JCK talks to Mandalay Bay’s Martie Sparks about what it takes to host the country’s most prestigious jewelry fair
After two decades at the Sands Convention Center, the JCK Las Vegas show moved into new digs last year at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. It was a big deal for the jewelry community—but, believe it or not, it was an even bigger deal for Mandalay Bay. To hear Martie Sparks, the hotel’s vice president of catering and convention services, describe the preparation process is to appreciate the degree to which JCK differs from just about every other trade fair on the Las Vegas calendar. “It was the first convention we looked at as a corporate-wide event,” Sparks says. “They had room blocks at just about every one of our properties. But it was never looked at as overflow. The convention was at Mandalay Bay, but it was an MGM Resorts convention.”
JCK: How did you prepare for this year’s event?
Martie Sparks: This year we didn’t need to do quite as much education. Last year was everything, down to what JCK stands for. This year it’s more, “Hey, JCK’s back. We’re delighted!”
JCK: What lessons did you take away from the 2011 experience?
MS: We did a couple things we’d never done before. We hired a rabbi. (The way we hired a rabbi is we made a sizable donation to the synagogue.) And he was here on property with us every single day so that those that were kosher and Sabbath observers could see we had a rabbi there helping us and coaching us to make sure we were doing everything we were supposed to be doing. And we hired a woman from the Jewish community; she did an educational seminar for our employees on what we need to do at Sabbath. So we knew we couldn’t touch the drapes, or turn off the lights, and we made arrangements for people to walk the back of house stairs. We blocked rooms on lower floors; we didn’t want anyone to walk 30 flights.
JCK: Wow, what an undertaking.
MS: We also reached out to Rick Moonen with RM Seafood and asked if he’d be the host restaurant for a kosher restaurant. It shut down for two days for the rabbis to convert it. I heard that nobody had ever done that before. What we tried to show is that we took it very seriously. We were honored that JCK would trust us with a show of this magnitude and prestige.
JCK: What else made the show different from your perspective?
MS: I heard there’s $52 billion of jewelry on the property, and that adds a whole different element. That’s something we never have to face—having SWAT on top of the hotel. The Western Veterinary convention—you don’t have to worry about that. That, again, affected every one of our properties.
JCK: What did security preparation entail?
MS: We trained our housekeepers. One of the things [JCK show parent company] Reed is adamant about is that nobody can display in a guest room. It goes against their policies and procedures, and it’s really not safe. So we trained all of our housekeepers to look for things that might indicate they’re exhibiting in their rooms, and then the housekeepers would notify their supervisors.
JCK: What do you think about this year’s event?
MS: We’re all really looking forward to year two. Year one is difficult—for the attendees because they’re used to the Sands and don’t know how to get around, and for our employees because they don’t know the show, so we’re learning along the way. I’m looking at year two as being a little more comfortable for everybody.
JCK: Finally, what can we expect next year?
MS: Going into 2013 is when we’ll see more physical changes here at Mandalay Bay than in 2012. We’re about to renovate THEhotel. Four Seasons is going through a major renovation right after JCK, so it’s ready for 2013. The [Cirque du Soleil] Michael Jackson show is coming here. We’ll have a nightclub by 2013. From 2011 to 2012, to go through the whole capital expense process, design, and construction, there wasn’t time to do all these things. But in 2013 is when we’ll see major changes.