Derek Stevens has been building bits of buzz and excitement in downtown Las Vegas since he and his brother Greg bought a stake in the Golden Gate on Fremont Street in October 2006. On Thursday night, Stevens unveiled his biggest project yet, the first new casino resort to be built downtown in decades.
Circa Resort & Casino is slated to open in December 2020 in the space formerly occupied by the Las Vegas Club where Fremont Street meets Main Street. As displayed in a flashy video played across a huge screen for an audience of hundreds inside a tent at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, Circa will have 777 hotel rooms, a two-story casino, a range of restaurants, a spa and the longest outdoor bar on Fremont Street, as well as a state-of-the-art parking structure and “transportation hub,” a rooftop pool amphitheater and a multi-level, stadium-style sportsbook Stevens called the largest in Las Vegas history.
Those latter features support Stevens’ explanation that Circa was conceived and designed as a new attraction inspired by a grand tradition of Las Vegas-style excitement.
Derek Stevens is quick to dismiss any comparisons between his gaming and hospitality achievements in downtown Las Vegas and those of the well-known casino visionaries who have come before him.
But there are legitimate similarities. Jackie Gaughan, Bill Boyd, Benny Binion and others were known for working hard, paying attention to every detail of their business and being unafraid to take risks. That’s the only way to achieve true innovation.
“I always thought of myself as not the smartest guy in any room but I always thought, if nothing else, I’ll always be able to work as hard as anybody in the room,” Stevens says from an upper-floor conference room at The D, one of two Fremont Street casino resorts the Michigan native owns and operates with his brother, Greg. “It probably goes back to well before we were in Las Vegas, to our manufacturing plants. When I was younger I always tried to be the guy that showed up first and the guy to go home last. In Las Vegas, that’s not really possible because the doors never close and somebody’s always here. But I’ve stuck with that principle for a long time.”
Stevens has become the new face of gaming downtown after acquiring and renovating the Golden Gate (the oldest hotel in the city), The D (formerly Fitzgerald’s) and a new casino-hotel he’s building from the ground up on the site of the former Las Vegas Club. He’s also snatched up other downtown parcels for future projects, including the block behind The D that’s been transformed into the multi-use Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, which hosts plenty of concerts, football and hockey watch parties and more.
He’s been able to get creative and sometimes experimental as he helps rejuvenate the Fremont Street area because he’s captivated by downtown Las Vegas and is always around. Stevens spends as much time as he can in his casinos meeting with staff and guests, always gathering information.
“I want to be around people that love being here and I try to bring that energy with all of our people and our customers,” he says. “The more you’re here the more you get to see and pick up on. I don’t want to spend my business career relying solely on reports. I like to be in the mix and really see what I like and what I don’t. If a light bulb is out, I want it changed in a few minutes, not changed on a normal review once a week. Those things have always meant a lot to me.” Continue reading…