The Linq GM Jon Gray: Expect Live Entertainment, Music Festivals, Day-to-Night Experiences
Much-anticipated news on the wheeling and dealing at The Linq and its crown jewel, the High Roller observation wheel, is surfacing as December nears. The first phase—meaning about the first third of the landmark district’s 30-plus tenants—is set to open by the end of the year.
While there are plenty of strictly-shopping and dining forums or live entertainment spaces or rides and attractions, none in town combine a truly day-to-night escapade in one in a central location like The Linq. We caught up with The Linq’s general manager and vice president, Jon Gray, to give us the latest spin on the Strip’s next game changer.
First things first, what’s the timeline for the openings at The Linq and for the High Roller?
We open the first phase of The Linq in the end of December and then open all of the Linq restaurants, shops, and bars at the end of February. Then the wheel is still first half of next year. Because some of the testing schedule, I don’t have a defined timeline on it yet.
Is there anything new you can tell me as far as recent developments?
The rim is completed and we will start putting on cabins next month. Right after the first cabin is put on, it will be brought all the way up to the top so it will be a pretty cool visual. We have removed all the temporary struts on the interior of the wheel so all of the cabling is done and you don’t see those blue steel struts anymore. The façade work is all complete at The Linq and tenants have started to take over their space, and more tenants will start to take over as we get in November.
Have all the tenants been announced?
No, we have a couple that we are finalizing the lease on. We will do another announcement once we have those few spaces that are remaining executed.
You’ve been bombarded with brands and stores from around the world wanting to get into Linq and get a space there. I know you very carefully curated the list of signed tenants, but what was the vetting process? How did you narrow it down?
It was a combination of a lot of different people looking at it. We have a great relationship with Caruso, who is a consultant for us on this. They own and operate The Grove in Los Angeles and The Americana at Brand, which are two iconic shopping-slash-lifestyle centers in Southern California. We’ve got the luxury of having him on our team and his whole team at our disposal to help us think about how we wanted to set this up. And it’s been a great effort between Greg Miller, who is the executive vice president of development, myself, and a couple of individuals on The Linq project that really just went through every single tenant. Some we would go on trips to see particular tenants. We did our own research, I follow a ton of blogs on restaurants, shops and bars around the world. There were a lot of discussions on making sure everything was a cool critical mass of nightlife, dining and entertainment with a lot of brand new-to-Vegas concepts, and also not intimidating.
From looking at the list of vendors, The Linq seems like a place you could go to around noon and not end up leaving until 2 a.m. Between a blow-out bar, the High Roller ride, plenty of shopping, bowling, cupcakes, a Polaroid Museum, an Irish bar, F.A.M.E., live music—was it a conscious decision to have this mix of offerings where you could be there for 10 hours and not have to leave?
One hundred percent. We wanted to create several hundred experiences for you, day to night. You can start your day at the Linq in the morning and end up leaving after 3 a.m. That’s frankly part of the discussion when we would look at tenants—what’s their day and night use, when is their optimal business operating hours and how does that play off their neighbors?
Another question I’ve been getting a lot is about any live music offerings. Will there be any kind of outdoor stage with concerts?
There are multiple opportunities for that. Right in our central plaza we have a large fountain feature and I have a few staging options we are looking to purchase right now so we can cover that fountain and do live performances on it. We have the event space behind the wheel that has 19 acres of surface parking that we have been zoned to do events on, and we’re talking to all kinds of festival operators and concert promoters for outdoor fights, food festivals, you name it. Then we have our roofdeck space in the front, we’re conceptually developing that and that could be a great outdoor performance area. Then Brooklyn Bowl is going to have a concert every night, so they’ll do a lot of live music and we will be able to play off what they’re doing.
Are talking to A-list talent?
Absolutely, we are in discussions for a lot of great activity, particularly behind the wheel, for next year and beyond. Our partners, Brooklyn Bowl, are looking at their full calendar and starting to book.
There are so many components to The Linq between the High Roller and how it appeals to a wide demographic, but what do you think will surprise people the most once the project is open?
I think they are going to be surprised by everything. The common areas and the way we have designed those, you feel like you are walking down a cool street with all these architectural elements throughout in the storefronts. It’s all encompassing.
Why hasn’t anything like this been done in the past?
It makes me wonder that a lot when we are seeing how successful this thing is looking and the response that we have from the tenant, and locals and tourists alike that are so excited to see this open. The focus has shifted in Las Vegas to more of a hospitality customer. Vegas has always been known as an entertainment destination, and this is the next step in ensuring we stay at the top of that.
Nightlife is still so huge right now on the Strip, so what will the bar, lounge and nightlife options be at Linq?
Every food and beverage outlet has some type, whether it be F.A.M.E. where downstairs there is the this really cool Asian night market with a new age twist and Asian food trucks, and on the second floor it’s a really cool space with a sushi lounge and bar, and they’re going to have DJs and live performances. Tilted Kilt has a nightlife option to it. Yardhouse is always one of those places you can shut down having a great conversation having a few beers with your buddies. Chayo has a lot of DJ components, and a mechanical bull. Brooklyn Bowl is going to have concerts every night and once the concert is over, the GA area becomes a dance floor. They have a DJ spin, and you’re bowling while you listen to great music.
Have you been approached by local nightlife and hospitality players to open a venue?
We’ve talked to every major nightlife company in Vegas about spaces, and for us, no offense to the nightlife industry today because there are amazing nightclubs and operators in town, but we want this to feel and look differently. We’re not going to add another EDM club at The Linq. We’re very excited about what Drai’s is bringing to the table when that comes on board down the street from us and we want to be complementary to that.