David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts and COO Mark Waltrip reveal more about the new Elvis Las Vegas presentation in the classic "International Hotel" which opens later this month.
“This property was built in 1969 by Kirk Kerkorian. It was the first of very many casinos in town. What was special about it as the International then was a unique heartbeat with the casinos in the middle of all the restaurants. We’re doing a lot of the same things.
I refused to tear it down. Some people have been here 45 years. We have chefs in one of our restaurants who served Elvis. Elvis liked to eat with the employees in the employee cafeteria, and they loved him and he loved them. This was his home. He stayed up on the top in one of the sky villas. Elvis is as much a part of this building as the walls are.
Elvis is still the heartbeat of the property. We have plans for every bit of it. We have a new 5-acre pool deck, we’re redoing all of that. We’re bringing in grass and palm trees, brand new cabanas and new floors. Every single room is going to be renovated into a masterpiece. Our sky villas are breathless — absolutely magnificent. “We would absolutely love to bring the entire look and feel back as it was in Elvis’ days, but we’re challenged with the advancement of technology in lighting. So what we’ve chosen to do is bring the same finishes, colors and style back into place. We’re bringing the gold back, we’re building a new theater lobby, a grand new theater entrance, more respectful of the quality of the show.
We’re centering out the casino with a big Elvis Presley theater marquee dead center, so the minute you walk in the front door you’ll see it all the way in the back. Then you’ll go into a nice lobby to where all the retail merchandising is and then into the showroom. The original theater had those big half-circle booths, so we’re bringing 10 of those back in across the front of the sound control near the back of the lower orchestra. It is going to have the look and the feel of when Elvis played there. We want to bring the essence of Elvis back into the room so people can not only experience the show, but also experience the setting where he sang.
Right now Graceland Productions has four Elvis Presley shows identified. We start with the first “Elvis Experience” production, which is the most successful show that’s ever been done since Elvis’ death. It’s been playing to sellout crowds for the last four years in the summer theater in Toronto. They just did a sellout performance in Paris, it’s a wonderful re-creation of his original International hotel show here with 31 orchestra players and singer-dancers onstage. It’s a big deal. Following that is a variety of shows that the Graceland folks are currently crafting. Some that tell the story of Elvis, some that put Elvis into video on the stage. It’s all going to be very exciting. So EPE will be controlling all of the entertainment venue as well as the theater and then be in the marketing partnership with us.
We've opened the new front bar at the casino entrance. That’s where Kirk Kerkorian originally put it. Kirk is a genius, and we’ve managed to not only preserve Elvis’ legacy, but I think preserve Kirk’s legacy as the father of the Las Vegas mega-resort. It all opens on April 23 because it is the historic day in 1956 that Elvis first played in Las Vegas at the New Frontier. Priscilla Presley will be here for the gala celebrations.