Inside Rob Oseland

Hard Hat Touring The SLS Las Vegas

Posted by RateVegas

SLS is going to open in September and I know this because I saw it with my own eyes.

"That place is a joke. It'll never happen." - Me, Vegas Gang Podcast, 2011.

When it comes to Las Vegas, I've been wrong often. One of the hazards of going on the record with years of podcasts and blog posts is that you'll never get it right all of the time (though listening back to old stuff reminds me that we called a lot right). The most obvious recent example is SLS Las Vegas. Quite frankly, I was sure it was never going to happen... but here we are today.

I have many flaws, but one I don't usually suffer from is admitting when I'm wrong. 'Strong opinions, loosely held' as the saying goes. If there's new evidence available, I'm happy to adjust my views. Restaurants and hotel rooms and elevators and water pipes and casino carpet - it's all real.

Location, location, people

All along I assumed the SLS story would be centered around real estate. Most notably that their location is a shitty one that will be an obstacle to getting people in the door. That's definitely going to be a huge challenge... but now I'm also wondering if it's really more about people.

When the tour was setup, it was my understanding that I'd be part of a small group led by their newly installed social media impresario. Turns out that just after I walked in the front door of SLS' temporary offices, property president Rob Oseland introduced himself and promptly took over, answering whatever questions I could come up with during the 2.5 hour tour. Boy, did I ask questions.

Once you play in this particular kiddie-pool for awhile, you realize that what you're served up is 99.9% bullshit.

I've met Oseland before, on a tour of Encore when that property was just opening. That was a shorter and far more scripted encounter, whereas this was off-the-cuff and effectively one-on-one. He struck me then as having his shit together but even more so now. He's very impressive.

As far as I can tell, he was candid with me, something I deeply appreciate. When I asked him why he left Wynn Resorts, I expected a canned answer. Instead, he told me the truth: His boss (Andrew Pascal) left and instead of moving him up to the top job, Steve Wynn brought in someone (Marilyn Winn Spiegel) and Oseland decided it was time to look for a new challenge. Simple story, pleasantly surprised at the human answer.

Reality, Design, Reality

The tour started in SLS' temporary offices (previously the Fontainebleau sales pavilion) where they've built models of all of the standard room types at 100% scale, including a guest hallway lit exactly how it will be on property. Inside this part of the building there's no way to know you're not in the actual hotel.

From the start, I was trying to figure out how connected to reality these people are. They gutted an existing building (sbe PR prefers the 'adaptive re-use' buzzword) and thus are forced to working within an existing template. The rooms are only so big. The bathrooms are only so big. Some of the views are sub-optimal (i.e. shitty). If you were building these hotel towers from scratch today, you'd do a lot of things differently. All of this is clear to anyone paying attention. So when I asked Oseland about the downsides of their building he offered up a laundry list of realities that more or less matches the obvious complaints, passing the first bullshit sniff test.

Actually, some of the more radical room design choices are the direct result of recognizing these constraints.

One room type - I believe the smallest in terms of square footage - actually integrates the shower and water closet in special slide-away areas. I'd seen leaked renders, but in person my reaction was to admire the cleverness of it. I've stayed in other super-small rooms like MGM's West Wing but in that case I actually remember not being able to walk around the bed because it was so tiny. This SLS shoebox used the limited space just about as well as I could imagine - I was impressed. Now of course, it's definitely not a room you want to share with someone you're not, uh, 'well-acquainted' with.

Overall the other room designs followed the same trend - lots of white (couches and love-seats, tile) with a lot of black accents (more tile, carpet). Large comfortable beds (yes, I laid down). You've seen the renders - they look just like that in real life. The term they used again and again was 'playful', which is what they say when they reference mirrors on the ceiling and see-through showers. Playful.

In general, expect views to be de-emphasized in rooms that have small windows and point towards nothing-worth-looking-at cityscape. Instead of optimizing the entire layout around views they don't really have, they went the other way and minimized the window as a room feature. If you're the sort of guest that books a Cosmo suite just for breakfast on the balcony, these rooms probably aren't for you but it does show a willingness to break tradition in favor of... well, reality.

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Comments & Discussion

I wonder if being on the strip yet still somewhat remote would force them to, at least in the beginning, offer up an honest game of jack and some decent VP pay tables. If so, I could see having breakfast at the Peppermill and making SLS an early morning gambling event...after I use the bathroom at Wynn of course. Thanks for the article.

Unvarnished reviews, analysis, and a dash of humor are why I come back to this site over and over. Thanks for your thoughts on SBE/SLS.

This answered some questions (how SLS can draw traffic; what is their business model; how well will the old structures handle new hotel trends and needs; will this be tacky or classy)

... and raises some more (why name it SLS and not sbe; how nimble will SLS be as tastes and trends change; who is making the decisions)

I look forward to seeing the finished product, both online and in person. I imagine I'll still be more interested in spending my hipster hours at Cosmo and Cromwell (and my bankroll at Bellagio), but it's nice to have more options and shiny things to explore.

Thanks, Hunter. I look forward to checking the place out. I'm still a bit confounded at the choice to not use one of the most iconic names in Las Vegas history to build a new brand upon, ie: "SLS at Sahara." C'est la Stardust.

A very enjoyable read. I'm excited that they did get the funding to revamp the property. Unfortunately nothing out of your review changes my mind that they are likely to struggle. While I am intrigued that they are saying they are going to try and strike a price point that is higher end then Riviera and CC, but less then high end mid strip, I just don't see anything that says they will be able to manage the 600lb gorilla in the room.

While I know M resort is (literally) miles away in comparison, I'm not sure it's so different for SLS, and add in they aren't likely to attract many locals (outside of the club ladies but only if their nightlife becomes the 'it' place).

1 mile or 30 miles away from the center of the action, is still away from the center of the action. I wish them luck and I'll be visiting the place and if they are looking for mid tier gamblers I'll even likely stay at the place, but I'm not sure the masses are going to turn out in numbers that matter or are sustainable.

I also had a chance to tour the model rooms - and yes, I agree they've worked a small miracle with a 300 sqft footprint. I thought placing the bed in the center of the room was clever, although if it was me sleeping there I would miss the nightstand. The slide-away shower and toilet compartments were interesting - they brought to mind the kind of space optimizing you would see in one of those micro hotels, or an airport nap room or some such.

So kudos in turning the lemon into lemonade. My fear is that ultimately, size does matter. Vegas just isn't a 300 sqft hotel room town anymore. If I'm deciding where to stay and judging the relative merits of SLS, Cosmo, Wynn, etc., I'm going to remember that oh yeah, SLS is the tiny-room hotel. Monte Carlo had a similar problem when converting their smallish room footprint into a Hotel 32 product. The standard Hotel 32 room is simply too small to command prices comparable to other suites, (which is why it's all comped players up there). Maybe SLS's best play is to comp guests into the tiny rooms, and sell the larger ones for cash?

I'm still bearish overall on SLS, despite really liking the design, the F&B, and having a soft spot for Sahara. The location is just too deadly. Think of how you guys have been blaming Downtown Grand's empty casino on its location - the fact that you have to turn your head 90 degrees from the Fremont canopy and walk for 45 seconds. If that's the definition of a bad location, then SLS is screwed.

Great feature, thanks. Never thought I'd be interested in it but might have to make a monorail trip up this fall to check it out. Also great to have the non-scripted comments from management. Next up in the series: the Loveman Love-in, and Murren on Murren

Having the final stop on the monorail is also nice. I've stayed at the LVH previously and I would consider SLS if it has a place to eat open past 9 p.m.

But my ultimate hope is the SLS will be forced to treat guests like, well, guests. Great deals, great gambling and the like.

Have to give Sam credit...they did pull this off...and as the newest property on the Strip, for the first year, they''ll get traffic as far as people just wanting to see the place...

But if they are looking for their L-A club kids to hop on board, are they going to tell them where this place actually IS in relation to the rest of the Strip?

''WTF'' may be the most Tweeted three letters from there for a while...once people find out that the Monorail is their $5 a pop..

Some of the food choices will have me there just to check the place out...surprised they will also have a buffet option...

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