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Best of Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz

Starting With a Sting

19 April 2006

Growing up in Las Vegas, the Fertitta brothers remember casino openings as grandiose events.

On Tuesday night, when Station Casinos unveiled its $925 million Red Rock Resort, the Fertittas didn't want to disappoint their 3,800 special guests.

Highlighted by a six-minute fireworks display above the hotel tower and an hour-long poolside concert by Grammy Award-winning rock star Sting, Red Rock Resort let Summerlin know it was in the neighborhood.

"We wanted something memorable, and I think Sting helps give us a memorable opening night," said Lorenzo Fertitta, Station Casino's president.

Before Red Rock Resort opened to customers just before midnight, invited guests sampled fare from the casino's nine sit-down restaurants and separate food court outlets. Also, the 25 open bars around the casino poured free glasses of Dom Perignon champagne and wine from the Ferrari-Carano winery, which is owned by Northern Nevada's Carano family.

"There is no better way to show our guests a memorable night than to pull out all the stops," said Station Casinos Chairman Frank Fertitta III.

Lorenzo Fertitta said a mutual friend knew Sting and the brother approached him with the idea of opening the resort with an outdoor concert. The secret remained hidden until mid-afternoon when the brothers told a CNBC interviewer about the performance. By midday, security personnel, employees and star-struck VIP guests were buzzing about Sting's appearance. Station Casinos Director of Corporate Communications Lori Nelson rode up the elevator with Sting.

Sting, former front man for The Police in the 1980s, performed some of his award-winning solo songs from his albums Dream of Blue Turtles and Brand New Day, as well as a few of his Police numbers for the appreciative crowd.

The VIP guests crowded into the three-acre pool area for the Sting concert. Frank Fertitta introduced Sting after thanking all those who took part in the development, construction and opening of Red Rock Resort.

Lifeguards surrounded the pool to make sure partying guests didn't take an impromptu swim.

Many guests grabbed the coveted circular and canopied chaise lounges for the performance.

Sting opened with the Police staple "Message in a Bottle," and performed other favorites, such as "King of Pain" and "Synchronicity II."

He also performed the Beatle's song, "A Day in The Life."

Officials from many rival casino companies attended the opening, as did executives from many of the Station Casino resorts.

Joe Hasson, general manager of Green Valley Ranch Resort, said his new sister property has set the bar for the rest of the market.

"This is a spectacular and stunning property, and Red Rock Resort marks the next generation for the gaming industry," Hasson said.

The VIP party sparked comments by both invited guests and Red Rock Resort employees.

"We're ready. We've been training for weeks and we're ready to have fun," said Jenn Potter, a bartender in the race and sports book lounge. "We've had some play days but I'm looking forward to seeing all our customers."

Jeremy Crouse, a food server in T-bones Chophouse, planned to see some of Sting's performance from the restaurant's outdoor patio area.

"This is classy," he said of the Dom Perignon champagne. "That stuff is $75 a glass. I don't know of any other casino openings doing this. What a great night."

Casino floor supervisor Pete Eghoian was ready for the midnight opening. Having spent 21 years with Harrah's Lake Tahoe, he was often called upon to help out with casino openings for the company's Midwest riverboats. Red Rock Resort, he said, tops them all.

"I really believe this is the nicest hotel-casino around, and I've seen a lot of them," he said.

Inside the Salt Lick barbecue restaurant, food servers, managers and staff posed for a group photo before the influx of customers.

General Manager Alan Badis said the staff had been together since March 20 readying for opening night.

In the lobby lounge, former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan was greeting friends. As governor in mid-1980s, he took part in the unveiling of Summerlin by the Howard Hughes Corp. He remembers when the Summerlin acreage was referred to as the "Husite."

"We never knew what would be found out here," Bryan said. "Sixty years ago, this was the end of the world."

As a Boy Scout, Bryan recalled that his troop used to camp out overnight near the Red Rock Recreation Area. He said the 70-acre location for Red Rock Resort in Summerlin's 1,300-acre master-planned Summerlin Centre near I-215 Beltway and Charleston Boulevard was probably one of the troop's overnight hangouts.

"This really is spectacular," Bryan said, gazing at the nearly $1 billion locals property.

In addition to its restaurants, Red Rock Resort opened with 415 hotel rooms -- another 435 are expected to open by December -- and an 87,000-square-foot casino with 3,000 slot machines, 62 gaming tables, a poker room, a race and sports book, and a bingo room.