Some may look at Intrigue, the latest jewel of the Wynn’s nightlife portfolio, and think its most memorable feature is the lagoon, complete with its own waterfall; others might say it’s the Living Room, the VVIP lounge with its curated vinyl collection along one wall. But for Scott Acton, founder of Forté Specialty Contractors, the beauty is in the details. “I like the stainless steel wave panels on the wall,” he says. “It’s a brilliant idea. It’s unlike anything else in Las Vegas.”
It’s the attention to those little details that has made Forté a go-to firm for several of Las Vegas’ most design-forward companies and properties. Acton’s amassed a body of work up and down the boulevard, recently bolstered by Milk Bar and Momofuku in The Cosmopolitan and Intrigue in Wynn.
The desire to build spectacle may be hereditary. Acton’s grandfather Hubert did construction and fabrication for Disney and numerous amusement parks. Next came Ken Acton, Scott’s father, who joined the family business after creating, among other things, the shark for the film Jaws.
Acton Animation moved to Las Vegas in 1995, and Scott started to work with his father. One of their first projects: the pirate ships in front of TI. “I was only going to be [in Las Vegas] for 11 months,” he says. “I overshot it by a little bit.”
That “little bit” has turned into more than 20 years of projects, first independently, then with his company Trevi Manufacturing. Selling that business on the precipice of the economic downturn in 2007, he returned in 2010 with Forté, combining construction with design under one roof to cut down on the number of middlemen between an idea and a completed project, and figuring out how to lower costs without affecting the end experience for patrons.
“We come in and modify a design to make it more palatable for the budget,” he says. “We go to work, looking at different materials, applications and attachment methods, and figure out how we can get the same look and feel but shave dollars off.”
Over those two decades, Acton has worked on restaurants, nightclubs and theaters while continuing the family’s legacy in amusement parks; like his father and grandfather before him, Acton still does substantial work for Disney. Up and down the Strip, there are few resorts that don’t have a Forté project: Planet Hollywood has Gordon Ramsay BURGR, The Palazzo has SushiSamba and Aria has Bardot Brasserie.
“As these different chefs and restaurateurs come to town, they want to put their stamp on the world,” Acton says of his restaurant-heavy portfolio, “and I believe Vegas is becoming a place where people come to do that.”
One of his regular Vegas-based clients has been Wynn Resorts. Forté has been involved in the Zodiac Dome and, his personal favorite, the entrance displays at Wynn Palace Cotai, along with the spa at the Encore and the Preston Baily floral display in the atrium of Wynn Las Vegas. Most recently, Acton was involved in the construction of Intrigue, where the original design was in place, but needed to find a way off the page and into the real world under both budgetary and timeline pressures.
“Mr. Wynn never misses a date—or you have to move to a different state,” he says. “It was very schedule-challenged, and with the number of changes that occurred, we were always making modifications.”
The end result—the sum total of the details, the modifications and the smallest of touches—is the type of large-scale spectacle with which Forté seems comfortable: a huge centerpiece chandelier, a bar even before revelers get inside the club, the ultra-VIP Living Room and the iconic waterfall.
“People come from all over the world to be entertained,” Acton says. “They want the dining experience, the show experience—they really want to be wowed.”