The action isn’t just on the casino floor. It’s everywhere, as staff and construction workers transform and re-brand the Isle Casino into the Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi in time for Friday’s grand reveal.
It takes more than paint and new signs to create the resort feel the Golden Nugget is known for, said Bradley Rhines, vice president of marketing.
Every detail must be considered and executed before Friday’s 1 p.m. ribbon-cutting and champagne toast ceremonially open the first phase of the $100 million renovation.
New name tags for all employees? Check. New carpeting? Going down. Remove the “Isle” sign from the hotel roof? That’s scheduled for early this week.
“We’re in transition between the two brands,” Rhines said. It’s not just a makeover of a building but a fresh, young, redeveloped property he said they are creating with the re-branding. “Everything gets touched. Everything gets changed,” he said. What the customers see gets done first.
Walls were removed to create an open concept and flow. From the top of the main staircase, customers can see into the new casino area on the first level.
Morton’s Steakhouse was given a window and a view of the water, with Deer Island visible from one end of the restaurant and a balcony that looks down from the lounge into what will be a new casino area. “Now it’s open. Now you can see the energy of the room as it unfolds,” Rhines said.
Out with old, in with bling
Workers have salvaged or stored what they could from the area inside the main entrance, where much of the first-phase improvements are focused. Modern art and chandeliers are going up, pillars are being wrapped with marble and silver beads are adding bling. Crews are scrambling to finish Rush Lounge and Party Pit — and beyond that, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine restaurant and an Asian casino area.
The area will be ready to host the ribbon-cutting and entertainment planned this weekend, Rhines said.
More than 300 of the 500 slot machines being set up on the first level casino floor are new. The Golden Nugget’s new 24 Karat Club, a four-tiered players’ reward program, is being introduced. The Isle card still will be accepted, Rhines said, but the new program offers better rewards.
Around all this action, the wallpaper and decor that carried the Isle of Capri’s tropical theme are being stripped from the hotel rooms and replaced with earth-tone colors, contemporary furniture and luxury finishes. Rhines said the remodel of all 700 rooms and suites could be done by the end of the year.
The many construction jobs the renovation project created are giving way to new, permanent job openings. The list is posted in the administration office and Rhines said there has been no shortage of applicants as the property staffs up from about 600 positions when work began to about 1,200 when all the improvements are complete in the spring. “It’s effectively doubling what is required to run this property,” he said.
The staff just completed a week of employee meetings, and the training continues at Morton’s Steakhouse, where servers practice by waiting on family and friends.
The changes officially began in November, when Landry’s purchased the Isle of Capri’s Biloxi property. It was the first casino in South Mississippi — the first in the South — when it opened in a pair of paddle boats Aug. 1, 1992.
The community welcomed Bernie Goldstein’s riverboats from Iowa with an impromptu boat parade to the dock in East Biloxi. Some of the employees and many customers who have been loyal to the Isle since the beginning will be there as Tillman Fertitta, owner of Landry’s, builds on the footprint and history of the Isle of Capri.
Fertitta has a history in Biloxi, where Landry’s operated a restaurant in West Biloxi before Hurricane Katrina and still owns the land. His more than 400 restaurants, most of them from Florida to Texas, generate $215 billion in annual revenue. He has three other casino resorts in Nevada and New Jersey.
The remodel and expansion of the Biloxi property give Landry’s the opportunity for do-overs and add-ons, along with another celebration as each phase is revealed. The hotel floors had been numbered beginning at 1, although there were two levels below the hotel. Now the hotel elevator is marked 3 to 15, with no unlucky 13th floor.
Next phase by Labor Day
The Grand Ballroom and meeting space, which were absorbed into casino space after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the gambling barge, will return by Labor Day in the next phase of construction, along with Michael Patrick’s Sports Bar and Grill.
That will be followed at the end of the year by a new retail corridor and a completely redone buffet with more seating and a greater variety of food, Rhines said. By next spring, the work will be complete with the addition of the H20 resort pool with all-season hot tubs and fire pits, a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant and a new casino that will be built between the parking garage and hotel.
Customers said they are excited about the plans for the Golden Nugget. Danny and Mary Jane Forrest of Manchester, Tennessee, have been coming to the Isle for 20 years and she said, “This is going to bring people here.”
This reconstruction is so much more than the rearranging and addition of a few things. It is basically transforming the entire casino. By the time everything is finished the patrons who visited it in the past will feel as if they are visiting an entirely new facility, because they basically will be.
Not only are those who have been loyal to the Golden Nugget for years going to be lining up at the door, but this reconstruction is expected to gather attention from many new guests who want to enjoy the new ambiance and all the features that are being implemented.