|By Donald Wittkowski, The Press of
Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 24, 2011--ATLANTIC CITY -- Revel hopes to dazzle its customers well before they hit the slot machines and gaming tables when the stylishly decorated casino opens.
Even the drive up to the valet entrance promises to be memorable. The roadway will run beneath the casino, then rise several levels to deposit guests at a porte cochere, or courtyard entrance, that features oceanside views.
This is just one example of how the $2.4 billion gambling resort will embrace the ocean and beaches when it opens next year. Other Boardwalk casinos are oriented toward the land side of town, turning their backs on the ocean that inspired the city's name.
"The vision was to be a little bit different than what Atlantic City has been in the past," said Robert Andersen, Revel's executive vice president of project development. "The vision was to embrace the ocean and Boardwalk."
Revel Entertainment Group opened its doors to the media Tuesday, offering the first public glimpse inside in more than a year. The tour revealed a cavernous shell, but Revel officials described in great detail what the casino hotel will look like when it welcomes its first customers in mid-2012.
Revel is expected to be the last megaresort built in the slumping Atlantic City market for years to come. Revel itself was in peril until the developers secured $1.15 billion in new financing in February to restart a project that had been stalled by money shortages.
The casino will simply be known by one word: Revel. The company is reluctant to use the term "casino" as an appendage.
"We are not promoting this as a casino," Revel spokeswoman Lisa Johnson said. "It's a lifestyle resort with a casino."
Revel is a play on the word meaning fun. The company plans to entertain its guests by stocking the resort with pools, a spa, 12 restaurants, retail shops, two nightclubs and other attractions found nowhere else in Atlantic City.
One of the most striking features will be a two-acre, landscaped outdoor deck overlooking the ocean. The so-called roofscape will include a man-made "pine grove" of more than 30,000 live trees and plants. Cabanas and fire pits will allow guests to party while soaking up the outdoor decor.
The hotel lobby will be on the same level as the outdoor deck -- six stories above the ocean and also offering panoramic views of the water. Overlooking the lobby will be a three-story, glass-enclosed nightclub.
An atrium-like area, also enclosed in glass, will rise five stories through the middle of the building. It will use escalators to connect the porte cochere, the casino, the meeting rooms and the lobby.
Revel also is building a posh spa on the same level as the lobby, although the two areas will be separated by a wall. An indoor-outdoor pool complete with a waterfall will connect with the spa.
Guests wanting to work on their bodies outside can sunbathe at "Revel Beach," a man-made version of the real coastline just steps away. Part beach, part party zone, the sandy area is planned at the tip of Metropolitan Avenue. As another enhancement to the outside of the property, Revel is rebuilding a section of the Boardwalk directly in front of the casino.
Reflecting the ocean theme, the casino's curvy, glass-cloaked facade appears sculpted by waves. The design by the internationally known Arquitectonica architectural firm is reminiscent of Miami's trendy South Beach resorts.
"The building mirrors the undulation of the ocean itself," Andersen said.
Soaring high above the casino is a 47-story hotel tower that tops out at 710 feet, dwarfing anything on the Atlantic City skyline. Revel originally planned to open 1,900 rooms in the sleek tower but has scaled back to 1,090 to save on construction costs. Andersen said Revel has the ability to expand to 1,900 rooms if there is demand.
The outside of the building will be illuminated in decorative lighting that Andersen described as "spectacular." Another distinctive part of Revel is the hotel tower's angled roof, a feature that drew the attention of Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn during a visit to Atlantic City last year.
Revel's anchor will be its 150,000-square-foot casino floor. That size will put Revel in the top tier of Atlantic City's casino hotels. Only Harrah's Resort and Bally's Atlantic City will have more gaming space than Revel. Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort's gaming space is comparable to Revel's, New Jersey Casino Control Commission statistics show.
Restaurants will ring Revel's casino floor. A two-level circular bar will dominate the middle of the casino. When asked about the theme of the bar, Andersen smiled and replied, "fun." There also will be a nightclub on the casino level.
Revel's heavy emphasis on entertainment is embodied by a 5,800-seat arena. A 1,000-seat theater also is planned for smaller shows. The large arena's retractable seating will allow Revel to create meeting space and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom when there are no shows taking place, Andersen said.
The casino hotel hopes its upscale surroundings and array of nongaming attractions will lure conventions as well as the well-heeled customers who currently favor Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the city's most luxurious gaming hall. Borgata has launched a $50 million renovation project to freshen up its 2,000-room hotel tower in anticipation of Revel's grand opening.
Although the gaming industry is counting on Revel to boost the struggling market by attracting new customers, some analysts predict the megaresort will simply steal business from the existing casinos.
"Revel casino will mostly cannibalize existing operators," Andrew Zarnett, managing director of Deutsche Bank Securities, wrote in a newly released casino research report. "While Revel as a standalone property will be impressive and drive strong visitation, we are fearful that most of that traffic will come from other Atlantic City casinos."
For the time being, Revel has helped to stimulate the local economy by creating jobs for nearly 2,000 construction workers. The work force is expected to peak at 2,500 as construction progresses. The South Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council estimates that the unemployment rate for local trade unions has dropped from about 40 percent to about 15 percent since Revel resumed full-scale construction in early March.
"We want to thank Revel a hundred times over for bringing this project back," said Will Pauls, the council's president.
Casinos by the numbers
Developer: Revel Entertainment Group LLC
Cost: $2.4 billion
Grand opening: Second quarter 2012
Casino space: 150,000 square feet
Hotel rooms: 1,090
Retail space: 75,000 square feet
Parking garage: 7,800 spaces
Event centers: 5,800-seat arena and 1,000-seat theater
Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort
Casino space: 75,416 square feet
Hotel rooms: 809
Retail shops: One
Bally's Atlantic City
Casino space: 167,209 square feet
Hotel rooms: 1,705
Retail shops: Six
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
Casino space: 136,667 square feet
Hotel rooms: 2,769
Retail shops: 13
Caesars Atlantic City
Casino space: 111,201 square feet
Hotel rooms: 1,141
Retail shops: 63
Casino space: 177,001 square feet
Hotel rooms: 2,590
Retail shops: Nine
Resorts Casino Hotel
Casino space: 99,030 square feet
Hotel rooms: 942
Retail shops: Two
Showboat Casino Hotel
Casino space: 122,454 square feet
Hotel rooms: 1,331
Retail shops: Two
Tropicana Casino and Resort
Casino space: 138,130 square feet
Hotel rooms: 2,129
Retail shops: 26
Trump Marina Hotel Casino
Casino space: 78,535 square feet
Hotel rooms: 728
Retail shops: Four
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino
Casino space: 86,923 square feet
Hotel rooms: 906
Retail shops: Three
Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort
Casino space: 149,445 square feet
Hotel rooms: 2,010
Retail shops: Six
Sources: Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey Casino Control Commission
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.
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