First, take a hard look. The Greenbrier is not and never will be a destination resort. It is a regional resort. It has a rich history and has a truly unique infrastructure. The beauty of the mountain setting is unmistakeable. Forget about ideas like the “fusion” restaurant and the disco bar. Upscale comfort is what the Greenbrier can offer.
So what should the owners do?
Sell of a piece to a casino operator with a proven track record. A successful casino must also have first class entertainment. This means converting space to create performance areas and performance theaters. The retail shopping needs to be greatly expanded, and this should be done in converted space that might look like Fremont Street in Las Vegas which has a canope that runs a light show and music. Package concessions for skiing at Snowshoe, white rafting, tours of local caverns, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, golf, hiking, mountain biking, road courses, hands on participation arts and crafts along with extreme skate boarding, a teen hangout and all the existing activities.
Then promote, promote, promote. Emphasize that anyone can spend a week at the Greenbrier and do something and see something different every single day. Sell it as a regional multi-day vacation spot with gambling, good food, shopping, entertainment, abundant activities all in a pristine mountain setting with access by interstate, airplane or train. Market heavily in the DC area. Also provide for a 20% discount if you have a West Virginia driver’s license and see what happens. Second only to the profits from the casino and shows, the convention business will seriously consider this package. Vegas plus the Greenbrier plus unparalleled outdoor activites all in one place sitting in a mountain setting that many people have never seen? A marketing dream come true.
Now here is the important and slightly tricky part. Do all of this while preserving the quiet, comfortable elegance of the hotel itself. Put all of the “activities” away from the insulated “cocoon” of the main hotel. This “marries” the “action” of Vegas with the “peace and quiet” of a famous Southern spa and resort. As things stand now, the sedate, comfortable elegance of the Greenbrier is all there is. It needs to be “surrounded” by “bright light” action. The idea is to pair “sleepy time down South” with near constant activity elsewhere. Because hardcore gamblers will be coming, provide non-Carlton Varney rooms near the casino action for those folks who will gamble all day and night (and produce most of the profit). Others who might gamble for an hour or so a day would be willing to pay to stay in the historical section with its peace, quiet and comfort but they would know that if you are tired of playing golf, reading on the porch, having tea, etc., you can “cross over” into the “wild side.”
Finally, you need something unique. The Greenbrier has it – the bunker. Turn that into a first class museum with “tons” of interactive features. Rather than walking people through the bunker and telling them what it was model it after the numerous museums that have video presentations, simulated activity and a gift shop. Capture that time in our history. If properly done, this feature would be incredible.
If all this happens White Sulphur and Lewisburg need to prepare to grow. The employees this will attract will become permanent residents of the area. .Crime and the need for increased social services will increase so be prepared. The hotel/motel tax should help here. The state legislature should allow all not just half of those funds to be used by Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs. Half going to a CVB is unnecessarily redundant. Let the new Greenbrier do its own promoting.
Put all of this in a new company where the casino operator has a large stake. Register the stock that would be owned by CSX so they can sell out to the public. The railroad really needs to get out of this business.
All of this would take two to three years to create. That would be about the time the national recession should be reversing. Also now is the time for this type of investment to be made when interest rates are down and prices should be stable.
Having done this if a theme park can be attracted to some of the Greenbrier farmland acreage, my goodness things wil be interesting here in West Virginia.
Just a thought..