A warm welcome is one thing that never gets old. Everybody likes to feel special.
When you set foot inside the new Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, the employees will make you feel like you’re their prime focus. A big shot. The guest extraordinaire.
Smiles are always in full force. From cheerful greetings and doors held open to kindly offers of assistance, there’s not a doubt in your mind: They like you. And they really want you here.
“When you walk in, you can see we’re not the newest hotel in Las Vegas, but we’re definitely the friendliest,” said David Siegel, founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, the world’s largest privately owned timeshare company.
On June 30, Westgate Resorts announced the acquisition of the LVH – Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, and the next day it began operations as the Westgate Las Vegas. Located on Paradise Road, about a block east of the Strip and adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center, the LVH isn’t just being rebranded, it’s being completely remade.
“There’s a million parts to this property, and we’re not going to leave anything untouched,” said Siegel.
Only a month in and it’s obvious he’s living up to his promise. A table with free lemonade is set up near the front desk. Employees, now wearing black vests or shirts emblazoned with Westgate’s gold logo, are like ambassadors spreading hospitality. Much of the signage at the resort has been replaced. And the marquee (the tallest freestanding sign in the world) was stripped of the L-V-H. It stands waiting for new letters to be raised that spell out Westgate. Each letter will measure 20 feet and 1 inch in height.
“People ask me ‘What’s the 1 inch for?’ Well, Trump’s letters are 20 feet even, and we wanted ours to be bigger than his,” said Siegel with a laugh. “So we out-Trumped Trump.”
Though simple on the surface, these changes are the tip of the iceberg. Siegel has a full slate of renovations and improvements in store for the Westgate Las Vegas.
Naturally, remodeling the rooms is a priority, and the spa will also be overhauled. The hotel is home to the largest race and sports book in Las Vegas, the SuperBook, and Siegel intends to make it the best in the world. He’s already ordered the new TVs. There’ll be new slots on the casino floor as well.
“I’ve got a yellow legal pad with me, and there are about 40 pages of things that we have to do on it,” said Siegel. “We’re just doing them and crossing them off.”
Long-term plans will have visitors partying at a new dayclub and nightclub in the Westgate Las Vegas. Edge Steakhouse, established at the Westgate Park City Resort & Spa, and Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, another popular joint in Westgate Resorts’ portfolio, will open. There will also be new Italian and Mexican restaurants. Siegel intends to move the existing coffee shop and transform it into Sid’s, named for his dad.
“My father and my mother came to Las Vegas about twice a month for over 50 years. They actually got married and spent their 50th anniversary here,” said Siegel. “[Their anniversary] was a great event. Bill Briare, the mayor at the time, gave them the key to the city, and the Las Vegas Sun printed a full-page photo of my parents in the newspaper’s Dec. 31, 1980 edition. All the casino owners had signed the bottom of that picture wishing them happiness.”
With his longtime connection and love for the city, Siegel seems like the perfect person to revive the faded glory of the LVH. Known as the Las Vegas Hilton from 1971 to 2012, it originally opened as the International Hotel in 1969 and was the largest hotel and casino in the world.
“I stayed there in 1970, when it was less than a year old. I’d come with my parents as my dad got everything comped,” said Siegel. “Ironically, I couldn’t afford it then, but now almost 45 years later I’ve bought the hotel.”
Barbra Streisand headlined the International Hotel’s grand opening festivities, and Elvis Presley came soon after. He went on to perform regular engagements there for seven years, cementing the property’s iconic status with a total of 837 consecutive sold-out shows, rocking more than 2.5 million people.
Siegel saw Presley perform about 15 times over the years, so it’s no surprise that he had the life-size bronze statue of The King, which stood outside the main entrance, moved to a prominent spot in the lobby.
Elvis will continue to play a big role at the Westgate Las Vegas, according to Siegel. Not only does the resort display a collection of authentic memorabilia from The King’s Ransom Museum, but it also features Trent Carlini, one of the best Elvis tribute artists around, in the Shimmer Cabaret.
There are a few other things at the Westgate Las Vegas that Siegel plans to retain – like the Sky Villas. It’s not surprising that the man who owns America’s largest family home, nicknamed the “Palace of Versailles,” would appreciate the allure of these three “palaces in the sky,” which span between 12,600 and 15,400 square feet. In addition to Elvis, the Sky Villas have housed many of the legendary stars who performed at the resort including Liberace, Barry Manilow and Wayne Newton.
Siegel loves the location of the Westgate Las Vegas. While it isn’t on the Strip, it’s accessible to Wynn Las Vegas, Encore and other major hotels. With SLS Las Vegas debuting next month, the Las Vegas Convention Center embarking on a $2.5 billion expansion and Genting Group preparing to start construction on Resorts World Las Vegas, “a lot of great things are going on over here,” he said. “This area of Las Vegas is becoming the new epicenter.”
Though the Westgate Las Vegas is part of Westgate Resorts’ family of 28 timeshare resorts in 11 states, Siegel says it “will always be a hotel.” Only a small part of the inventory – about 200 rooms – is being tapped for timeshare sales at this time. You will never have to be an owner to stay at the Westgate Las Vegas, but you’ll still reap the rewards of Westgate Resorts’ philosophy.
“We believe that everyone should be treated like a high roller,” said Siegel. “Regardless of what you pay for your room or who you are, we’re going to make you feel special. And we’ve already started doing that.”