LAX, Las Vegas



The second story serves as an ultra-VIP level.

Pure helps revitalize a Sin City icon.
By Marcus Webb

A $350 million Extreme Pyramid Makeover comes not a moment too soon for the Luxor, the famed black pyramid at the south end of the Vegas Strip.

The Los Angeles Times recently described the 30-story fantasy casino-hotel as the property that “everyone loved seeing from the outside and few enjoyed being inside.” Originally built in the early ’90s, Luxor achieved instant worldwide fame with its dramatic profile, topped by a searchlight beacon that could be seen 40 miles away and costs a reported million dollars a night to operate. But Luxor’s original ancient Egypt-themed nightclub, Ra, along with other entertainment attractions, never really took off; and, in recent years, the facility had become a dormitory: Vegas visitors slept at the Luxor, but partied elsewhere.

Now that is all poised to change. As part of a massive renovation that’s reportedly costing more than Luxor’s original $300 million construction budget, owner MGM-Mirage retained Pure Management Group to bring its patented, successful nightclub formula to the facility. The result is LAX, a brand new $20 million superclub.

California Cool
From its name, which references the Los Angeles International Airport; to its two-story, movie-set décor, which suggests a cross between a 1920s speakeasy and a black-and-red Gothic cathedral, LAX is designed to appeal to high-end, VIP guests: especially the army of L.A. visitors who roll into Vegas each weekend.

“Everything in LAX has been designed with an emphasis on attracting elite VIPs with high-profile guests, people who are upper echelon, well dressed and well heeled,” says Pure managing partner Steve Davidovici.

Although weekend cover charges are affordable for the masses, who will enjoy the ground level dancefloor and bars, Pure’s track record at other clubs indicates those much-mentioned VIPs will happily fork out up to $500 per bottle in the exclusive, enclosed, downstairs Noir Bar and the elite upstairs alcoves that run around the perimeter of the cavernous main chamber. Davidovici said Pure expects to realize an average spend of $1,000 per table.

The rationale for the club’s heavy Los Angeles appeal is simple, Davidovici said. “We derive a lot of our business from Southern California: Los Angeles and Orange County. In fact, 50% of our traffic comes from that. We wanted a place where L.A. people felt at home. We even hired L.A. drivers and doormen from our California clubs for weekends here, so LAX guests will feel comfortable seeing a lot of the same faces in our new Vegas venue that they see during the week back home.”

The 26,000-square-foot club includes 78 tables, 118 speakers, several bars, and two DJ booths. Los Angeles-based interior designer Thomas Schoos worked with Pure’s in-house designer to create what Davidovici described as “polished hip décor.” The main entrance features three Gothic arched doors, the center doorway standing 22 feet high, and all three fitted with black ironwork gates. The “LAX” logo, featuring a type font that will look familiar to visitors from the City of Angels, adorns the walls on either side of the main gate.

Inside the entrance lobby, a host podium is flanked by two curved, black marble staircases under high Roman cathedral ceilings. Visitors flow up the stairs and along a lengthy corridor (which is actually a bridge over the downstairs Noir Bar). This corridor/bridge eventually opens to a dramatic view of the club’s main chamber, a long, rectangular, two-story room with two more descending curved staircases of black wrought iron on both ends. There are also long bars on both ends (upstairs and downstairs) and a central dancefloor abutted by a raised stage with the DJ booth. Behind this stage, a 35-foot-tall, vivid red plush curtain provides a dramatic backdrop. Black chandeliers and Turbosound Aspect speaker clusters hang from the ceiling.

The entire venue is outfitted in rich, red leathers, draped with red curtains here and there, adorned with oversized mirrors, and accented with black, burgundy, and deep brown walls and finishes. The total effect creates a mood that is sophisticated yet fun. The second story serves as an ultra-VIP level and features seven individual lofts, each of which accommodates 10 to 20 people with tables, chairs, and comfortable sofas. Downstairs, under that long hallway, is the Noir Bar, consisting of another long bar with its own DJ, plus an intimate enclosed room with a rotunda ceiling and massive white and glass chandelier where six booths feature drinks and a dessert menu.

(Un)Found Sound
LAX’s sophisticated sound system was designed and installed by Scott Fisher of The Wave – Pure Management’s sound company of choice – assisted by his shop manager Chad Craig.

“Some clubs think speakers should be the opposite of children; heard but not seen,” Fisher explained. “Pure falls into this category: They don’t want anything to be seen, if possible.” As a result, he said, subwoofers that traditionally go on the floor were installed behind staircases or into seating banquettes, leaving more room for tables.

Britney Spears (center) was reportedly paid $80,000 to host the grand opening.

“We did not lose one table or one seat anywhere in the club due to speaker location, which means higher profits for Pure,” Fisher said happily.

Speaker requirements changed frequently throughout the design process, and were altered four times in the last two weeks before opening, according to Fisher. Steel, marble, and concrete building materials created challenging acoustics, but The Wave found ways around that, too. For example, at the suggestion of Pure’s technical director, Brandon Scales, Fisher drilled holes in the staircase risers to allow bass sound to come through better.

Turbosound speakers were deployed throughout, including six TCS-081C compact eight-inch units on the sides of the bridge over Noir Bar (eight Tannoy Arena satellite speakers are on the bridge itself). Two TSB-212 subwoofers provide bass in Noir. Turbosound’s ultra-compact Impact 50 two-way makes an appearance on the lower and upper rotunda, as well as by Noir’s private VIP entrance.

All upstairs VIP lofts feature Electro-Voice EVID 4.2 speakers, mounted on columns and hidden behind curtains. A total of 30 provide sound in the eight-foot ceiling where the bars and most of the VIP seating is located, bordering the main dancefloor.

The dancefloor features eight of the Turbosound Aspect TA-500 three-way, nicknamed “Aspect Wide” for its newly developed Polyhorn design, which doubles the horizontal dispersion of other Aspect models. The Wides are suspended in four pairs of two each. Four Turbosound TSB-212 subwoofers are built into some of banquettes that border the dancefloor. Under each of the two giant staircases are TSW-218 dual-18" subwoofers.

Fisher chose the BSS Soundweb control system, ensuring proper inputs are directed to the right speakers, and also providing individual volume controls over every speaker in each zone and room of the club. Soundweb-compatible BSS Blu 10 touch controllers are located in the DJ booth, in Noir, and at an access panel near the VIP booths. Amps, 28 in total, are all MC2.

LAX’s main DJ booth has the usual Rane and Pioneer mixers, Pioneer CDJs, and Technics turntables, as well as an installed Rane Serato system. But Fisher upped its game with some problem-solving additions.

“Commonly, clubs have two mixers for different types of DJs: Hip-hop guys like Rane, electronic music guys like Pioneers,” says Fisher. “Most clubs take one DJ mixer and send the output of the second into that mixer, which feeds music into the club. Same with monitors: Normally, just one is hooked to the mixer.”

But Fisher chose to send each DJ mixer and monitor speaker (two self-powered Turbosound NuQ-12DPs and a B15DP reflex subwoofer) through an Allen & Heath GR2 line mixer to feed the house, enabling smooth changes from one to the other, and the least perceptible break possible should one fail. Plus, the booth also contains a BSS FDS-334T Minidrive: “Some DJs like the monitor only on the left, others only on right, some like both. With the BSS 334T, you can change the arrangement with one touch of a switch,” says Fisher.

Fisher chose three AKG WMS 4000 Series wireless mics, featuring a “smart” rechargeable battery system. All Pure clubs use the same model. “AKG mics are extremely durable but, if they break, there is always another one from another property they can grab and reprogram while using the same receiver,” says Fisher. The recharger system saves hundreds of dollars every year.

‘Trusspods’ & Digi-Light
Lighting systems were the province of Neu Visions Design, whose managing director Adam Camp has worked with Pure on several previous projects. For Camp, as for Fisher, LAX’s unique movie-set atmosphere provided challenges. “It actually took quite some time just to visualize the new space and figure out a structure or rigging system that would not contrast,” he said.

But the final result, said Camp, “is definitely the best club system I have designed and seen as of yet, and I can only hope that it takes the industry to a higher level. Both our architectural and theatrical lighting teams built versatile systems so any mood could be achieved, as you don’t necessarily know what the pulse of a venue is till it is born.”

Key components include nine automated custom “trusspods” using an optically encoded Chain Master hoist system (distributed domestically by Show Distribution), three custom 25-foot ribbon lifts, and a whopping eight High End Systems DL.2 digital lights (three of these are suspended from ribbon lifts). Also in the mix are 22 Martin Professional intelligent fixtures, plus eight Atomic Strobes and an MDG Atmospheres hazer.

“We put the DL.2 fixtures to work full-time, using them for all their capabilities, including edge-blended video, animated logo projection and amazing aerial effects,” says Camp. “Once we get into the heat of the night, they are primarily used as moving lights and effect lights creating the new age of aerial effects.”

“We do have a fixed widescreen projector and screen for special events. Other than that, every surface is a screen with the DL.2 fixtures. We also have an advanced video infrastructure setup to add and route video for events as needed.”

All moving lights are controlled by a custom Wholehog 3 PC System using the Hog 3 Expansion wing and three Elo touchscreens, resulting in a sleek, eye-catching and functional control booth. The curtain wall surrounding the DJ booth is uplit and downlit from integrated LEDs, as well. Five DMX universes run the main dancefloor system. (The venue has a total of 18.)

 Lightfaktor’s Wes Lane served as the architectural lighting designer. He integrated the ETC Unison architectural control system and thousands of channels of LED and fiber optic illuminators. Camp said Lightfaktor utilized extensive fiber optics for spot and accent lighting club-wide, offering the capability for holiday themes and special color schemes for private events.

“We have a few levels of control throughout the venue for different types of users,” says Camp. “AMX provides the means of integrating all of these control platforms for architectural lighting, LED, fiber optic, audio control, video control and routing. You’re able to recall multiple presets from all these systems with one button. This allows venue management to easily manage their entire system, especially at the end of the night.”

Future Retro
Some might see the desultory nightlife on the south end of the Strip as a drawback for LAX; Pure clearly regards it as an opportunity. “There has really been no nightlife at the Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Four Seasons, or Excalibur – that’s 20,000 rooms in several casino resorts with no clubs,” Davidovici pointed out. “Guests of those hotels can all walk or take the tram. All these buildings connect, so we will draw from a huge potential base.”

But more than attracting casual drop-in traffic, Pure expects LAX and the rest of the Luxor remake, including new restaurants and bistros, to transform the facility into a must-see destination stop for partiers “from the desert to the sea.” Los Angeles star power fueled the club’s spectacular August 31 grand opening, which featured guest of honor Britney Spears, plus club investor and DJ/music director DJ AM. One week later, Christina Aguilera (another LAX investor) and DJ Vice provided the celebrity factor.

For visitors who land at Sin City’s own LAX, the once-campy black pyramid may now offer a futuristic vision of Vegas nightlife.

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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications