"All that glitters is not gold" is how the cliché goes, but it certainly doesn't hold true at the new $1.1 billion Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, which opened last week in Atlantic City. It's a shimmering, 43-story golden monolith that includes 2,002 guest rooms, 70,000 square feet of meeting space, 11 gourmet restaurants, and a breathtaking 50,000-square-foot spa. Italian for "village," Borgata is a Las Vegas-inspired destination resort, a first for Atlantic City. The hope is that the Borgata will help the city finally realize its potential as a major resort destination, and change the perception of meeting planners as well.
The largest hotel and tallest building in New Jersey, the Borgata is as upscale as it gets. There are sparkling blown-glass fixtures in vivid colors throughout the property that were designed by famed artist Dale Chihuly, and shining marble floors, rich wood, impressive artwork, fresh flowers, and video screens are everywhere.
Bob Boughner, the Borgata’s CEO, says the property is exactly what he has been promising since it's inception seven years ago, It's "fun, upscale, energetic, sensual, and international."
Borgata's 11 dining destinations offer a world of culinary experiences, all with well-known chefs at the helm. There is Suilan by famed Philadelphia restaurateur Susanna Foo, where modern design complements the Asian flavors and artful dishes being served. Rising-star chef Luke Palladino's Italian eatery Specchio, which translates to "mirror" in Italian, presents refined Italian dishes and features Palladino’s collection of over 40 antique handheld mirrors. Ombra, Chef Palladino’s trattoria and wine cellar below Specchio, transports guests to an old-world winemaker’s estate. And the first outpost of the Old Homestead, a New York institution since 1868, features superb cuts of beef. The Old Homestead made headlines recently when it introduced the $41 hamburger, made from domestically raised Kobe beef, Japanese-inspired, hand-massaged meat. It is available at The Borgata, as are Kobe steak entrees for $95.
The chefs at Borgata demand the freshest ingredients, so to ensure the quality of produce, Borgata executives undertook an extensive search and found the perfect local farm, which has been in the Formisano family for 100 years. Now referred to as Borgata Farms, it is custom-growing items for the hotel’s renowned chefs. "Borgata Farms enables us to bring our guests the freshest seasonal ingredients available literally the same day," says Chef Palladino.
Spa Toccare, Borgata’s 50,000-square-foot spa is lavish and luxurious, featuring 22 treatments rooms; the Pierre & Carlo Hair Salon; Shaving Grace, the ultimate gentlemen’s barbershop complete with a pool table and old fashioned barber chairs; and the Pump Room, an impressive fitness center.
The spa overlooks the stunning Borgata’s pool area, with an indoor pool that features an underwater sound system overlooking formal gardens.
Although the Borgata is much more than a casino resort, the gaming offered here offers something different. There are 145 gaming tables and 3,600 slot machines. Video screens on the roulette tables add a touch of high tech to an old game. Although at first glance the slot machines do not seem out of the ordinary, they are. A coin will never be dropped into one. Instead, gamblers use bills or vouchers.
The Borgata has all the components in place for planning successful meetings and incentives. Some 70,000 square feet of event space includes 20 meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 3,700 guests and a ballroom with 30,000 square feet of column-free space. Ten boardrooms feature ocean views and large plasma screen TVs. One of the most interesting settings for meetings is the Ombra Vintage Room, a unique wine cellar that can accommodate 10 to 120 guests surrounded by more than 14,000 bottles of wine.
The hope is that meeting and incentive groups that once discounted Atlantic City as a place for day-trippers will take another look at the city and at the Borgata. A few hours before the resort opened, Bob Franklin, the Borgata’s director of sales and, enthusiastically exerted that the hotel has more than 230 groups booked, translating to 185,000 room nights and $27 million in room revenue.
"The diversity of experiences is what meeting and incentive groups will find attractive. We will help change the perception of Atlantic City as a consolation prize. The biggest obstacle we have to overcome is perception," said Franklin. "Atlantic City is a destination that needs to be discovered."
The Borgata is much more than a gaming resort, explained Franklin. "There are so many experiences waiting here for meeting and incentive groups. With our culinary partners like Luke Palladino, the next Emeril, we can use that talent for lectures, cooking lessons, or wine experiences." The hotel sits on 30 of its 120 acres. The other 90 can be used for a wide-array ofactivities, added Franklin.
Boyd Gaming financed, built, and manages the Borgata and MGM Mirage contributed the land and some cash.