Reno’s largest hotel property undertook a $5 million renovation of its Grand Theater last week. Chris Christiansen, entertainment director for Grand Sierra Resort, says an update was long due for the theater/showroom built to accommodate dinner service for hotels guest and visitors in 1978.
“For the first 12 years, dinner was served seven nights a week to a couple thousand patrons, but that’s not the style of presentation a more sophisticated audience member desires in their seating arrangement,” Christiansen says.
The chairs, tables and booths will be removed in favor of theater-style rows of performance arts seating — which allows the GSR to add 950 more guests in the same space. The current configuration seats 1,750, while the new seating layout is expected to seat 2,700. The enlarged venue allows GSR to book slightly larger-name guests. The first eight rows of seating will be removable to create a flat floor area to accommodate general admission ticket sales.
“A growing community like Reno, and our feeder markets of Sacramento and the Bay Area, as we move forward we will find we have the opportunity to sell more tickets and put more people into the venue to see shows,” Christiansen says. “That allows us to bring higher-level artists with more audience demand for tickets. “
Demolition began last Wednesday. Christiansen says demolition efforts will guide the schedule of construction crews. However, renovation of the audience chamber, as well as the lobby and front entrance is expected to be completed by early summer.
“With a building of this age, the demolition will find out what we are up against as we go through,” he says.
Hotel owner Meruelo Group is the general contractor on the project, which is being designed by John Sergio Fisher & Associates of Los Angeles. Work still is out to bid on many different aspects of the job, Christiansen says.
The renovation fits in with Meruelo Group’s extensive makeover of the property that opened in the late 1970s. In the last few year the rooms, casino floor, entrance ways and ground-floor public areas and restaurants all have been reworked to bring the property up to current standards. The theater is just another piece of the overall plan, Christiansen says.
“We have ownership that sees the need for a showpiece theater venue in Reno in this building, and it remains an integral part of our business strategy.
Meruelo Group also is renovating the main valet parking area. Last year it upgraded the property’s exterior lighting and added LED signage on the west tower. Future plans include renovating the convention space and buffet areas.
“The idea is that we update everything in this bulding and continue to keep it at a level our current customers and new customer are impressed with,” Christiansen says.