Posted on

StarBase continues evolving as an eclectic, multipurpose Las Vegas events space

StarBase continues evolving as an eclectic, multipurpose Las Vegas events space

Few event spaces inspire a collective sense of awe like StarBase. Navigating the experiential venue, an expanse of 8,000 colorful square feet, feels like an event in and of itself. It’s a choose-your-own neon-lit adventure under one funky, immersive roof.

StarBase originally opened as a headquarters for parent company Fresh Wata—an event company known for bringing experiential productions and pop-ups to life for major brands—and a warehouse for FWR Rental Haus.

StarBase’s Neon Cloud Room

StarBase’s Neon Cloud Room

StarBase venue director Melissa Desrameaux says the building initially had other tenants, but as their leases ended, Fresh Wata Studios took over more of the space, and “we started connecting the suites,” she says, “building out our offices, turning the rooms into where you could see our creativity and capabilities.”

A life-size astronaut resides in the corner of the themed Neon Cloud room, illuminated by glowing cacti and a Vegas Vicki-emblazoned bar. Approach the back of StarBase and you’ll find an entire wall of neon speakers in the Green Room hallway, next to a featherless Big Bird-like statue that has dunked its head in a nearby sink.

A sense of playfulness pervades much of the space, and “each room has a little bit of a story,” Desrameaux says. Fresh Wata Studios became a showroom for private events in 2018. But during the past year, the venue launched its own programming and opened its event space up to public and outside promoters. The studio also rebranded as StarBase, a live and virtual entertainment event space.

“We really want this to be about the locals. We want it to be about building something that’s off-Strip and still has that laid back type feel,” Desrameaux says. “We want our space to be known for the quality of the people here, not just for the cocktails or the different talent coming in but who you connect with when you’re here.”

There’s plenty to connect over at StarBase. Plant-based foodies enjoy the venue’s Sunday brunches, and the venue’s Flight School—during which sommeliers “pilot” guests through tastings—should appeal to those learning about wine and cheese.

StarBase has played host to concerts by touring bands like Death Valley Girls and such local acts as Ami Divine and Yzzi. And the venue also runs the vivacious LGBTQ nightlife party Starfire every third Saturday.

“It’s really sad that some people don’t feel safe at different locations,” Desrameaux says. “They go to a party and they feel pigeon-holed. We want to create that experience, that pop-up, where it’s like a Studio 54 2.0 and it’s inclusive.”

Starfire, which features two stages, three outdoor event lots, five projectors and 17 TVs, is actually set to go dark in July before returning better than ever in August, Desrameaux says. “We’re amping up the entertainment, the fashion shows, the runway contests, the ballroom scene,” she explains, adding that Starfire will also return as an 18-and-over party. “Some of the people in that community between 18 and 20 don’t really have a place to go. So let’s push the envelope even more but still make it safe.”

StarBase’s Space Age Room

StarBase’s Space Age Room

With so much square footage to work with, StarBase has become a conductor of experiences. The venue’s One Helluva Friday, which takes place every second Friday, is one of StarBase’s largest events, making use of the entire 8,000-square-foot space.

The evening begins with What the Hell Happened, a TED Talk-style speaker series in which professional leaders discuss their failures and what they learned from them. Next comes Hella Expressions, an open mic for local musicians, poets and comedians led by Asia Jade, who has hosted everything from Corduroy’s boozy bingo Downtown to events at Gold Spike and the Usual Place. The evening then winds down with a Late Night, Early Morning session of jams from a select artist or more comedy.

Desrameaux says she sees entertainment going in the same direction as the multifaceted StarBase. “I think people don’t want to be limited. They want to keep exploring,” she says.

“When we saw that Area15 was being built out to be the entertainment, dining and retail ultimate experience, that kind of let us know … we’re not alone in this,” she continues. “[It’s about] creating those micro environments, where people can have a conversation or sit and enjoy a drink but then pop back into another experience. It’s almost mimicking our behavior online with social media. If you want to dive into this little micro or niche-type of interest-based conversation or experience, you can.”

And soon, you won’t even have to step foot inside StarBase to experience its events. “We have built out a digital twin of our space in the metaverse,” Desrameaux says, so revelers can soon hang out via VR or by creating an avatar and navigating through the space virtually on their laptop or phone.

Last year, StarBase experimented with an extended-reality Pride event, and Desrameaux says June’s NFT Triple Crown derby race with virtual horses was a huge success. “I want to hear, ‘I was in StarBase VR, I met someone that was in the building and we connected,” Desrameaux says. “I would love to … make distance or location not a factor in why someone didn’t participate in an experience.”

Click HERE to subscribe for free to the Weekly Fix, the digital edition of Las Vegas Weekly! Stay up to date with the latest on Las Vegas concerts, shows, restaurants, bars and more, sent directly to your inbox!

Posted on

NFL Draft in Las Vegas to Eclipse the Event’s $132 Million Spending Record

NFL Draft in Las Vegas to Eclipse the Event’s $132 Million Spending Record

Tracie Rodburg remembers looking out at the masses attending the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville. The NFL’s SVP for sponsor management, Rodburg stood alongside her counterparts from Caesars Entertainment, who were at the time preparing to host the 2020 draft.  

Nashville boasted over 600,000 attendees across three days, reporting over $132 million in direct spending—more than Dallas and Philadelphia had managed over the previous two years, combined. Putting on the most viewed NFL Draft to that point, Music City would be a tough act to follow.

But Las Vegas is not a town that often finds itself outdone, as the Caesars representatives made clear. “They were looking out on the crowd and saying, ‘Oh, we got this,’” Rodburg said.

Three years later, it’s finally Vegas’ turn to put on a show. While COVID-19 diverted the NFL Draft’s decades-long march from hotel conference room event to multi-day football festival, as many as 1 million attendees are expected this week. Rob Gronkowski will be one of them. 

On Friday, Gronkowksi will host Gronk Beach at the Encore Beach Club. Gronk held a similar event before the 2020 Super Bowl in Miami. He and organizers at Medium Rare believe there is a large market of football fans looking for extra entertainment around the draft. 

“Our partners were very receptive to the thought that draft weekend has a lot of opportunity for events,” Medium Rare co-founder Joe Silberzweig said. “[The NFL is] doing a good job with some of the free events and things going on around the strip, but I’m not sure that it’s enough, especially from an entertainment perspective.” Gronk Beach’s sponsors include Pepsi and 1800 Tequila. 

If this level of festivity had surrounded his 2010 draft day, Gronkowski said, “I probably wouldn’t have even played a single down in the NFL.”

Medium Rare is planning for a different crowd than the ones it entertains at Super Bowls, charging $75 for tickets this week rather than upwards of $400. 

“This is a little bit more for the people, and a little bit more accessible than the Super Bowl,” Medium Rare co-founder Adam Richman said.

Elsewhere on the strip, there will be plenty of opportunities for celebrity sightings. Rich Paul has reportedly booked Tao Nightclub for a Klutch Sports Group event, and Tao Group co-CEO Jason Strauss told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that VIP service demand has been so high the company is struggling to source the high-end tables needed to host them. “In 16 years in this business, I have never had that concern,” he saidWeezer, Ice Cube, and Marshmello, meanwhile, are among the musical performers the NFL has lined up.

The draft’s April date has contributed to its growth. “Q1 is just atrociously packed,” Wasserman president, brands and properties Elizabeth Lindsey said, citing everything from the Daytona 500 to the Oscars. “I think [the Draft] actually happens in a good part of the calendar.”

A mid-spring slot also opens up more location possibilities. Each time the draft visits a new town, Lindsey said there’s a bump in interest among brands looking to reach different markets. After Vegas, the NFL will head to Kansas City in 2023 and Detroit in 2024. 

This will be the first NFL Draft to take place in the Pacific time zone, meaning that the actual business of selecting players will be over in time for locals to enjoy themselves in the evening, while the NFL proves that its fans will use just about any excuse to celebrate. 

“That’s what Vegas is—it’s a show,” Rodburg said. “And the draft will fit perfectly in that.”