Local builder linked to Vegas Linq
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dave Pray's modest office on Capitol Street is crammed full of blueprints and construction photos, as you might expect for the builder-turned-project manager.
Look closer and you'll see the thickest sheaf of blueprints bears the legend Brooklyn Bowl, the project he's devoted himself to for the last year.
Pray, through his company PrayWorks, is serving as the owners representative on the entertainment venue, part of a $550 million development called The Linq that is scheduled to open next spring.
And despite its name, this Brooklyn Bowl will be located in the middle of the Las Vegas strip, across from Caesars Palace.
Like most things in Sin City, The Linq is over the top, mind-boggling (see caesars.com/the linq). Its star attraction is a giant wheel (don't call it a Ferris wheel) named the High Roller. It's designed to be the world's largest, at 520 in diameter, 550 feet tall.
Instead of sitting in seats, up to 20 passengers will ride in each of the 28 bubble-like cabins, where they can down a drink or two during a half-hour single revolution.
The High Roller is located a long city block from Las Vegas Boulevard at the end of a pedestrian mall between the venerable Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino and The Quad (formerly the Imperial Palace), both owned by Caesars Entertainment.
In their efforts to lure younger visitors in the 20-46 age group, Caesars Entertainment will also build 200,000 square feet of leasable space on both sides of the walkway -- bars and restaurants, plus shops and entertainment venues. They estimate more than 20 million visitors already pass by each year.
For the largest space, Caesars landed Brooklyn Bowl, which has gained a solid reputation in less than four years in its home in, yes, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Founders Peter Shapiro and Charley Ryan (not that
Charlie Ryan) built Brooklyn Bowl in a crumbling 120-year-old ironworks factory.
It might seem like an odd mix -- a live music stage, dance floor, bars, fine food ... and 16 bowling lanes. But it works, mainly because of the details, Pray said. Shapiro and Ryan made sure the sound was great so musicians would love to play there.
Now they're hoping to repeat that success. That's where Pray comes in. It turns out he and Ryan were high school buddies at the prestigious Lawrenceville Academy in New Jersey, but went their separate ways after 1970. "We've kept in touch ever since," he said.
Ryan traded precious metals in the commodities exchange before he met the younger Shapiro and joined him in the nightclub business.
Pray moved to Charleston and launched a successful career as a home and commercial builder. He sold his self-named construction businesses in 2005. At PrayWorks, he focuses on project management, usually from the owner's side, working with lawyers, architects, engineers, banks and contractors.
When Las Vegas suitors (at least three, reportedly) started courting Brooklyn Bowl, Ryan called Pray. Ryan introduced him to Jim Woods, CEO at the Bowls, the parent company.
"He said we want to a deal with Klai Juba," the production architects for The Linq. "So I hired a lawyer who worked with their lawyers.
"They had to hire lighting engineers, acoustic engineers. They all work with Klai Juba, but I selected them. In terms of construction, I was on my own with that. I found people who were appropriate."
Brooklyn Bowl hopes to duplicate its success in New York, but on a larger scale, Pray said.
"They have a capacity of about 800. The one in Las Vegas is about twice the size and will accommodate about 2,300 people on the floor."
The idea is to recreate the vibe of the original Bowl, he said. "You rent the venue. People rent one or two lanes, but they get preferential views of the stage." When they're not aiming at the pins, bowlers can relax in their private lounge, sipping their favorite beverage from the comfort of leather lounge chairs.
Through his ties to the music industry, Shapiro has booked Adele, Kanye West and Bruno Mars in Brooklyn. He has even larger goals in Vegas.
"Bands are classified -- A level, B level, C level," Pray said. "Brooklyn Bowl is usually B level."
In A-level Vegas, Shapiro told one reporter he hopes to land folks like Bob Dylan, Green Day, Kid Rock and Prince.
"These bands come with more sophisticated contract riders -- facilities and lighting and performance amenities," Pray said. It's his job to make them happy.
"You need a certain type of power. It has to be clean, not subject to feedback.
"You need acousticians. There are two issues. You need separation; you don't want to hear your neighbor downstairs. And you need to tune your room. I've had experience in separation, but how a room works.... These people know how to model a room. You can adjust it so it will be known as a good room to play."
Lighting the facility is another major concern. There are four bars spread through the three-story, 77,000-square-foot space, Pray said.
"So you have the architectural lighting -- painting the space -- and lighting the performers, and LED panels." The large TV-like screens can be programmed to complement the music, like a 21st century version of a 60s light show. "That's a big piece of work that I buy," he said.
Pray can't quote the exact budget, but said Brooklyn Bowl owners are making a mid-eight-figure investment, simply to finish the interior space. That includes Pray's fee.
"I do most of this remotely -- emailing, telephone calls," he said. "You can put drawings up on the (computer) screen. I go out there about once every three weeks, for three complete days."
On a site visit a few days ago, he learned the landlord is ready to turn over the keys to the site.
"We should start construction by July 1 and finish around January," he said Friday. "Then it takes about a month to get ready to open."
Although he started out building custom homes in Kanawha and Putnam counties, Pray is no stranger to working out-of-state work, or on large-scale projects. "We did a lot of tenant construction with Pray Construction in the '80s, more than 100 Kay Jewelers stores."
As to the largest project, "It's right there. Sometime back we worked on a $28 million project in Morgantown, a NIOSH center.
"But I'm not the general contractor now. There's a lot less responsibility." If something breaks down, the contractor takes the heat, he said.
The Linq project may not be his last collaboration with the Brooklyn Bowl owners, Pray said.
"This will be a roll-out. They will roll this out in other markets. One element in my relationship with them is to write up what we did well and what we can improve on. There's a sense we'll do it again. It's exciting." Reach Jim Balow at email@example.com or 304-348-5102.