Features

[The Nightlife Issue]

How Wynn Nightlife stays ahead of the pack

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Wynn Nightlife executives (clockwise from top right) Michael Waltman, Ronn Nicolli, Kevin Clark, Natalia Badzjo, Pauly Freedman, Ryan Jones and (center) Alex Cordova.
Photo: Pat Kerby / Beyond L.A. Productions

Alex Cordova had his work cut out when he took over as executive vice president and managing partner of Wynn Nightlife last year. Not only was he charged with keeping XS on top of the Las Vegas nightclub heap and Encore Beach Club out in front of the lucrative Vegas dayclub scene, he had to help usher in the arrival of Intrigue Nightclub at Wynn Las Vegas.

“It was a very aggressive start. To say I was jumping right in is an understatement,” says Cordova, a New York native and longtime Vegas nightlife figure who previously worked as executive vice president of Hakkasan Group. “As far as [Intrigue], the team had done a tremendous job up to that point, so there was not a lot for me to do pre-opening, other than a lot of learning and getting assimilated.”

Then it was straight into the summer, the busiest time of year, when XS adds operational nights for the wildly successful Nightswim event and Encore Beach Club opens day and night at least twice every week. In the midst of the madness, Cordova had to learn how vastly different Wynn Nightlife works from every other nightclub and hospitality company in Las Vegas.

“I think the team was apprehensive about me coming on board, and I knew it would take a lot of trust and hard work to win them over,” Cordova says. “I think as time progressed and they saw my commitment to the success of the venues and to them as individuals and as a team, we started to work together on a much higher level.”

Everyone is familiar with the grandiose experiences Wynn Nightlife provides: The sweeping indoor-outdoor versatility at XS; the hard-hitting parties at the tightly-packed Surrender; the sun-drenched soirees at Encore Beach Club, equal parts luxury and revelry; and now the more intimate, exclusive vibe at Intrigue.

The biggest experiences keep getting bigger. Already recognized for its unrivaled lineup of global star DJs like Diplo, Skrillex and David Guetta, Wynn Nightlife has added Marshmello, The Chainsmokers and Kygo to its resident roster over the past year. Key renovations to Encore Beach Club have pushed its capacity to 4,100 this season, and attendance records have already been broken. And this fall, XS will unveil a new rotating DJ booth, which will allow the headlining artist to better connect with the outdoor audience, a potentially game-changing feature.

The behind-the-scenes perspective is equally impressive. Cordova’s arrival came during a key transition for Wynn Nightlife, which was, until a couple years ago, divided into two operational teams—the EBC and Surrender group, and the XS and Tryst group. (Tryst is now Intrigue.)

“Part of the success of having three nightclubs and a pool [club] was that there was a competitive nature between us. Even though we worked together, on the nights we were open we were fighting for business, and it made the pie bigger for a long period of time,” Sean Christie says. He operated the EBC and Surrender group, and has now risen to the lofty position of executive vice president of business development for Wynn Resorts. “As this town has gotten more saturated—not just in clubs but entertainment in general, with hockey coming and T-Mobile [Arena] and all these amazing venues in town including the biggest DJs and performers here practically every weekend—we’ve gone through this transition and realized the strength in unity. We work as a team, and that team rolls up into the entire company. [Nightlife] is a cog in the wheel of this overarching environment Mr. Wynn has created. Without one, the rest all survive, but we’re better working together.”

Wynn and Encore were already the only major Las Vegas resorts operating their own nightclub and dayclub venues, another factor that ultimately keeps the quality consistent. But by combining the operational teams into one, each Wynn Nightlife venue gets the full benefit of an all-star squad of experienced, creative team members, including Ronn Nicolli, senior executive director of marketing, and Pauly Freedman, senior executive director of operations. Kevin Clark, executive director of talent and programming, recently followed Cordova from Hakkasan Group to join stalwart Wayne Crane, director of talent and programming, in compiling what most industry insiders consider the most compelling talent offering on the Strip.

“I knew I could help them, but I did not fully understand how far we could come in a short period of time due to their ability,” Cordova says of his team. “We are having one of the most successful years over the past four years, and it’s because everyone wanted to do more and wanted to be pushed. We are firing on all cylinders.”

The level of experience and motivation doesn’t end in the upper-management levels. Also essential to the continued success: Steven Lockwood, executive event marketing director at Encore Beach Club, Intrigue and Surrender; Michael Waltman, executive director of operations at Encore Beach Club and Surrender; Ryan Jones, executive director of operations at XS; David Schnitzer, director of VIP services; Kelly Yeager, co-director of VIP services; Nick Martini, director of marketing; and Natalia Badzjo, director of customer development; and Jai Shaun White, co-director of customer service.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with some tremendous people, but there really is a different level of personnel hired at Wynn,” Cordova says. “Here, the entire team shares the responsibility of making the entire resort the best in class in all areas. What’s fascinating about being the new kid on the block is seeing how everyone on the nightlife team has really grown up under this roof, learned within the organization and matured with different roles and responsibilities.”

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Brock Radke has been writing about Las Vegas for more than 15 years. He currently covers entertainment, music, nightlife, food ...

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