Brian Hamilton – Resorts World Catskills
The Concord Resort Hotel was a legendary property in the Borscht Belt of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York known for its casino and for performances by icons like Barbara Streisand, Tony Bennett, Buddy Hackett and Judy Garland. Martin Luther King Jr. even received an award at the Concord in 1963.
The hotel closed and was demolished in 2008, and for more than a decade, state and local officials went back and forth about what to do with the property. Finally, in 2018, Genting, a Malaysian resort and casino company, opened Resorts World Catskills on the site of the former Concord. Since the doors opened, Facilities Director Brian Hamilton and his team have worked hard to match the grandeur and excellence of the Concord, he says.
“This is a historic location and we’re committed to providing the same kind of guest experience that people loved for decades,” Hamilton adds.
Enhancing the guest experience
Despite the property being open for just a few years, there are several projects Hamilton and his team recently completed. The first was a reconfiguration of the hotel’s Doubletop sports bar.
He recently led the redesign of the sports bar to provide guests with a more immersive experience. They changed the location of the big screen TVs so that guests can easily watch their favorite teams and be able to view the expansive casino floor, with 1,600 slot machines, 150 live table games and more than one million square feet.
“In normal times, we can accommodate between 8,000 and 10,000 people on the casino floor, so we need to make sure the surrounding areas are functional and appealing,” Hamilton explains.
The other project was a complete renovation of the bar at Resorts World’s high-end Asian restaurant, Lotus. After Hamilton’s team learned from the bartenders about ways to improve the space, the bar was reimagined, rebuilt and reopened in February 2021, providing guests with an elevated experience.
“I was given a budget and told not to go over,” he says. “And we didn’t.”
Hamilton doesn’t have any specific projects on the calendar for 2021. He says work typically comes up at the last minute when the food and beverage department comes to the facilities team with a plan.
Rediscovering the Monster
When the Concord Resort Hotel closed, the Monster Golf Course remained open. When the final putt dropped in 2015, plans for a redesign quickly began.
Hamilton isn’t designing the new course or helping build it—that’s being handled by course design titan Rees Jones Inc. and Troon Golf. But he’s supporting the construction of a small clubhouse, maintenance building and golf cart storage facility.
Twelve of the 18 holes are completed, and Hamilton expects construction on the rest of the course to resume by the summer.
“It’s going to be the Monster Golf Course at Resorts World Catskills and a signature piece of our property,” he says.
The resort casino property closed at 6 a.m. on March 16, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was raging; it reopened on September 9. Hamilton and his team worked for several months throughout the spring and summer getting the property, especially the casino, ready for guests. That included outfitting the entire building with plexiglass.
The facilities team spent about two months and $1.5 million putting the barriers up for slot machines, table games, the front desk, food outlets and player services areas. Without a firm date for reopening from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Hamilton knew they had to work as quickly as possible and be prepared for anything.
“There were no blueprints for this. It was just a big puzzle we tried to put together as best we could,” he says. “Casinos don’t lend themselves to keeping people separated, but we made it work.”
Players don’t seem to mind the barriers, Hamilton notes. There are fewer people at each table and the pit areas have been reconfigured to allow for social distancing. There’s also a dedicated employee entrance with a thermal scanner and an iPad with questionnaires for employees to answer before entering the building.
He says he’s not making any predictions about how long the plexiglass will remain or how long the other precautions will be in place. But he knows that whenever things get back to normal, Genting executives and the leaders of Resorts World Catskills hope to make the property a top destination in the Catskills.
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