David Johns – Mount Airy Casino Resort
The Las Vegas Strip has more than two dozen multi-billion-dollar properties on a four-mile stretch.
These behemoths, which have thousands of rooms, are huge compared to smaller casinos on tribal lands or in rural places. They also have over-the-top amenities that are hard to match. But, according to David Johns, it’s not impossible.
“We’re trying to ensure our guests are getting high-quality treatment and a top-notch experience that would rival any major casino property in America,” says Johns, the director of facilities for the Mount Airy Casino Resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.
Having already worked on installing a new private dining space, a new VIP lounge and new HVAC units, Johns had a busy year already when speaking to Blueprint in mid-2022. He says the family-owned resort is a favored destination for travelers in the Northeast. It’s a AAA Four Diamond property, meaning it has upscale style, amenities and service.
But Johns and his team have continued working hard to revamp and improve the customer experience. That includes plans to renovate the 14-year-old “Glass Bar” in the center of the casino floor. The work will allow for additional seating and the introduction of live music acts.
“The goal is to create a space in the center of the casino to bring some more life to the area and make it a place people want to gather and have fun,” Johns says.
Johns oversees 25 property operations staffers, 20 people in the environmental services department and about 15 working on the golf course.
He recently oversaw an overhaul of the fitness center and the re-tiling of the swimming pool and is managing the conversion of the poker room to a Poker Stars-branded space with new finishes.
“We’re busy trying to do as much as we can with our very talented in-house team,” Johns says.
The project to renovate the bar in the center of the casino floor will take about a year, he says. The work will include adding light fixtures, creating a new seating area and installing new carpets.
“We’re a four-diamond AAA hotel, so maintaining that standard is necessary, but we also want to go above and beyond because of the competition,” Johns says. “Our resort is beautiful, and we want to ensure we have amenities other places don’t have.”
Rolling the dice
Mount Airy Casino Resort is about 90 miles from midtown Manhattan and around 100 miles from downtown Philadelphia. That means the property needs to cater to both higher rollers from the city and families from the ‘burbs.
For example, there are four restaurants, including a buffet, a sports bar, a high-end steakhouse and a noodle bar. There are amenities ranging from a championship golf course to a pool and spa and guest rooms have upgraded fixtures in the bathrooms and showers.
The cost to renovate one hotel room is substantial, Johns says, so Mount Airy Casino Resort does smaller projects, meaning an entire block of rooms or suites is gradually renovated over a few years. Currently, the flooring is being replaced in all the suites, and when that work is completed, each hotel room will get new wallpaper.
“The best way to tackle room renovations is piece by piece,” he says. “The competition forces us to stay innovative and to maintain a consistent timeline for renovations and upgrades. We welcome the challenge.”
A natural progression
Led to engineering by a passion for math and science, Johns earned a degree in civil engineering from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania.
He spent seven years as a transportation engineer for the Office of Bridge Development of the Maryland State Highway Administration, overseeing the construction of bridges and transportation projects. He spent considerable time in the construction field for both Maryland State Highway Administration and the Maryland Port Administration.
“As engineers, you work your way up to being project manager and overseeing the entire operation,” Johns says.
He then worked one year as a civil and structural engineer for QproQ Engineering and six years as a structural engineer for Highland Associates, where he worked on telecommunications projects. This included data centers and higher education projects, such as the Geisinger Commonwealth Medical College.
Johns was then the director of building engineering for Greenman-Pedersen for nearly eight years before joining Mount Airy Casino Resort in his current role in August 2020.
“My career has been a natural progression, because instead of many clients, I have one big client, the casino proper, and I maintain everything,” he says. “I like this role better [than previous jobs] because I get to see the work from start to finish and you don’t get that as an engineer.”
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