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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Touch of Asia in palatial Palazzo

5 February 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The $1.8 billion Palazzo has not been the average Strip construction project.

When the 3,025-room hotel-casino is completed -- executives from Las Vegas Sands Corp. have set a target date for the end of this year -- the development will include design aspects learned while building the neighboring Venetian and the company's resorts in Macau.

The Palazzo will be connected to the 4,027-room Venetian, but it will not be a mirror image.

"People are going to be surprised when they walk into this building because this property is going to be a lot more interconnected than The Venetian," Las Vegas Sands Executive Vice President Brad Stone said earlier this week during a walking tour of some of the Palazzo's under-construction features.

The Palazzo's planned 50-story hotel tower reached the 36th floor this week while the concrete-encased elevator core stood at 46 stories. Much of the Palazzo's 105,000-square-foot casino area and interior public space is framed out, giving a visitor an idea of the resort's layout.

"It's a huge property, but to the consumer, it will feel very comfortable, and in a way, very intimate," Stone said. "Yet, it will have huge drama."

Five stories above the Strip, Stone showed off the Palazzo's 250,000-square-foot pool deck, which will connect to the adjacent pool deck at The Venetian. The link will allow for a seamless transition between properties. The deck will have multiple pools and spas, an outdoor restaurant and two private villas, of 10,000 and 12,000 square feet.

Elevators from the villas will lead directly into the Palazzo's 5,000-square-foot baccarat pit. The baccarat pit contains, along with several smaller gaming rooms, a walk-up noodle bar.

"A lot of what we're doing appeals to the high-end business out of Southeast Asia," Stone said. "We do a tremendous job of catering to the Asian market and some of the amenities we're building appeals to that audience."

Stone said the Palazzo, with 65,000 tons of steel, is the largest steel construction job in America. Las Vegas Sands locked in a price for the steel before a boom in construction jobs along the Strip and throughout the Southwest sent building material costs soaring.

Las Vegas Sands took other steps to keep building costs in check. Rather than leasing construction cranes for $7.6 million apiece, the casino operator bought three cranes for $5.1 million each, Stone said. Two additional cranes have also been purchased.

"No construction job goes smoothly. You're always ironing out different problems," Stone said. "We did a lot of early buys which have helped. The steel deal was a brilliant move. Construction costs are rising and no one is immune to that. But where you have to keep sharp is how you build and buy in this marketplace."

Stone said Las Vegas Sands is using its purchasing subsidiary out of China to buy much of the Palazzo's building materials and exterior features, such as lighting fixtures. The company also formed its own marble business to handle the property's stonework.

Garrett Byrd, vice president of construction for The Venetian said the company is using between 1,200 and 1,300 construction workers in 24-hour shifts to complete the Palazzo.

Although the Palazzo will top out at 50 floors, that doesn't account for what's beneath the hotel-casino.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. spent 13 months excavating more than 1 million cubic yards of dirt from the 14-acre site near the intersection of the Strip and Sands Avenue. The pit was transformed into a 4,400-space, four-story parking garage, along with the Palazzo's back-of-the house facilities on the fifth floor.

Escalators and elevators take customers from the parking garage directly into the Palazzo's casino.

Building a 50-story hotel-casino atop the underground parking structure makes the Palazzo one of Las Vegas' most distinctive construction projects, Stone said.

"This is a very intense building with a lot of logistical challenges," Stone said. "It's a lot like a Manhattan (New York) construction project. (Clark) County hadn't seen anything like this before."

Stone said construction has begun on the foundation for a planned 270-unit condominium tower, which will be built along the Strip near the Palazzo's main entrance.

The residential tower is planned for atop the 90,000-square-foot building that will house Barneys, a New York-based high-end men's and women's apparel store that is part of the Palazzo's planned 300,000 square feet of retail development.