FINALLY, FONTAINEBLEAU: The extraordinary journey of Las Vegas’ newest hotel
“Finally!” our driver declared, musing on the opening of The Fontainebleau Las Vegas last week (Dec. 13), echoing the sentiment of many in the city of the long-delayed and much-anticipated sequel to its glamourous Miami Beach counterpart.
The shimmering 67-storey Fontainebleau is now the tallest hotel in southern Nevada’s glittery resort corridor. At $3.7 billion, it’s second in cost to the US$4.3 billion Resorts World International, which opened in June 2021, just a short walk down Las Vegas Boulevard.
Guests were first welcomed at precisely midnight on Thursday morning, following a star-studded, invitation-only grand opening party Wednesday night that was attended by such celebrity guests as Wayne Gretzky, Tom Brady, Kim Kardashian, Sylvester Stallone, and Tommy Hilfiger, amongst many others. Performers included Canadian Paul Anka, Keith Urban, and headliner Justin Timberlake.
The 3,644-room resort’s brand recalls Miami Beach’s 70-year-old iconic namesake, which Fontainebleau Development chairman and CEO Jeffery Soffer’s family acquired in 2005.
But the project in the Mojave Desert has its own lore about starts, stops and changing ownership since work began in 2007.
Soffer lost funding during the Great Recession and walked away from the project in 2009 with the building about 70% complete. Various new owners stepped in, including famous financier Carl Icahn and New York developer Steven Witkoff. The latter announced plans in 2018 to redesign and rename the resort The Drew, but progress stalled again during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, sitting idle, the hulking shell of a building with an incomplete street-front facade was occasionally used by area firefighters for high-rise rescue training.
Soffer and Fontainebleau Development reacquired the project in 2021 and partnered with Koch Real Estate Investments to finance and finish it.
The expansive property features 1,300 slot machines, 128 gambling tables and a total of 36 first-to-market concepts from acclaimed chefs and restaurateur partners including Evan Funke, Masa Ito, David Grutman, David “Papi” Einhorn, and Alan Yau – as well as world-class shopping, seven pools, lavish spa, and a LIV nightclub.
A bowtie theme, meanwhile, pays is an homage to the standard neckwear of Morris Lapidus, architect of the Miami resort that opened in 1954.
“Art, architecture, and design are key components of our Fontainebleau culture and guest experience,” Brett Mufson, Fontainebleau Development president, said in a statement ahead of the opening.
The structure is the tallest occupiable building in Nevada and second tallest in Las Vegas, behind the nearby Strat tower observation deck at 350 metres. It was built on the 10-hectare site of the El Rancho hotel, which dated to 1948 and was imploded in 2000. Plans to build a British-themed hotel-casino hotel with Tower of London and Buckingham Palace replicas were shelved after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Fontainebleau is adjacent to the newest section of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and along with Resorts World International, with its trio of hotels (Hilton, Conrad and Crockfords), has revitalized the north end of the Strip in the neighbourhood of Circus Circus. Hotel guests gazing one way will see the Strat tower, and down the Strip in the other direction the brightly lit Sphere concert and entertainment venue that opened in September.
“Bringing Fontainebleau Las Vegas to life has been an extraordinary journey,” concluded Soffer. “Opening a resort of this size and scope is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
First published at Travel Industry Today