MGM Resorts International Cafe and Plaza is located just after the lobby, which gives students who don’t want to travel off campus to work on option to have a hospitality-oriented job where they study.

Additionally, employment opportunities are provided for students via on-campus catering.

Up to the fourth floor the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation executive kitchen has 10 cooking stations for students, split up with five on each side of the room, and one demonstration station for instructors which has a camera over it.

The demonstration station is shown on five flat screen televisions in between each of the five stations so students can follow their instructor’s lead. Welbilt donated much of the kitchen equipment that’s included in the executive kitchen.

“The chef is cooking and they will be able to see all the action on there,” Shoemaker said. “We could do our own Food Network show.”

The kitchen area leads the outdoor Engelstad Family Foundation event terrace that has a Strip view, which offers a prime space to hold special events that would serve as a fundraiser for the college.

“We are planning on having a New Year’s Eve event next year, where the students will prepare and serve all the food,” Shoemaker said. “You could celebrate here and watch all the fireworks on the Strip.

With so much emphasis being placed on the beverage industry in Las Vegas, the school features the Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirit beverage academy. The large, open classroom features a bar where students can get hands on experience while they fulfill their requirements.

“We believe that beverage operations should have its own track,” Shoemaker said. “Beverage is driving the business today. It’s about the experience.”

The building is constructed to showcase Las Vegas, which includes Shoemaker’s office, which also has a prime Las Vegas Boulevard view.

“If I’m interviewing donors, parents or potential students, we’re so tied into the Strip and they’re looking out and seeing it,” he said. “Again, it’s a point to highlight what we’re doing here.”