Why Circa’s Derek Stevens Says He’s Happy with Fremont Street
LAS VEGAS – I stayed at the Westgate this year for the Global Gaming Expo (G2E), and doing so helped give me a better appreciation of Circa Resort and Casino.
Not that my experience at the Westgate was bad. It wasn’t. Rather, the view from my room allowed me to see the north end of the Strip and Downtown Vegas. And that view really allows you to see just how much the 35-story resort developed by Derek Stevens stands out.
So, it wasn’t a surprise when it was announced at the conference that Circa won the North American Property of the Year Award at this year’s Global Gaming Awards. It marked the second straight year for the Downtown property to claim the honor.
I spoke with Stevens at G2E the day after the announcement about Circa and Las Vegas. This is the second part of the interview. If you missed part one, you can find that here.
Casino.org edited Stevens’ responses for length.
Congratulations on winning the North American Property of the Year Award. What does that mean for you, and what does that mean for the casino?
Derek Stevens: “Well, I can really tell you, when things go well, I get a little undue benefit. So, really, it’s a testament to our team that worked on developing the property, and then our team and everybody working on it. I was pretty proud, on behalf of our team, that we get to celebrate this. It’s pretty cool to do this two years in a row.”
I can see Circa from where I’m staying, and from that far away, you really see how big it is and how it stands out. Was that what you wanted when you initially envisioned Circa?
DS: “Well, I wouldn’t say necessarily that. Obviously, people know that I love Vegas. I love downtown Vegas, love Fremont Street. And when we had an opportunity to put this assemblage together – that originally was the Vegas Club and Mermaids and the Glitter Gulch and a handful of other buildings – you got to take the hand that’s dealt to you.
“We were fortunate enough we were able to put the city block together, and then when you did put the city block together, just like you have in a lot of cities, you got to go up. So, that’s kind of how it played out. We feel very fortunate that we were able to put this real estate together. The real estate is one thing, but then putting the design and having the team ready to go, that was pretty exciting for me.
DS: “We got a couple of couple big ones for us right now. We’ve got the beginning of phase two of Circa, which is our ballroom and meeting space. That really just opened in the last couple of weeks. And then we’ve gotten a significant expansion of the second floor at the D, which basically doubles the size of BarCanada and our sports book, sports bar area. Brand new 24-hour restaurant going in, we think is really going to enhance the property.
For us, other than the year Circa opened, 2022 is the year we spent more capital investment than any time in my career here. We’re pretty excited about being able to operate and run these new venues here as we go towards 2023 and beyond.”
If you had an opportunity, would you look to have a presence here on the Strip?
DS: “I think one thing people got to remember is that, when people ask me the question of ‘Hey, what’s the difference between Downtown versus the Strip?’ I would just say Downtown and the Strip are complimentary. When people ask me, ‘What’s the difference between a Strip customer and a Downtown customer?’ I say, 40 million people visit Las Vegas, 23 million people visit Downtown Las Vegas. So, who is the Downtown customer? I just say the answer is it’s the Las Vegas customer.
When you’re hitting 60% of everyone coming through Vegas, it’s basically a little bit of everybody. I would say the biggest difference between the strip and downtown is downtown’s got 6,000 hotel rooms, and the Strip has 150,000 hotel rooms. Maybe a little bit of a different business model. The importance of getting heads and beds, where downtown maybe it’s a little less of a concern…
Is that where the wow factor comes into play for Circa in order to get them from the Strip, even for a little bit?
DS: “Yeah, whether it’s from the Strip or whether it’s from Airbnb, VRBO, or wherever. We try to provide some pretty great experiences.
“I’m real happy with Fremont Street. I’m pretty comfortable down there. I know where my bar seats are, so I kind of know where to go.”
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