Reno’s Growth Fuels Major Redesign of Atlantis Hotel-Casino

A large box slowly moved across the top floor of an Atlantis Casino Resort Spa tower in Reno, its drab cardboard frame contrasting sharply with the hallway’s fancy wood accents and shimmering Italian porcelain floors.

Next to the box, two men stop to catch their breath.

“No more furniture, huh?” a voice echoes in the background.

The two men smiled and nodded before moving the box once more, its tall frame finally disappearing through a door in the suite.

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Nearly a year ago, parent company Monarch Resorts embarked on a multimillion-dollar upgrade and redesign of Atlantis’ tallest building, the 27-story Concierge Tower. Today, the hotel-casino is putting the finishing touches on the tower’s new luxury suites while setting the bar high for its high-end offerings.

Right next to the Concierge Tower, work has also been in full swing since January this year to completely remodel the first tower of Atlantis, which was originally built three decades ago.

For Monarch CEO John Farahi, the new projects don’t just represent a new Atlantis. They also represent a new Reno after a growth spurt that has seen big names such as Tesla, Panasonic and a host of other companies expand into the area.

“This market has become much more sophisticated,” Farahi said. “You have so many companies moving here from California and all over the country that the market now demands this caliber of product.”

The flaming towers of the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa light up in the evening in this file photo.

Monarch returns its attention to Atlantis

About half a century ago, the Farahi family acquired the Golden Road Motor Inn.

Since then, the property has undergone several name changes while growing with the city that surrounds it.

Thirty years ago, the property opened its first tower by adopting the Clarion brand. A second and third tower would follow, along with a name change to Atlantis.

Atlantis would serve as a long-standing gem to the growing monarch empire, even as it sought to expand the reach of the venture. These days, however, the Monarch Casino Resort Spa in Black Hawk, Colorado has usurped the Atlantis crown as the most profitable property in the company’s portfolio.

Farahi just returned from a celebration of Black Hawk ownership that included Colorado Governor Jared Polis. The event marked the completion of a major $400 million expansion that included a new spa, rooftop pool and approximately 100 luxury suites for the 516-room property.

“Monarch Black Hawk has overtaken Atlantis,” Farahi said. “It’s a bit smaller than (Atlantis), but it would rival any resort in Vail or Aspen.”

Farahi admitted that the Black Hawk property has attracted a lot of attention as he focused on the success of the property. With major work now complete for the Colorado resort, the CEO turns his attention to the property that started it all.

Farahi credits the experience his company gained over the decades of running Atlantis for the success they now enjoy at Monarch Black Hawk. And with Reno itself undergoing big changes, it’s only natural to go big with Atlantis, according to Farahi.

“We were so focused on Monarch Casino Resort Spa and now we’re focused on Reno,” Farahi said. “It’s not that we’ve ever distracted (Atlantis), but there are only a few hours during the day.”

This newly renovated room at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa features a soaking tub with views of the Sierras.

Atlantis faces renewed competition in the local market

On the 26th and 27th floors of the Atlantis Concierge Tower, activity is in full swing.

As the fanciest part of the hotel-casino redesign to date, the bedrooms and penthouse lounges on the top two floors offer a host of luxurious amenities.

Spaces make liberal use of imported Italian porcelain and marble as well as contemporary art for an upscale feel.

In addition to marble walk-in showers and hydrotherapy air tubs, bathroom mirrors have built-in TV screens that seem to magically appear at the touch of a button. The toilets have a myriad of settings and automatically open and turn on when a person enters.

The suites also have infrared saunas that change color according to the guest’s preferences. There is also a zen room with an aromatherapy module for relaxation.

Penthouse lounges include a large amount of space to accommodate large gatherings. Guests can even have an Atlantis sommelier attend a wine station for tastings.

The amenities reflect Farahi’s attention to detail as well as his well-known competitive nature within the local business community. Farahi, for example, frequently touts how the Atlantis has topped TripAdvisor travelers’ rankings for Reno hotels for several years. The property was also #1 in Reno’s 2022 Best Hotels ranking by US News & World Reports. Monarch, meanwhile, ranked 39th in Forbes’ 2022 list of America’s Best Small Businesses.

At the same time, Monarch cannot afford to stand still with Atlantis.

Eldorado Resorts recently gained huge influence by acquiring global gaming giant Caesars Entertainment and has invested millions in renovating its Reno properties.

The Sands Regency is also in the midst of a major renovation at a cost of $100,000 per room as owner Jacobs Entertainment eyes the downtown Fourth Street West Corridor for its ambitious Reno Neon Line entertainment district project.

The construction of a new Kimpton boutique hotel in downtown Reno also means even more competition for rooms.

In response, Farahi expressed his confidence in Atlantis and said the redesigned rooms would pile up on any property on the market.

“I don’t want to speak specifically to any one property (that we’re competing with), but all I can tell you is that this market has never seen suites like these before,” Farahi said. “It’s a different level for this market.”

The newly renovated rooms at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa offer views of the Sierra.

The pandemic remains a wild card for the games and leisure market

Farahi also expressed optimism about the Reno market, citing record numbers for Washoe County rooms tax revenue in 2021.

The Monarch CEO also cited COVID-related fatigue among people willing to travel as well as the high savings rate due to the pandemic.

“Demand has been very strong and we believe the numbers are going to be sustainable as people have been locked down and unable to travel,” Farahi said. “People have funds and they want to go there so I think for the rest of the year and for the foreseeable future the demand is going to be very strong.”

At the same time, Farahi also expressed concern when asked if COVID-19 remains a wild card for the gaming and travel industry.

“Absolutely,” Farahi said. “It’s out of our control, so that’s the part that’s uncertain for us.”

Farahi believes, however, that the country should be better prepared if another variant comes out.

Given that the last extremely serious pandemic occurred a century ago, it’s understandable that the world was not exactly prepared for COVID. Farahi still shakes his head remembering the mandatory shutdowns that hit the Nevada gambling industry in 2020.

“Imagine how we were closed for three months,” Farahi said. “I would never, in my wildest dreams, have expected something like this to happen in my lifetime.”

In the meantime, the redesign of Atlantis continues. Concierge Tower luxury suites have already had a soft opening on Thanksgiving Day. The upgrade of the first tower and its 160 rooms, which includes gutting to the wall, is expected to be completed by May or June.

The second tower, which is usually grouped together with the first tower as the Atlantis Tower, will also be remodeled from next year. When complete, all 818 rooms of Atlantis will have been renovated. The Atlantis will also revamp other parts of the property such as the Sky Bridge.

When asked if there was enough demand in Reno, especially for the luxury suites in the Concierge Tower, Farahi said he had no doubts.

“The economy in this market is much more diverse and many companies are moving their headquarters or regional headquarters here,” Farahi said. “Incomes are also increasing in the Reno area.”

“The demand is going to be very strong,” Farahi added.

Jason Hidalgo covers business and technology for the Reno Gazette Journal, and also reviews the latest video games. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo. Do you like this content ? Support local journalism with an RGJ digital subscription.