Sam Nicholson: Shaping the Future of Las Vegas

From the Raiders’ stadium to community engagement and pro bono work, meet the man you’ve likely already heard of

Welcome to Intriguing People 2018, our annual celebration of Las Vegas’ cultural trailblazers and social trendsetters. See more from this year’s series here.


You may not know the name Sam Nicholson, but you’re certainly familiar with his work. The president and founder of Grand Canyon Development Partners has led construction and design teams behind properties such as The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Grand Bazaar Shops and W Las Vegas as well as worked on signature projects including Paris Las Vegas, the Trump International Hotel and Green Valley Ranch, among many others.

Nicholson is now faced with one of his most high-profile projects to date: a new NFL stadium for the Raiders. Grand Canyon Development Partners is serving as a consultant to review documents between developers and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, making sure plans follow the intent of SB1, the state bill that approved the venue.

“It certainly needs to live up to Las Vegas standards, now, doesn’t it?” says Nicholson, knowing full well that anything short of the most lavish tech-enhanced stadium in the country would be a disappointment.

Along the way, Nicholson’s team has been involved with projects beyond Las Vegas, which include Chase Field and Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

While the Raiders stadium is in the works, another highly scrutinized project awaits on the north end of the Strip. Grand Canyon Development Partners has taken on the role of development manager for The Drew Las Vegas, the name now attached to the unfinished Fontainebleau resort after it was sold last year. Nicholson’s team is managing the design and coordinating with Clark County on requirements needed to move forward.

“It will definitely have a new identity,” he says, admitting little else can be revealed about the project at the moment. “It will be an impressive facility when it’s done.”

Not counting the Stratosphere, the former Fontainebleau is the tallest building in Las Vegas. But by never actually opening, it’s also the Strip’s most notorious eyesore—although Nicholson is hesitant to call it neglected. “It really was kept in good shape from the time it was sold in bankruptcy until today,” he says.

But community enhancement goes far beyond steel and concrete. Nicholson’s pro bono work includes St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, Southern Nevada Children First and Noah’s Animal House, which just opened a Reno location after more than 10 years of boarding pets for domestic violence victims in Las Vegas.

Nicholson expands his community engagement as the executive director of the Keep It Alive Foundation. The organization helps teens and young adults develop leadership skills and personal growth.

“It’s intensive training that gives them higher self-esteem and confidence to overcome a lot of challenges,” Nicholson says. The Keep It Alive Foundation also provides an annual scholarship for graduating high school seniors who are entering the education field. “We need good educators in this world. We want to help those who are passionate about education and want to give back to the community.”

It’s a mission that reaches beyond the height of any skyscraper and carries more depth than any stadium. The Las Vegas landscape is quickly changing, and Sam Nicholson is eager to shape its development—however needed.