Casino Architect Steelman Sees Circa, Resorts World Take Shape


Courtesy Steelman Partners

Architect Paul Steelman says the Sands Macau, which opened in 2004, is one of his favorite projects, but he likes designing for Las Vegas best.

It’s rare that an architect designs $5 billion worth of work in a whole career.

With the Circa and Resorts World projects to his credit, Paul Steelman and his firm, Steelman Partners, have that much under construction in Las Vegas right now.

Over the course of 40 years, Steelman has reshaped the skylines of Las Vegas, Macau, and Atlantic City. Along the way, he became one of the world’s most successful casino resort architects of all time.

Steelman told State of Nevada that he sees a bright future for Las Vegas because it continues to attract mavericks and out-of-the-box thinkers.

He said Circa co-owner Derek Stevens shares those qualities with Las Vegas pioneers Steve Wynn and Kirk Kerkorian, both of whom Steelman worked with.

Steelman said working Circa gave him the same feeling he had in 1986 when he began work on the Mirage.

“We are very excited about every aspect of it from the casino, to the bars to the pool - the stadium pool that everybody is seeing - to the roof-top club that has some of the most spectacular views in the state of Nevada to its integration into our great Fremont Street and the 24 million tourists who in fact visit it to our garage-mahal, as named by Derek Stevens and his staff, that is more of a transportation center,” he said.

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Stevens said Circa will have a large digital footprint and will be one of the first casinos in Las Vegas to be as digitally connected as it is.

But, he said, it won't be the last. Steelman said the new resorts that are being planned will be loaded with new technology.

“The amount of extension of technology into these buildings will be extensive,” he said.

While new hotels will be loaded with technology, the basics of how to design a casino that he developed while creating the Mirage still guide what he does today, Steelman said.

His firm uses 150 rules when they design a new casino. The rules govern everything from where the bathrooms go to the colors of the interiors.

“We follow those rules pretty extensively because we know that’s what people want and we’re able to create the emotional responses that we want,” he said.

For instance, the lobby needs to give a feeling of 'WOW!' and the gaming floor needs a feeling of winning.

“Everybody is James Bond. That’s why there are no mirrors in the casinos anymore because everybody looks in the mirror, ‘I’m not James Bond,’" he said.

The restaurants need to have a feeling of home and relaxation.

He said a building needs to be remembered but also draw people to return over and over again. 

Steelman also said the new exhibition space at the Las Vegas Convention Center and connecting Vegas Loop tunnel will bring new opportunities to the resort corridor.

Part of that area will be the new Resorts World project, Steelman's firm designed that building, as well. He said the developers, Genting Group, are keeping much of the design under wraps but he can say that it will be an "incredible building."

“The Resorts World will look absolutely new and spanking clean and crisp,” he said.

Steelman said the owner, KT Lim, is a believer in integrating attractions within the main casino attraction and is known for building unusual attractions beside his casinos.

“He will be a great asset to the Las Vegas group of mavericks that have created Las Vegas such as Steve Wynn and Kirk Kerkorian, rest in peace, and Jay Sarno and now KT Lim,“ Steelman said.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on most industries, including the tourism and gaming industry. Steelman said his firm has seen an uptick in interest from companies wanting it to design new hotel-casinos.

"In the last six months, we have probably designed five new resorts in Las Vegas and these resorts contain 7,000 or 8,000 rooms," he said.

One is the Majestic, which is a non-gaming hotel set to be built across from the convention center.

“There is one thing we all know: Las Vegas will always be Las Vegas,” he said.

He said that Atlantic City has tried and so has Macau but when he brings clients to Las Vegas they all want that 'Las Vegas-style' that they can only get here. 

“The mavericks of our business they took the risk and did something so compelling,” he said.

Steelman tells his clients that they need to take a risk to make something interesting.


Paul Steelman, CEO, Steelman Partners architects

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KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada