The Sky's the Limit

Hospitality legend MGM Grand has joined forces with manufacturer Bang & Olufsen to provide custom electronics for the Skylofts at MGM Grand, a new boutique hotel in the heart of Sin City.
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Hospitality legend MGM Grand has joined forces with manufacturer Bang & Olufsen to provide custom electronics for the Skylofts at MGM Grand, a new boutique hotel in the heart of Sin City.

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Now, thanks to a new collaboration, some deluxe audio/video systems will be staying in Vegas for a long, long time. Hospitality legend MGM Grand has joined forces with manufacturer Bang & Olufsen to provide custom electronics for the Skylofts at MGM Grand, a new boutique hotel in the heart of Sin City.

Perched at the top of MGM Grand, the 47 new Skylofts are two-story hotel suites featuring luxury amenities, including integrated audio and video devices, distributed audio, and complete automation of lighting, draperies, heating and air conditioning. The Skylofts, ranging from 1,400 to 6,000 square feet and priced from $800 to $10,000 per night, are now open to the public.

"In each Skyloft at MGM Grand, our guests will be treated to over $80,000 per room of audio/video integration," stated Tobias Mattstedt, director of the Skylofts at MGM Grand.

The Skylofts compelling design philosophy, conceived by architect Tony Chi, is a hybrid of simplicity and indulgence. The contemporary interior features geometric angles and neutral tones accented by modern upholstery and checkered floor tiles. Each of the lofts dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows allow unrestricted views of the bustling neon Boulevard below.

MGM Grand tapped Bang & Olufsen to lead the custom installation on this unique job because of the Danish companys previous work with Tony Chi. B&O, based in Denmark and with offices and retail outlets around the world, is one of the few manufacturers that maintains a self-sufficient custom installation division, a department that is suited for projects just like this.

Kim Gravesen, B&O Americas executive vice president, stated, "Back in 2001, we saw where this industry was going and we decided to focus on custom installation. And in order for our dealers to be able to go to the same route, we had to generate the appropriate training modules and have in-house support to help them find products that we may not carry. Our custom division is that support." After putting systems in place to strengthen its custom department, B&O also started to look at complementary industries, and made its foray into the hospitality market.

The prime function of B&O America, Gravesen noted, is to be a support organization for its network of dealers. "We try to put as much emphasis into that as possible and do what we can to help independent dealers through their local projects," he said. B&O America currently has 52 external custom dealers around the nation.

The prime responsibility of maintaining B&Os custom component is charged to Steve Moore, B&Os custom installation manager. Moore was B&Os "man on the ground" during the Skylofts project, as well as the leader on ongoing product training calls and in-field technical support.

For corporate branding and identity, Skylofts was an important project for B&O. "It is an absolutely attractive job, no doubt about it, so it is important to be associated with it," Gravesen said. "But also the clientele that will stay here is an affluent audience. And we not only look at their buying power, but also interests."

B&O targets customers with money to spend as well as interests in contemporary art and design. These traits are typical of people who travel abroad, and since many guests at the MGM are global sojourners, Skylofts seemed to be a perfect channel for branding.
"We view this project in two waysfrom the business perspective Skylofts is a good job because of the high technology involved, but also for the exposure it is very important," Gravesen added.

Skylofts properties officially opened on December 23, 2004, but the A/V integration began back in May 2004. B&O product specialists, led by Steve Moore, long-term partner Crestron Electronics and design experts collaborated to develop the system. They wanted to create a solution that was both fully-functional yet personal; ideally, guests should be able to create their preferred environment through customized remote controls and in-wall touch panels. In total, more than 165 pairs of B&O loudspeakers, 140 B&O music systems, 50 B&O signature plasmas and additional plasmas were installed, making Skylofts B&O Americas largest U.S. integration in a multi-dwelling unit.

The Skyloft floor plans consist of 26 one-bedroom lofts, 17 two-bedroom lofts, and three three-bedroom lofts. All of the products that ended up in the lofts were specially ordered and designed for the integration, and then custom installed in a six-month time frame.

"We have been doing this installation in phases corresponding to the different wings of the hotel, and the project is still evolving," Moore said. Phase One opened December 23rd, Phase Two opened in early January, and the final wing will open in April 2005.

Moore has a strong network of installers and subcontractors in his team, but it still proved challenging to complete a project that staggered over months and months. "We didnt want to leave anyone high and dry, because the customer comes first, so I had to be creative and pull from various areas," Moore said. "The guys on this team were unbelievable. We had installers fly in from various states, and despite complications and the long hours we worked, no one complained. Everybody said, well keep going, which was phenomenal."

Moore and his colleagues also cooperated with MGMs in-house technical services department to keep the installation running smoothly.

Unlike some custom projects, Skylofts installers enjoyed working alongside the architect because of Chis prior relationship with B&O. "The integration was difficult, but Tony knows B&O products and has a good feel for what would fit well into the design," Moore said. This marriage between design and device helped created interior cohesion that flowed from room to room.

According to Moore, the Skylofts director, Tobias Mattstedt, also had very strong ideas on how the lofts should look. So, like any great collaborative effort, the final aesthetic result was an amalgam of ideas from the architects, custom installers and MGM officials.

"Partnership" is a dominant theme in other areas of the project, as well. David Sell, Crestrons Western regional sales

director, attributed some of the projects automation success to Crestrons I2P manufacturer partnership program. "This relationship between Crestron and Bang & Olufsen was fostered by I2P, and Skylofts is an excellent example of the unique value I2P brings to both us and our manufacturer partners," Sell said.

B&O executives dont expect that many jobs of this magnitude will present themselves anytime soon, nor do they expect to install 500 systems in a mid-sized Marriott somewhere. But with this stunning new feather in their cap, they do expect to integrate creative A/V into a Presidential Suite or high-profile lounge. B&O has set the bar--just like the lofts themselves--sky high.

Margot Douaihy is managing editor of Residential Systems in New York City.