Something old, something new: Circa bringing history to a newbuild in Downtown Vegas

In a town where history is both revered and imploded, Derek and Greg Stevens have a thing for Old Vegas. The developer brothers are owners of the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, which opened as the Hotel Nevada in 1906, making it the oldest casino in the city. In 2011, they bought Fremont Street classic Fitzgerald’s casino, remaking it as the D Las Vegas. They opened the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center in the heart of the neighborhood, and now they’re kicking off work on their next project: an entirely new resort that’s rooted in the past but looking decisively to the future.

Scheduled to open in December 2020, the Circa Resort & Casino will be the first newbuild hotel to rise in Downtown Las Vegas in decades, set on an entire city block at the corner of Main Street and the Fremont Street Experience.

After the Stevens brothers bought the Las Vegas Club in 2015, Derek Stevens said he started knocking on the doors of their neighbors. Eventually he acquired a T-shirt shop, strip club, office, parking garage and small casino — all the real estate needed to create a 1.25 million-square-foot, 777-room resort.

“With what’s happening in Downtown Las Vegas and the visitation along Fremont Street, all the stars really aligned to build this property,” Derek Stevens said.

The casino owner pointed to rising visitation to the neighborhood, where there are still relatively few hotel rooms — fewer than 10,000 of Las Vegas’s 145,000 total rooms. “But downtown has visitation north of 20 million people. For us, the key thing was this overall visitation. It’s been growing,” he said.

The other key was the Steven brothers’ experience along the Fremont Street corridor, being able to see what works and gradually developing the ideas that will become Circa. For example, Derek pointed to the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center as helping them conceptualize the outdoor space at the new casino resort, a tiered, amphitheater-style pool landscape arranged around a giant screen and a stage for live performances.

“We had so many projects where we tried to design something and something didn’t fit,” Derek said of working within the confines of existing resort footprints. “[Circa is] a whole different ball game for us. Coming up with a clean slate gave us an opportunity to be a little more open and be a little more creative.”

One unexpected space where that creativity will be seen is the resort’s parking structure, cheekily dubbed “Garage Mahal.” The nine-story facility is specifically being designed with ride-sharing services in mind to make arriving and departing as seamless as possible. And rather than making the parking garage an aesthetic afterthought, Derek Stevens said they’re “going a little over the top” on the space’s design.

A food-and-beverage lineup has yet to be announced, but he has unveiled the casino’s sports book concept, a stadium-style experience that he said will boast the largest screen inside any Vegas book as well as an in-house broadcast studio that will host betting experts, analysts and athletes.

If all these features feel fairly forward-looking for a hotel called Circa, the resort won’t forget the history infused in its neighborhood. Restaurant names will nod to Vegas’ past, and when guests enter the resort they’ll be greeted by Vegas Vickie, the kicking cowgirl neon sign that once sat atop the marquee for Glitter Gulch.

Still, Derek Stevens said he believes it’s the resort’s fresh-built novelty that will draw visitors come 2020.

“Renovations are exciting to a degree, but there’s nothing like a newbuild in Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s been a little while since Cosmo and Aria. I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for people around the county to come to Vegas and see something new.”

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