Las Vegas’ Palms resort to reopen night before NFL draft

Cynthia Kiser Murphey, general manager of the Palms, outside the casino in Las Vegas, Monday, A ...

The doors of the off-Strip Palms resort will reopen the evening of April 27, and the new owners, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, started taking reservations on Monday for hotel stays beginning April 28.

The 766-room property, which has some high-end suites with bowling lanes and basketball courts, has been shuttered since March 17, 2020, when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all resorts in Nevada closed as a measure to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

A fireworks celebration will take place on opening night. Tribal members also plan a ceremonial observance at the opening.

“We look forward to introducing our guests to our rich history, culture and signature hospitality,” said San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority Chairwoman Latisha Casas. “We can’t wait to make history together.”

Ownership changed hands

When it closed, the Palms was owned and operated by Red Rock Resorts subsidiary Station Casinos Inc., but in May it sold the resort to the tribe for $650 million.

In September, the tribe announced the hiring of longtime MGM Resorts International executive Cynthia Kiser Murphey as general manager. Nevada’s gaming regulators approved licensing for the tribe and executives in December.

Since then, Murphey has been working to hire staff to prepare for a spring opening.

In an interview with the Review-Journal, Murphey said it was coincidental that the property is opening just before one of the biggest special events in Las Vegas history — the 2022 National Football League Draft. The Palms is just up the block from the center of the major draft events.

“We know it’s more challenging to open when it’s really, really busy,” Murphey said. “I think the most important thing for us was to get people back to work. We balanced knowing that the draft was going to be in town against the idea that we really needed to get open.”

Having undergone more than a $600 million renovation in 2019, the Palms reopens with a diverse mix of bars and restaurants, featuring the return of Scotch 80 Prime and Mabel’s BBQ by Chef Michael Symon.

Casual dining options will include Send Noodles and the debut of Serrano Vista Cafe.

Big pool area

The resort will offer guests a pool area featuring a multilevel, sprawling 73,000-square-foot space offering two main pools and 39 unique cabanas, most with their own private pool. The space also features oversized daybeds and poolside lounge chairs. Additional information regarding spa, food and beverage, entertainment, pool and nightlife offerings will be announced later.

When the property opens later this month it will become the first Las Vegas resort fully operated by a tribal enterprise. The casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is operated by the Mohegan Sun Tribe of Connecticut, but other services are overseen by different entities.

The San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority, a government offshoot of the tribe, runs the casino enterprise, which includes Palms as well as one of the nation’s largest casino-resorts, the Yaamava’, in Highland, California.

The tribe’s database of customers is expected to be tapped to draw players from Southern California.

But Murphey said the Palms will continue its hybrid model of marketing, catering both to Southern Nevada residents as well as Southern Californians wanting a Vegas experience.

“I know the database is an important business metric and business tool, but I think our team is focused on creating a welcoming presence because they’ve got a lot of relationships with Yaamava’. They have a long track record of being a very successful property,” Murphey said. “The tribe’s culture is founded on creating opportunities and pursuing what’s right for future generations and honoring past generations. It really creates long-range thinking and tribal members are talented, thoughtful, successful and humble, which is a beautiful combination.”

More than 900 hired

More than 900 workers have been hired at the property, and employees had their first day of orientation Monday. Murphey said many of the employees came back after the two-year closure, including more than 90 percent of the catering staff aboard when the resort closed.

Among the new employees will be several interns from UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. The tribe donated $15 million to the College of Hospitality and the William S. Boyd School of Law. Education is one of the tribe’s key philanthropic pillars.

Not everything at the resort will be open April 27. Murphey said the Ghostbar nightclub and the 14-screen Brenden Theatres will open at a later date. When the theaters open, they’ll have graffiti art on walls, new stadium seating and refreshed floors.

Surface parking and two parking garages will continue to be free.

Positive marks

Analysts say they’re expecting Palms to be successful under its new management.

Josh Swissman, founding partner of the Las Vegas-based Strategy Organization who once worked with Murphey when they both were at MGM, said her experience at New York-New York should serve her well at the Palms.

“In many ways, she’s been through this battle before,” Swissman said. “She’s worked and led at a property that’s gone through some major repositioning efforts. I think all of that historical perspective will serve her well.

“On top of that, as she grew in her career, she came through the human resources ranks which will help employee relations,” he said. “Take that with the fact that she is a genuinely nice person that cares about the people who work for her as well as with the overall philosophy of family that the San Manuel tribe embraces. And she obviously knows the Vegas market.”

‘Dream job of a lifetime’

Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at the Harrah College of Hospitality, said the reopening of the Palms will be significant because of its iconic past, but she expects the property will have to modify its vibe.

“It will remain to be seen if the Palms itself is still enough of a draw for consumers,” she said. “As a storied property, there will definitely be an interest in seeing what has been done to the property, especially by locals, but they will have to create a new identity for the property in order to be successful. It is no longer the hot spot of the early 2000s nor a Station casino, so the specific branding will be key in a successful reopening.”

Murphey can hardly wait to show off the property.

“For me, it’s a dream job of a lifetime,” she said. “To work for the amazing people (of the tribe), it’s really an honor. And the property is so beautiful.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.