Renovating the Venetian

With the Sands Corporation set to open the $2 billion Palazzo in Las Vegas by the end of the year, and hoping it will quickly become the hottest property on the strip, it is taking steps to assure that its already-open The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino doesn't get overshadowed.  The Venetian offers plenty of entertainment options

"Las Vegas is probably the only place in the world where a property just eight years old runs the risk of being seen as out of date," Robert Goldstein, president and chief operating officer of the Venetian said while discussing the $100 million renovation his property is undergoing. "We're working very hard to make sure that does not happen."

From TaoBeach on the roof to a new restaurant by the acclaimed Mario Batali and new flat-screen televisions in the bathrooms of the property's suites, the Venetian has been getting a makeover.

"We keep adding to the equation," Goldstein says. "It's a never-ending quest to figure out how we can best meet the needs of as wide a range of people as possible. If we do something for one demographic, we try to then do something for another. I like old people, young people, rich and not so rich. If they're out there and they're looking for a place to stay, I'd like them to stay here."

The centerpiece of the renovation is the Venetian's 3,014 suites—all units not part of the VeneziaTowers, the Venetian's "hotel within a hotel."

The suites are getting top-to-bottom makeovers, which feature new carpets, new furniture and new fixtures.

"The Venetian is one of the most luxurious properties in Las Vegas," says Goldstein. "This renovation places us ahead of the curve. These suites set the standard for luxury hotel accommodations."

The in-suite changes range from the technological (three plasma TVs, including one in the bathroom, DVD player, remote control Roman shades and wireless Internet connections) to the bed (Sealy pillow-top mattress with five comfort levels, Egyptian cotton bed linens made by Anichini and a soft angora wool throw from Maxwell Rodgers) to the bathroom (bath sheets by Sobella and fresh cut flowers).

Outside the suites, everything from dining to entertaining and shopping have been undergoing renovations and upgrades as the hotel has been working with all of its partners to enhance every experience for the visitor.

Mario Batali and his culinary partner Joe Bastianich have opened two restaurants: B & B Ristorante and Enoteca San Marco. B & B, which is just off the casino floor, is the more upscale of the two and is more reminiscent of their acclaimed Del Posto and Babbo restaurants in Manhattan, with a wine list representing every region of Italy and a selection of exquisite Italian food. Upstairs at

St Mark's Square
is Enoteca, presenting more casual fare such as its selection of homemade salamis.

The Gordie Brown production at The Venetian

And if your client is not looking for Italian, but rather something more American with a special twist, New York's legendary David Burke has opened his first restaurant west of Chicago at the Venetian.

"We want to give people a special dining experience," Burke told Travel Agent on the night of the restaurant's opening. "Whether they're looking for salad or seafood, we promise they will not be disappointed."

Phantom—The Las Vegas Spectacular at the Venetian

And to make sure of that, Burke has made a menu that he says is filled with what he calls his "greatest hits," including his famous cheesecake lollipop tree and angry lobster cocktail.

One of the most striking features of the restaurant is its use of pink Himalayan rock salt, which he uses for the walls of the restaurant's main entrance and as part of the bar. "It's a place to rest the fish, as well as very beautiful," Burke says of the bricks.

The Venetian now has seven James Beard award-winning chefs cooking under their roof, with Batali being the latest.

After dinner, visitors can check out entertainer Gordie Brown at the newly built Venetian Showroom. It is here that Brown, who has entertained around the world, decided to settle in with his five-piece band. Every night he puts on a fast-moving show mixing music and comedy.

Even more spectacular is the Venetian's newest theater extravaganza, Phantom—The Las Vegas Spectacular. Trimmed down to 90 minutes, this production—directed by Broadway's acclaimed Harold Prince—is in a custom-built, $40 million theater, which is complete with a collapsing chandelier.

Atop of the Venetian is a perfect example of the hotel working with one of its partners to provide something better for the visitor: the famous Tao Nightclub and Lounge is expanding to open a full European-style beach club complete with cabanas with plasma TVs and DVD players, as well as waiter service to cater to your almost every need.

"It's all about creating the feeling of a night at Tao," says a spokesman for the club, "except that this will be during the day. It will still have the same feeling of wonderfulness that people experience at night."

Recognizing that they will be catering to a nighttime crowd during the day, the 18,000-square-foot Beach Club's cabanas will be well stocked with things such as Orangina and a variety of hangover remedies.

When your client has had all the gambling, eating, drinking, entertaining and shopping one person can take, there is always the Canyon Ranch Spa, which is being doubled in size.

Overall, Goldstein says, even with the Palazzo opening up, the Venetian not only has not lost any of its luster, it's become better.

"When we started the Palazzo, we realized we needed to update the Venetian, and that's where the $100 million renovation came from," says Goldstein. "The irony is that by updating the Venetian, we then had to go back to the drawing board on the Palazzo and make that even better."