- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Las Vegas Strip hotel that sometimes confused tourists and taxi drivers with its generic moniker, “THEhotel,” is getting a distinct new name and a breezy, $80 million makeover hearkening to Florida’s South Beach.

MGM Resorts started accepting online and phone reservations Wednesday for the 1,100-suite DelanoLas Vegas, tucked away on the campus of the much larger Mandalay Bay casino. The property will remain open as THEhotel throughout the renovation, which began in April, and will officially take its new name Sept. 1, the project’s expected completion date.

“This is its own place,” said Matthew Chilton, general manager of the Delano. “We’re not just Mandalay Bay with an all-suites product. This gives it its own identity.”

The Delano is modeled in part after a respected Delano hotel in South Beach that’s believed to be named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The brand is especially popular with customers from Latin America, Europe and the East Coast, which MGM is eyeing for growth because those patrons stay longer and spend more than travelers closer to home.

Decor in the suites is almost all white, with sheer, airy curtains and modern furnishings. Lobby areas and hallways that now feature shiny marble and black wood will be softened with natural wood flooring, stone art installations and a desert color palette.

“It’s the opportunity to have what you’d expect with a chic, Miami vibe, but create our own brand,” Mandalay Bay President and COO Chuck Bowling said.

With rooms at about $200 per night, Delano offers a middle-price option on a campus that includes the mass-market Mandalay Bay and the sumptuous Four Seasons Hotel. It seeks to give sophisticated travelers, especially conventioneers that make up a large portion of its business, a more personalized, boutique experience than they would have in a 4,000-room megaresort.

Public spaces are designed to encourage mingling and make way for casual, pre-conference meetings. The 3940 Coffee + Tea eatery, which will include plush sofas and a fireplace, will feature a morphing menu offering cronuts in the morning, finger sandwiches in the afternoon and cocktails at night. The Franklin lounge will feature DJs or live entertainment at night, and a yet-unnamed breakfast and lunch restaurant is shaping its menu around locally grown ingredients and seasonal produce.

The Delano comes as the Mandalay Bay embarks on a $66 million expansion that will boost its convention center from the seventh to the fifth-largest facility of its kind in the U.S. Bowling said the convention and meeting sector, which keeps Las Vegas‘ economy humming during the weekdays, has been an especially bright spot in the city’s economic recovery.