By Jeffrey V. Smith
Photos by Jeffrey V. Smith
In an effort to expand his footprint in the Colorado gaming market and add much-needed hotel rooms to his mix of casino offerings, John Zimpel, and his Colorado-owned company CC Gaming, entered a deal to purchase Central City’s Reserve Casino Hotel in early 2017. After more than a year of renovations and upgrades, it’s finally time to celebrate the casino’s Grand Opening, June 29-30. The weekend features a ribbon-cutting, giveaways, drawing for 10,000 Z Play credits, dining deals and a pair of performances by world-renowned pianist, songwriter and vocalist Marcia Ball.
Anyone familiar with the Reserve Casino will immediately discover a whole new vibe—and plenty of physical changes—at the Grand Z Casino. In fact, the process is still going on. Changes and renovations to parts of the casino floor and hotel rooms are being made daily.
According to management, the former casino and its hotel rooms were “beat up” and not well maintained. CC Gaming had to do quite a bit of maintenance to build the property back up to “being relevant again,” according to Vice President of Marketing Joe Behm. They wallpapered the entire casino, installed all new LED lighting and design features, added more than 100 new slot machines and a deli, created a conference room, and gutted and re-branded a large restaurant. They’ve also added Starbucks coffee, specialty teas, computerized soda machines and roaming servers offering snacks to guests. It’s definitely an upgrade.
The casino features 119 hotel rooms, three restaurants, two bars, a live entertainment facility and more than 700 covered parking spaces. “We’re really excited to come into this property,” Guest Relations Manager (and owner’s son) John Zimpel, Jr. said. “It doubled the size of our company. We’re now at around 450 employees and we now have the second most slot machines in the state. We have a lot of slots.” CC Gaming also owns Johnny Z’s Casino in Central City, Z Casino in Black Hawk and Z Stop. The addition of the 224,000 square feet of space at the Grand Z Casino makes CC Gaming the largest locally-owned casino owner-operator in Colorado.
“We’ve been pushing our new Colorado-owned-and-operated slogan and we incorporated the Colorado Flag into the Z Casinos logo” Zimpel, Jr. explained. “I think a lot of people like that we are locally owned and the money stays in the state. It’s really been huge for us.”
It’s not just the physical aspects of the casino that have been improved. Z Casino employees go out of their way to be sure their guests are happy. “We’re really big about guest service. We think that’s what has made us stand out.” Zimpel, Jr. said. “When you come into our properties you have a smiling face that greets you. We try to make our employees part of the family and I think feeling like part of the family makes them treat our guests really well.”
A noticeable change to the property is how its 300-person, Vegas-style music room—and its million-dollar audio system—is used. Previously, it was removed from the gaming area and often required paid entry. The space is now open to the casino and integrated into its vibe. Bands, both local and nationally-touring, now play without a cover and tend to be much more accessible to a wider range of guests. That means more people having more fun.
The room is also used for VIP parties, private events and even brunch buffets with live music. A large screen allows for viewing sporting events as well. Live music fills the room Friday and Saturday nights and a run of live music is planned for July 4-8.
Up in the hotel, all 119 rooms were deep-cleaned and received new carpet, wallpaper, paint and a lot of care. “I think the biggest difference is we reevaluated the culture as a whole, and we’ve put the focus back on guests.” Hotel Manager Scott Bagley said.
One of the biggest updates in the casino was made to its restaurant. A previous buffet and deli area was completely gutted and recreated as the Z Grill to bring it more in line with the restaurants at CC Gaming’s other properties. A fresh salad bar was also added. A fine dining restaurant was renamed The Grand Z Bistro. Its intimate atmosphere has inspired the casino’s world-class chefs to create a menu offering a variety of hand cut steaks and “classic favorites” with a twist.
“I think we’ve taken a look at our overall customer base and how well they’ve been treated until I got here,” Executive Chef Stephen Kleinman said. “My purpose is to continue on that process. We’ve changed our product to very fresh. ‘Always buy Colorado’ is kind of the theme of what the company is all about.”
Another new asset at the casino is a job training room with table games and other casino equipment. The casino and its sister properties are always looking for help for available jobs and it now has a way to train employees on site. “People like working for the company, which makes a difference to the guest experience,” Behm explained.
No matter when you may have visited the casino at 321 Gregory Street in the past—as Harvey’s Wagon Wheel, Fortune Valley or The Reserve—an enhanced level of hospitality and service along with that special Z Casinos touch is immediately evident.
Visit grandzcasinohotel.com or call 303-582-0800 to learn more.
© Originally published in the July 2018 issue of the MMAC Monthly