For all the maligning that the design of Atlantic City's Revel Casino Hotel has endured, fixing it is not as hard as many think.
That's the view of Paul C. Steelman, a top casino architect worldwide and a native of Longport, N.J., who got his start in Atlantic City designing the original Golden Nugget for Steve Wynn.
Many of the problems at Revel, whose sale to Brookfield Asset Management Inc. was approved by a bankruptcy judge Tuesday, have relatively easy fixes, Steelman said Wednesday. His Las Vegas-based Steelman Partners L.L.P. has designed 3,000 projects in 20 countries.
Brookfield, which is expected to complete the purchase of Revel for $110 million within 60 days, has said no more about its plans other than that it intends to reopen the $2.4 billion property as a casino.
Some of the complaints about Revel - which wowed visitors with its upper-story views but left them unimpressed on the way up - center on access to the casino floor, both for guests driving to valet parking and for hotel guests after they check in.
Grumbling about the casino's being on an upper floor, rather than at street level, could be resolved by moving the main drop-off point for cars into the garage, though "some of the most successful casinos in the world have their main gaming floor on the upper floors," Steelman said.
That would help patrons avoid what David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, called "the escalator of terror." A series of long escalators leads from the valet entrance to the hotel lobby on the 11th floor.
The hotel has another casino-access problem, Steelman said: "You can't get into your hotel elevator and press a button that says 'casino.' It's a button that says 'lobby.' "
Guests must get off the elevator in the lobby and trek to the escalator or another set of elevators to get to the casino.
"That is a problem - you have to fix that," Steelman said. "Those elevator shafts, I guarantee you, go down to the casino."
Steelman, who is the architect for Bart Blatstein's proposed Provence in Philadelphia, said he tries to avoid such disjointedness in his casinos, especially for high rollers.
"The car, the lobby, the elevator, everything is very connected," he said.
Outside, Steelman would crack open Revel's walls along the Boardwalk.
"You have to have some fantastic food court down there or something that relates to the Boardwalk," he said.
But any amount of money spent on these measures has to be weighed against the potential of completing the 15 floors of hotel rooms that were mothballed, Steelman said.
Ultimately for Revel - which has, Steelman said, one of the most beautiful gaming sites in the world - achieving its potential means the neighborhood has to be fixed, he said.
"It can be successful. If any of the Las Vegas guys took it over and operated it, it could be successful in a minor sort of way," Steelman said, referring to the possibility that Brookfield could hire a casino operator to run it.
But for Revel to be successful in a major way, it must have excitement around it.
"It's got to sit in a great neighborhood," Steelman said.
PAUL C. STEELMAN
Company: Steelman Partners L.L.P., a Las Vegas casino architecture and design firm.
Title: Founder and CEO.
Background: Grew up in Longport, N.J.; graduated from Atlantic City High School.
First casino: The orginal Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.
Key projects: Sands Macau, the first Las Vegas-style casino in China.