Three months ago, when he took over as president of Virgin Hotel, Cliff Atkinson said the Las Vegas Grand Prix would be the hotel’s “return party to the market and to the world.”
Atkinson has confirmed this claim. The hotel’s party schedule runs all day and night during race week. Virgin is the F1 sponsor of the East Harmon Zone, just east of the grid and pit building on the corner of Paradise Road and Harmon Avenue.
The hotel is off the Strip, close to the track but still accessible – parking is for employees only, but Virgin is the F1’s home of ride-share.
“We have a reason why both visitors and locals come to our property because of our location, our proximity to the Formula 1 race, so it’s a simple reason to find us again,” Atkinson said in a phone chat Wednesday. “We have a lot of programming and a lot of fun. It’s going crazy all over town, so I say come early, stay late and have a great Formula 1 experience with us, whether you have tickets or not.”
The Virgin team have even achieved the improbable by reviving the midnight show in Las Vegas over all three nights of the Grand Prix. These are limited engagement shows at The Shag Room, headlined by yacht rock tribute band Yachty by nature on November 16, 80s retro rockers on Spasmatic on the 17th-18th November. The entertainment starts when the night’s racing ends.
Starting Wednesday, Virgin is running no-cover shows with Vegas magicians Mojo Juju, Zowie Bowie, Moonshiners, Lily Arce and Pop 40 and Windbreakers in The Shag Room.
The resort’s promising new burlesque revue, “Lady Like,” plays 24 Oxford. The theater at the Virgin Hotel is hosting rap star Future’s official birthday party at midnight on Saturday. DJs appear on the casino floor from 10 in the morning and into the evening at Kassi Beach Club.
Admittedly, these are not superstar headliners. But the focus on live entertainment will give Virgin some personality. And that’s the type of programming Atkinson envisions for Virgin year-round.
“This is the blueprint for what will go forward from our hotel into the future,” Atkinson said. “Not to this level every day. But this kind of fun and activation is what our property was known for in the past.” (On that subject, the new Center Bar is still planned for 2024.)
The hotel ties its entertainment — especially “Lady Like” — to its strong restaurant roster, pairing ants pitching a dinner show (or show dinner) as a night out on the town off the Strip.
Atkinson admits he is learning about working F1 and how to run a resort in a large-scale first-time event. He agrees that the first F1 event is akin to a major production show running its preview period.
“This is new for Las Vegas, even for seasoned operators like we all are. And this is new for Formula 1 to be here dealing with our city, our market,” said the veteran executive, who has spent time at the Mandarin Oriental (today’s Waldorf Astoria), the Luxor and briefly the Fontainebleau. “We’ll figure it out together. We know there has been an impact on the market. But it is a unique experience to run the first race and I hope we have it for another nine years.
“That’s what makes it really special and really important to us.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.