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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

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Top 10 most unique attributes and amenities at the new Circa Resort and Casino in Las Vegas

26 Oct 2020

By Gary Trask
It's being billed as a "new era" for Las Vegas and, for once, this isn’t media hype or PR jargon. It’s reality.

When the new Circa Resort & Casino in Las Vegas opens its doors this week at 8 Fremont Street it will go down as one of the more important milestones this great city has seen in some time, and not just because it’s the first ground-up resort destination to open in the downtown area in 40 years. As COVID-19 cases rise across the U.S. and the hospitality industry in dire straits, the unveiling of Circa will serve as a heavy and much-needed dose of optimism and rejuvenation.

Opening an ultra-modern, 1.25-million-square-foot, $1 billion casino resort is a mammoth undertaking in “normal” times. But doing it amidst a global pandemic and pulling off the grand opening nearly two months ahead of schedule?

That’s legendary stuff, right there.

So, kudos to co-owner brothers Derek and Greg Stevens for staring COVID-19 in the face, keeping the commitment they made to Las Vegas when the project broke ground, and taking this gigantic gamble.

“There is a lot of unmet demand for fun in Las Vegas,” Stevens said in January 2019. “At Circa, our goal is to create a destination resort in a historic part of the city, while showing guests the time of their lives.”

That vision becomes reality when the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning and the chips officially start flying, the cards are being dealt and the slot machines are humming for the first time at Circa, a name meant to “symbolize” the history of the Las Vegas casino business.

Below are 10 of the most impressive facts and amenities about Circa and the ones we’re drooling over experiencing once the doors open.

10. The Circa concept
The concept for Circa began in August of 2015 when the Stevens brothers, who also own popular downtown spots, the D Las Vegas and Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, acquired and promptly closed the Las Vegas Club on Main Street. Eight months later, Stevens bought two more legendary, but small, DTLV casinos — La Bayou and Mermaids — as well as the Glitter Gulch adult entertainment club, announcing that the land of the all of the above properties would eventually become their third casino resort.

At 458 feet and 35 stories tall (and “tapered” at 71 degrees), Circa will overtake the D as the tallest tower north of the Las Vegas Strip.

But the dream for a resort with the stature of Circa actually began decades ago for Derek Stevens when he was a frequent visitor to Las Vegas from his home in Detroit.

“Each one of those trips left something for me that left a memory that I always thought about,” Stevens told the Nevada Gaming Control Board in September at the licensing approval meeting. “I thought about the first time I walked through the Las Vegas Hilton and I saw the SuperBook and I looked up and I saw what I thought was one of the greatest places I’d ever been. I remember the moment that I walked into The Mirage once it opened, the smell and feel that you have when you walk through the atrium, something you could never get anywhere else in the country.”

9. Adults only
When Circa opens this week it becomes the first adults-only resort and casino in Las Vegas, with guests required to be 21 or older. This news has been welcome for most and is certainly OK with yours truly since one of our first Las Vegas Trips Tips has always been “leave the kids home.”

Circa may have already started a new trend for Las Vegas with this new stipulation as The Cromwell, the boutique Caesars Entertainment-owned casino, announced that when it finally reopens later this week it will also be an “adults only” property, a first for a Strip property.

8. Garage Mahal
It’s not often that a new business goes out of its way to hype a parking garage, but this is just one of the many innovative ideas cooked up by Stevens that sets Circa apart from any other casino. Stevens says that parking your car shouldn’t be a hassle, or something a casino guest dreads.

That’s why he created the nine-story Garage Mahal, a “fully integrated ride-share hub” with “high-tech design and thoughtful features” that is promising to be “the most convenient parking and transportation venue in the city, with a focus on an elevated level of service and safety.”

Garage Mahal has 982 parking spaces and its clean and well-lit layout will feature art installations, easy access for ride share access, valet and self-parking, and a climate controlled bridge over Main Street that connects to the main Circa building and casino.

7. Vegas Vickie
Vegas Vickie, a 20-by-25-foot neon kicking-cowgirl sign that hovered over Fremont Street since 1980 and gained national attention in 1994 when she “married” her neighboring neon cowboy, Vegas Vic, was a Las Vegas icon until the Stevens bought the property and took the sign down.

But an admitted sucker for history, Stevens is bringing Vickie back, big time. Circa’s elevated lobby cocktail lounge will surround the newly made-over sign, making it an obvious spot for a selfie and social media posting. Vegas Vickie’s menu will have a “seasonal selection of cocktails, featuring vintage libations inspired by the city” and the bar is “characterized by elegant mid-century design, warm walnut woods and retro-styled lighting.”

6. Rooms and suites
Guest rooms at Circa will not be available with the rest of the resort this week. Reservations are now being accepted for a 28 December opening, with standard rooms starting in the $300-per-night range, but dropping to around $200 or so after the initial opening stage.

The resort will be home to 777 rooms, which will deliver unobstructed views of either the Las Vegas skyline, surrounding mountains, or the resort’s pool amphitheater (more on that below).

Each of Circa’s standard rooms will have Serta Prestige king mattresses and guests will have the option to ask for different configurations to meet specific needs for different sized groups. All rooms are equipped with a digital tablet that will act as a “one-stop-shop” for checking restaurant menus, booking reservations for the sportsbook and pool, and controlling the room’s light settings. Rooms will also display commissioned works by several local Downtown Las Vegas artists.

Circa’s suite collection will span from 822 to 1,612 square feet and feature spacious living rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, 65-inch HDTVs, lounge-style furniture and a full wet bar with refrigerator. Circa will also feature Bunk Bed accommodations in 713-square-foot pads or 1,362-square-foot suites. Each Bunk Bed Suite will come with an expansive living area and full dining area.

“Vintage details are combined with high-tech amenities to create an experience that’s uniquely Circa. I also love to throw a good party, and I can promise that every room and suite will deliver maximum entertainment,” Stevens said.

5. The casino
The casino at Circa will be two stories and encompass 1,350 slot machines, with 55 high-limit options, 55 table games (blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, 3-card poker, and more) and 18 electronic table games. There are no plans for a poker room at this time.

Oh, and there will be Dancing Dealers:

4. Nevada's longest indoor bar

The Long Bar at the D is one of my favorite spots in Las Vegas and Stevens is doubling down on that concept at Circa with Mega Bar.

Located on the first floor, Mega Bar will weigh in at 165 feet — 65 feet longer than Long Bar — and will have familiar traits as its sister bar with bartenders tossing bottles around like Tom Cruise in “Cocktail,” 46 “double-stacked” TVs, 120 beer taps with a rotating selection and 53 bar-top gaming spots.

Derek Stevens was often found at the D sitting at the far end of the Long Bar wearing one of his signature, colorful blazers, chatting with guests and buying drinks. So, odds are very good that Mega Bar could be the affable owner’s new spot.

3. Other bars and restaurants
Overall, Circa will have five restaurants and six bars.

Among the highlights:

  • Saginaw’s Delicatessen: “Legendary” Michigan restaurateur Paul Saginaw says his new venue will take “a humble sandwich” and elevate it to a “spectacular experience.” With corn beefed sandwiches the “cornerstone” of the deli, it will also offer soups, omelets and onion rings. Personally, I can’t wait to try the $42 Derek’s Bank Roll (corned beef, pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye) that is so big it comes with a to-go container.

  • Barry’s Downtown Prime: This will serve as Circa’s premier steakhouse, bringing guests back to the “classic cool of the 50s and 60s when great music and sounds of clinking martini glasses filled the air, the chef greeted you at the table, the bartender knew your favorite cocktail and everyone felt like a VIP.” Yep, sign me up (even though this is the only venue in the resort that will allow guests under the age of 21).

  • Project BBQ: A Chef Rex Bernales creation that will become the only permanent food truck in Downtown Las Vegas and its first Carolina barbecue joint. Sitting outside just off the Fremont Street Experience, the joint will be a perfect spot for people watching and taking in the huge Viva Vision screen and DTLV’s “entertainment.”

2. “Biggest screen in sportsbook history”
As a longtime avid sports bettor, I’m not ashamed to admit that the renderings of Circa’s spectacular sportsbook literally took my breath away. It’s no surprise that Stevens went “big” with the sportsbook at Circa since he has become legendary for plunking down massive futures wagers around town, usually on one of his Michigan teams.

The centerpiece of the three-story, stadium-style book that will sit 1,000 sports bettors is being hyped as the “biggest screen in sportsbook history,” at 78 million high-def pixels.

The book is being operated by Stevens’ sports betting venture Circa Sports, which already has a mobile application live in Colorado and will open a satellite brick-and-mortar book at Tuscany Suites and Casino, just off the Strip, in March. Circa Sports has already earned a reputation as accepting huge limits for sports bets and not turning away “sharp” players.

I can hardly wait to grab a seat on the second floor and belly up at the Overhang Bar, which will include a ledge-line of poker machines and “deep walnut” high-top tables. The bar is named after the right-field grandstand in the old Tigers Stadium, where Stevens says he attended many games, and images of newspapers' historical sports pages are built into some tables.

The top floor of the sportsbook will be the new home of the engaging and entertaining Vegas Stats and Information Network (VSiN), featuring broadcasting legend and renowned sports bettor, Brent Musburger, as one of its many talented hosts.

1. Stadium Swim
As much as I’m looking forward to spending multiple hours in the Circa Sportsbook, the resort’s multi-tiered pool amphitheater, aptly named Stadium Swim, is receiving the most pre-opening attention, and rightly so.

The six pools will be open 365 days a year, an anomaly for the Las Vegas pool scene. Overlooking both Downtown Las Vegas and the Strip, there is a backlit roofline and a massive 135-by-41-foot, 14 million-megapixel LED screen, a DJ booth, two swim-up bars, 30 cabanas (you can make reservations now), 340 chaise lounges, 38 day beds and two spas. During cold weather months, the fifth-level pools will be heated to 104 degrees. (The water temp is proudly displayed on the top right of the Circa website).

Stevens told the AP last week that he expects “4,000 people a day at Stadium Swim.”

“I can promise there will be no better location in the world to watch a big game than at Stadium Swim – even better than at the game itself,” he said.

Cleanliness and sanitation were part of the plan at Stadium Swim before COVID-19, but it’s even more pertinent now. According to a press release, Circa’s pool can self-clean several times a day. The water will be fully recirculated four to six times faster than required by codes. Also, the pools will feature UVL sanitizers, which are “technologically advanced devices designed to destroy pathogens, bacteria, viruses, organic and inorganic contaminants, and greatly reduce chlorine use.”
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