In 2019, Las Vegas has seen one of its most expensive restoration projects: the USD 690 million transformation of the Palms Casino Resort. Interestingly enough, the enormous renovation was led by the youngest GM on the strip – Jon Gray.
Now at 34 years old, Gray climbed the ranks at the iconic hotel and first started working at the Palms when he was just 21 (with a front desk position) then returned to the property just two years ago to head up the renovation.
In this exclusive interview, he tells us all about the transformation of the resort and handling the biggest renovation in Vegas history.
Was this renovation project the biggest project you’ve ever taken on?
I’ve been part of a few large-scale projects in Las Vegas starting from my first time around at Palms building the Fantasy Tower, and then the subsequent Palms Place residential tower, to building the Linq by Caesars Entertainment. However, the Palms renovation was easily one of the largest and most complex projects I’ve ever been a part of.
What were the challenges? How was the experience of handling the biggest renovation in Vegas history?
One of the challenges was the Palms has gone through a rolling renovation — meaning we kept the resort open while we renovated virtually the entire property. One of the most interesting aspects of the renovation was how we communicated with guests as we completed the renovation in phases. The biggest challenge of staying open while renovating is maintaining the guest experience throughout the construction.
“We’re still working on a lot more to come”
Communication to our staff and guests was critical throughout the renovation. Our campaign “From Dust to Gold”, created by AKQA Portland and the PALMS team, was launched in May of 2018 and was the modern version of “Pardon our Dust”.
We came out strong with a message that made it very clear to consumers that we have amazing amenities complete and now open like Scotch 80 Prime, Apex Social Club and the Unknown, but we’re still working on a lot more to come like new rooms, suites, restaurants and KAOS (our new pool and day club).
The message resonated with the market and we set the expectations with our guests all while signalling the Palms would be entering the luxury resort tier.
Could you elaborate on the “reinvention and transformation” of the resort?
In the early 2000’s, Palms was universally known as one of the trendiest resorts in town, with great restaurants, nightlife and suites. Our complete transformation took a course of over two years at a cost of USD 690 million dollars and will be completed this September.
We’ve added all-new rooms and suites, including the most expensive hotel suite in the world designed by Damien Hirst and new restaurants by celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Marc Vetri. We’ve also unveiled one of the most extensive collections of modern and blue-chip art outside of a museum.
“I’ve been in the fortunate position to have excellent mentors”
Being the youngest GM on the strip, what do you think is the reason behind your early success?
I’ve been in the fortunate position to have excellent mentors throughout my career starting with George Maloof at the Palms, several leaders at Nike, and now our new owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta along with the entire team of exceptional gaming professionals at Station Casinos.