Luxe Life Blog
New Tropicana owner reveals details of $200 million makeover
When new Tropicana head honcho Alex Yemenidjian finishes spending nearly $200 million, he’ll have converted the aging resort casino into a cool, swank, hip, polished and hot Miami Beach hideaway. The new owner also plans a massive two-story, 25,000-square-foot nightclub right on the Strip facing opposite the MGM Grand and Excalibur.
Alex told me yesterday in his first real conversation about his major money-spending makeover: “We are not copying anything. We are not making a caricature of Miami. We just want to capture that Miami-Latin-Cuban vibe incorporating the feel of the music, the aromas and the excitement.”
Alex freely admitted, “The Tropicana has become old and tired, but by April, May of next year, you will see all the exterior changes come to life. We’re already changing over the rooms, the hallways, and I just finished signing off on the new architectural design for our 4.2-acre pool complex this morning. That will really become the West Coast Miami!
“I want to have a restaurant row like Miami does, but our resort will be an overall emotionally engaging, environmentally accessible experience. That’s about a $100 million spend for Phase 1, although I’ll admit the number changes daily. I promise you it will be bathed in white everywhere. That’s a whole lot better than anybody else has ever tried to do in Vegas.
“Then we’ve allocated another $100 million for Phase 2, and we will take advantage of all the underutilized land we have right there on the Strip and the corner with Tropicana so we can move our porte-cochere and build the nightclub. I don’t have dates for that yet because the architectural designs have just been completed and going out for bid -- along with the new bridge that connects from the Excalibur site to ours.”
I asked Alex, who for many years was the CEO at MGM directly across from the Trop, how he felt going into competition against his former employer. “In fact, it was Kirk Kerkorian (MGM’s largest stockholder) who encouraged me to get back into the resort casino business,” he said. “He believes like me that the competition in Vegas is very different than anywhere else in America. The best neighbor to have here is the best operator, and the worst neighbor to have is raw land!”
After his first long-term Vegas hotel experience, Alex went back to Hollywood to run the MGM film studios. He told me: “I was always hoping to get back to run a hotel in Vegas. After all, slots are a lot easier to deal with than some temperamental stars! It was always a case of location and price, and when the Tropicana came along, I decided it was time to go for it. Yes, it is the ultimate challenge, but we’re up for it. When you see how it all turns out, we’ll be real competition to Miami.”
Alex has already added Mr. Las Vegas Wayne Newton to his new entertainment lineup. “Wayne will be with us through the whole transition process of Phase 1, so he’ll get to see all those changes through to the end of his contract,” Alex said.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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