Drew Schlesinger couldn't be more passionate about his baby, the new Water Club at Borgata, the hotel he believes will define the next phase of the new, upscale Atlantic City.
The lilt in his voice, the quickness of his step, the caressing of each taut leather wall or exotic stone floor as he guides a reporter around - it's all more personal statement than pat public relations.
"The level of customer comfort we are providing here will attract the kind of corporate and leisure guest that Atlantic City has never seen," said Schlesinger. "It's four-star, five-star and 400 feet away from the Borgata, which itself is the standard. How excited can I be? Whatever it is, that's how excited."
The Water Club opened this week to invited customers, most of whom, Schlesinger noted, were not comped, but paying - standard king-bed rooms go for $279 on off-season Tuesdays and up to $539 for summer Saturdays.
For that freight, amenities are seemingly infinite. There's the 40-inch flat-screen HDTV hung at eye level, the better to be viewed by guests relaxing on the king-size bed with its 400-thread-count, Egyptian cotton sheets.
On the right nightstand is the iPod dock, attached to the alarm, so guests can wake up to their faves. On the left nightstand is a fresh orchid.
The phone has a touch screen, the better to order room service, check the status of plane flights or get real-time stock quotes. Out the window is a view of the Absecon Inlet or the Atlantic Ocean.
The marble bathroom has showers and lights with more settings and speeds than a Formula One race car. Even the amenities have amenities: Schlesinger made sure the hangers for the 400-thread-cotton bathrobes were a little longer to hold the garments' shape better.
"There will be 800 employees, a virtual one-to-one ratio of employees to guests, which you won't find anywhere other than Asia or the Middle East," said Schlesinger.
Borgata President Larry Mullin hired Schlesinger from the semi-boutique Kimpton chain last year to create a hotel that is independent from the Borgata, with no gaming and only six high-end retail stores. Schlesinger has been a general manager at the Crowne Plaza on Central Park South in Manhattan and at the chic Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
"Although gamers may stay at the hotel, we wanted to have a place for non-gamers to chill out," said Mullin. As Schlesinger went through the 43-story tower between the Borgata and the inlet, he effused about the Bolivian tiles and Italian marble and dark French wood with blond streaks.
The two-story Immersion spa has $25,000 massage and therapy beds that splash, heat, manipulate and tickle. Immersion overlooks the Atlantic more than 300 feet up, through two stories of glass.
"Running on a treadmill was never so, well, amazing," said Schlesinger, wide-eyed at the waves breaking far below.
There are infinity-edged lap pools in the spa and indoors and outdoors on the third story below. Teak chaise lounges covered with that ubiquitous 400-thread-count cotton, and with a fresh flower at each headpiece, line the pools. Room service and poolside food was designed by New York uber-chef Jeffrey Zakarian.
"Guests don't move for anything. Food, drink, whatever, is brought to them," Schlesinger said.
Meeting space totals 18,000 square feet - mini-boardrooms decked with high-tech screens and teleconferencing equipment and, of course, those spacious views of the ocean or bay.
That 400-foot marble passageway from the Water Club lobby to the Borgata's casino and restaurant floor is lined with exclusive shops - Hearts On Fire jewelry, Hugo Boss and Just Cavalli among them. Plebeians with no Water Club reservations can get to the lobby and stores but require a key to access upper floors.
"We expect the new properties to keep up, to do things like this, but we feel we will still have better service and change things when we have to," said Mullin. "Atlantic City isn't just for the day-tripper any more." *