Inside Rob Oseland
Hard Hat Touring The SLS Las Vegas
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.