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Rod Smith
 

Nevadan at Work: Executive Glad to Play Role in Helping The Mirage Reinvent Itself

23 May 2006

Talk about quality "digs."

Franz Kallao, vice president of hotel operations at The Mirage, works out of Elaine Wynn's old office, the one she used when her developer husband, Steve Wynn, owned the hotel-casino.

Elaine was famous, some say notorious, for helping to run her husband's entertainment venues, his charitable endeavors and his social life. But that's far from what Kallao is about today.

Kallao is a hard-nosed businessman with a mission. He inherited a strong work ethic from his family.

He's probably a workaholic, except he cherishes vacation time off -- whether he spends it in Banff, Alberta, or at the beaches of California.

It's Kallao's job not only to boost profits by constantly enhancing hotel operations, but to get the first raft of new amenities since the hotel opened in 1989 ready before a new show based on Beatles tunes opens in the old Siegfried and Roy theater later this year.

The new amenities, which include restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops, are geared to dovetail with the Cirque du Soleil show "Love."

Kallao is taking possibly the biggest name in entertainment and turning out a contemporaneous act around it.

If the show meets the expectations of holding company MGM Mirage, Kallao will have helped recreate entertainment on the Strip, much as Wynn did 17 years ago with Siegfried and Roy.

If it fizzles, well, he always has Elaine's old office to enjoy.

Question: What does the vice president of hotel operations do?

Answer: I do a lot of different functions. Every department and employee that the guest arrival and departure experience hits falls under my umbrella.

So do all the key hotel departments, from the arrival out on the driveway to the registration department.

My position also serves, for the lack of a traditional general manager, as general manager for the hotel. ... I also oversee all the entertainment here -- all of our headliners, our relationship with Danny Gans, top comics Jay Leno, Kevin James, Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, David Spade.

We have the best lineup in the city. Then the other is the Secret Garden and dolphin habitat, which is a very interesting, educational area. I learn a lot from those guys.

Question: The Mirage is reinventing itself. How responsible are you for that?

Answer: A lot.

The way we work with our new president, Scott Sebella, is he keeps a real close committee of executives that consult and kind of develop ideas to improve The Mirage, whether that's a new restaurant, whether it's improvements to our spa salon.

There are a lot of projects that we have just done and there's an awful lot that is upcoming.

Question: How do you decide?

Answer: Overall, everybody loved The Mirage, but for Las Vegas, we were getting a little tired. The things that were lacking were night life. We had to step up, to press Caesars (Palace) and Wynn (Las Vegas).

We opened the Jet nightclub New Year's Eve. We remodeled Kokomo's, which has been our signature restaurant since we opened.

Our steak and seafood restaurant opened at the end of December. We also created a restaurant called Fin, a contemporary Chinese restaurant that opened at the end of November.

And at the end of December, we opened Stack, which is a partnership with the Light Group that also operates the nightclub Jet.

All the new gaming areas were done (with) a new high-limit slot area and our new high-limit table games area. It's just a beautiful space with a lot of custom (Dale) Chihuly added to the d├ęcor here.

These gaming spaces are really important to us, and there are only a few casinos that have done this.

This is an area that is very accessible to everyone, but it's an area where a gambler that's playing a higher (stake) per hand can kind of feel like they have their own area.

It's not private because we can't have that, of course, but it is a separate area that has its own feel and ambience.

Question: What do you have coming up?

Answer: We have Japonais, a partnership with a Chinese restaurant operator.

We hope to open late summer this year, Jeffrey Beers is a partner in the restaurant group. It's sushi, very cool and very hip.

Question: Why is it coming together now?

Answer: Most of the other changes were in planning and development when Bill McBeath was president (of The Mirage). Scott has just taken all the projects to get them open before the opening of the new show.

Question: What about the new show?

Answer: The Mirage is one of the greatest brands around. It's synonymous with Las Vegas and we knew we had to do something to replace Siegfried and Roy.

We are just so fortunate and so excited that we got this project, which we feel is going to be a great show. Any production that celebrates the musical legacy of the Beatles has to be great.

We took the old Siegfried and Roy space and completely redid it. Ticket prices will be similar to "O" and "Ka."

Of everything we doing, while I don't want to give preference to anything, but we're so excited about this, obviously.

Question: What's it like to work amid all this change?

Answer: It's exciting. It's like it's bringing the property to life again.

It brings the executives and managers alive. ... It makes everybody feel energized again -- not just the customers, but employees and executives. It's fun again.

Nevadan at Work: Executive Glad to Play Role in Helping The Mirage Reinvent Itself is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.