The Acme Widget Corp. will hold its semi-annual mini-convention at a hotel in Las Vegas, with lots of conferences, including one on widget sales in the Far East.
But instead of being held in Meeting Room A, the Far East sales panel will take place poolside, amid sparkling waters, lush landscapes—and, of course, a bar.
In the past, the resort pool was just a place to swim, catch some rays and imbibe a margarita or three. The attractions have evolved into premium social hangouts, nightclubs with A-list DJs, and day clubs with private cabanas, private massages and other amenities to pamper resort guests.
Testing the Waters
In 2003, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas introduced its Rehab Pool Party and put the cement pond center-stage—almost by accident.
“Rehab started as a one-day event for the local club and entertainment employees,” says Joe Bravo, director of nightlife/day life at Hard Rock. “Very quickly it became the best party in town. The innovation and craziness of the party became legendary with a reality show, and from there it evolved into a multimillion-dollar industry and the Greatest Pool Party in the World. There are very few venues in the history of this country that can say they spawned an industry.”
Rehab offers visitors the opportunity “to let loose and be silly. We give them the space to do so. That will never change. This is why pool clubs are usually crazier than nightclubs,” says Bravo.
The pool became a primary focus not just in Las Vegas but in Atlantic City, California, Florida and elsewhere.
“The key is social interaction,” says Andrew Kreft, director of design for Lifescapes International. “Everyone wants to be part of the mix in some way; the pool area becomes the focal point in the center of it all. “ Pools also promote a longer stay, he adds.
Such grand amenities speak to the proliferation—and importance—of non-gaming attractions in the casino resort. According to David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, only 4 percent of visitors to Las Vegas last year said they came primarily to gamble. And 31 percent, the highest proportion in history, didn’t hit the tables at all.
“Pools and, in the bigger picture, health, beauty and fitness facilities, are valuable amenities,” Schwartz says. “They’re relatively not labor-intensive and are usually good investments for casinos. By paying a DJ, casinos can charge a cover and sell expensive drinks, thus making money from square footage that in the past was merely an amenity for guests.”
In the Swim
Pools are “a reflection of the style and mood of the properties they’re on,” says Kreft. Red Rock Casino Resort, for example, embodies the desert that surrounds Las Vegas, and the pool area also captures that feeling.
“We designed a palette of drought-tolerant materials that reflected the desert motif and provided lushness, while being water-sensitive,” says Kreft, whose company also created waterscapes for Wynn, Encore and many other resorts. “Wynn and Encore were devoted to gardens and required more of a verdant, bountiful appearance.”
The monetized elements affect the placement of bars, lighting and sound equipment. Red Rock required mobile cabanas which can be removed for concerts and events. “After Encore opened, the west porte cochere was removed to make way for Encore Beach Club, which was designed for decadence and enjoyment,” Kreft adds.
Both Wynn and Encore offer temperature-controlled pools surrounded by gardens. Guests can reserve a private cabana complete with mini-fridge, plasma TV, plush chairs and sofas. “The secluded, adults-only, 21-and-older European pools are an ideal retreat,” says Yentl Lieuw, spokeswoman for Wynn Las Vegas.
Named as one of the top 3 pool complexes in Las Vegas by Travel + Leisure, the three-tiered Encore Beach Club is a day club that also offers night-swim events. Named 2017’s Las Vegas Day Club of the Year by the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association, the club is home to artists like David Guetta, Diplo, Alesso, Major Lazer and the Chainsmokers. It features 26 cabanas, each stocked with a refrigerator, flat-screen TV and a plush daybed. Eight bungalows offer private bathrooms, an infinity dipping pool, a cooling system, a view of the Las Vegas Strip from a private balcony and an oasis-like pool scene.
Casino resorts often use the pool area as an extension of the action indoors, Kreft says. “At XS Nightclub in Encore, the walls open up, blurring the line between inside and out, so you can enjoy the dance floor in the interior or let the party spill out to the luxury cabanas around the pool.”
Most pool settings feature standard elements such as long poolside perimeters to allow as many people to gather as possible, as well as cabanas, daybeds and bars that accommodate shifting functions from day to night. Many resorts also offer at least one heated, year-round outdoor pool. Encore Beach Club has six pools set year-round at 82 degrees, says Lieuw.
However, the use of the pool area as a whole is more difficult in the cooler months, even in Las Vegas, Kreft adds. “In order to keep revenue streams available, you’re seeing more properties come up with winter activities, such as temporary ice rinks or seasonally tenting over or enclosing parts of the pool area to give them what could be year-round weatherized use.”
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in southern Florida welcomes guests to the day life experience at a 4.5-acre lagoon-style heated pool retreat. Amenities include lounging at a private cabana, taking a dip in the pool or sipping signature cocktails at the Beach Club. Jacuzzis too.
At Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California, Lifescapes took a different approach, adding family activities around the pool, integrating splash pads, slides, beach entries, bocce and horseshoes, as well as a nearby event lawn for private functions, concerts, fitness classes and the like. The complex, set to open in 2018, will measure 100 feet longer than the height of the Empire State Building. There will be three primary pools, one with a family lagoon.
“We’ll have several swim-up bars, a pool bar and grill, food and drink service, cabanas available for rental and other activities,” says Patrick Murphy, head of the Pechanga Development Corp. “Native plants and lush landscaping will be woven through and surround the spacious area.”
The pools will be heated to accommodate cooler weather. “The pool complex will become an integral part of Pechanga because it and the luxury 25,000-square-foot spa will give guests the full-service resort experience at another level,” Murphy says. “Day and night usage is currently in the planning stages.”
Back in Atlantic City, Borgata’s outdoor pool is open only for the summer months. For those 21 and over, it offers daybeds and cabanas surrounding a 3,200-square-foot Roman-style pool. Guests can feast on a menu created by Borgata Executive Chef Tom Biglan.
VIP cabanas provide canopy coverage and comfortable furnishings with space for up to 10 people. Each includes a refrigerator stocked with non-alcoholic beverages, hydrating water spritzers, sunscreen and a complimentary frozen fruit tray. The pool grew out of the success of the indoor pools at the Water Club hotel, says Liza Costandino, Borgata’s director of communications.
“As an all-encompassing, Las Vegas-style property, it’s important to create an experience unlike anything else on the East Coast,” Costandino says. “The outdoor pool adds a lavish yet comfortable setting to our open-air space, especially coupled with the Borgata Beer Garden, which features live music and games.”
The Pool at Harrah’s is a different story—and was a game changer in Atlantic City when it opened in 2007. The cavernous area features a 90-foot-high glass dome and 82,000-gallon pool with lush foliage. By day, guests can lounge in private hot tubs and even order up a poolside massage. But at 10 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, it becomes the Pool after Dark, one of the city’s most popular nightclubs with a revolving cast of reality TV stars and entertainers such as Amber Rose, 50 Cent, Jesse McCartney, assorted Kardashians and Hiltons, and resident DJ Pauly D of Jersey Shore fame.
“We’ve added a new stage area to host performances by today’s hottest artists; a new, elevated DJ booth with an LED video wall as its focal point; and an updated sound system,” says Noel Stevenson, spokeswoman for Caesars Entertainment in Atlantic City, which owns Harrah’s.
In 2009, Harrah’s added the Loft, a $1 million upper-level gaming area where guests can play blackjack or roulette while looking out at the party. Harrah’s just redesigned the Loft, upgrading the cabanas, daybeds and lounge furniture and revising the open floor plan. “All Jacuzzis will be refreshed, as well as the venue’s main pool, the centerpiece of the nightlife experience,” Stevenson says.
Casinos will continue to cater to VIPs with private pools and spas, cabanas, and gardens—whatever their guests need or want, to the limits of imagination, Kreft says. “We’re designing day clubs and nightclubs that cater to outside guests, too, with all the recreation, cabanas, VIP treatment, etc., that one would expect from a full-service resort without ever staying at the hotel.
“Flexibility, climate control and exclusivity will define the well-designed environments of the future, which means a potential for greater use, day to night and all throughout the year.”
Adds Bravo, “The great thing about the competition in Las Vegas is that it forces you to stay on your toes and to innovate. We’re consistently looking for those opportunities.”
Sea of Tranquility
Think of the spa as the shy, reserved cousin of the pool: just as vital to the resort experience, but less visible. The pool is the place to party and frolic. The spa is sedate and serene, a retreat where guests can relax in a Jacuzzi, enjoy a facial or spend a few minutes in the steam room.
Both Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas offer Jacuzzi spas by their pools. “Additionally, our spas offer guests poolside spa services. Guests can enjoy a massage in the comfort of their room or suite or in a private poolside cabana,” says Wynn spokeswoman Yentl Lieuw.
The spa at Harrah’s Resort Southern California is so important to the resort experience that it’s almost quadrupled in size, from 3,000 square feet to 11,000 square feet. The new spa offers 15 treatment rooms, salt baths, a barbershop and salon. According to a statement from the company, it’s a “casual yet elevated” space providing “ultimate relaxation in true laid-back Southern California style.”
Meanwhile, the Pechanga Resort in Temecula, California has added a new 4.5-acre pool complex as part of a massive $285 million expansion project. The attraction features no less than eight pools and five spas, including a two-story, 24,000-square-foot spa with 17 treatment rooms and a salon.
Borgata in Atlantic City offers massages daily at its outdoor pool, says Jennifer Aarons, director of spa operations for Spa Toccare and Immersion Spa at the Water Club. The Indoor Pool & Gardens at Spa Toccare offers not just a pool but two whirlpools and a tree-lined outdoor garden area for lounging. “At Immersion Spa, customers have exclusive use of our lap pool, which is located 32 stories high” with amazing views, says Aarons.
By definition, there’s a limit when it comes to commingling pools and spas, says Joe Bravo, director of nightlife/day life at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Vegas.
“We’re fortunate to have a huge 5.5-acre pool complex with the most beautiful pools in the country, offering something for everyone. While we do poolside massages, Rehab isn’t really a ‘spa’ atmosphere,’” he says.
“The Nirvana pool is perfect for a spa day, but Rehab is why you need a spa day in the first place.”