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The ever-changing property at the Silverton Casino Hotel is a perfect illustration of the growth in that southwest region of Las Vegas.

Rob Kunkle, who was named president at the Silverton four months ago, remembers when the casino was still called Boomtown Las Vegas back in the mid-1990s.

He said people would look that direction from the Strip and ask, “What is that way out there?”

“There was nothing around here,” Kunkle said.

It’s a different scene these days as the area, in some ways, has become an extension of the Strip.

A 400-room timeshare called The Berkley, Las Vegas – with a “SILVERTON” sign at the top of the 18-story, high-rise luxury building – recently opened next to the casino/hotel.

“As that building grows its occupancy, we expect to see some positive results,” Kunkle said.

The popular Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurant, which opened in July, also brings business daily to the grounds, not to mention the 165,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shop that has been there for more than a decade now.

And there’s more to come.

The Silverton, located right off I-15 at Blue Diamond Road, a mile or so from the Strip, sits on a 100-acre property, of which about half is currently undeveloped.

“We’ve got a lot of plans for the rest of this land,” Kunkle said. “It’s an exciting time, an exciting place. There’s a lot of upside here.

“I think it’s safe to say you’ll see continued development this year. We’re talking to several other tenants – retail, dining options – the sky’s the limit.”

What they’re looking for are businesses that generate business for them.

“Whatever is best to bring bodies to the Silverton,” Kunkle said.

Kunkle, 48, a Penn State grad, is on his second stint at the Silverton. He worked there from 1999-2006, starting out as the director of food and beverage and eventually getting promoted to a “pseudo” GM role.

He also worked for several years in various positions for Station Casinos, including as general manager for the Wildfire Division and also at Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station.

More recently, Kunkle was the president at the Riviera when that Las Vegas landmark closed down, along with spending a little over a year at Westgate, before returning to Silverton. He brings back much more experience than he left with 11 years ago.

“The industry is in my blood,” Kunkle said. “I like people. I like entertainment. I like a lot of activity, a lot of action. I’m not a sit-behind-the-desk type of person. I’m too antsy, I guess you could say. When I graduated from college, I said I’ve got to get to Vegas someday. It wasn’t because of the glitz and glamour. It was more about the opportunities out here. You have some of the best entertainment, some of the best restaurants, some of the best hotels in the world in this city.”

After doing his tour on the Strip and at bigger properties, Kunkle is back to try to help take the Silverton to another level while all those acres of open land to the immediate west, between Dean Martin Drive and Valley View Blvd., are being developed in the near future.

A 9,000-square-foot “event lawn,” which connects The Berkley timeshares to the hotel/casino, was unveiled during the holidays. It features a small water feature and fire pits, and will be used in a variety of ways.

A large TV was set up out there during NFR (National Finals Rodeo) for people to watch all of the action. A 35-foot Christmas tree with Christmas music playing in the background was another popular attraction last month.

Other possibilities for the lawn include concerts, weddings, parties and movies. Activities are expected to increase in the spring after the weather starts to warm up.

“Whatever we can do out there to make people happy is what we intend to do,” Kunkle said. “The plans are really endless. We like to try a lot of different things here. Throwing things at the wall to see what will stick is kind of our mantra.”

The Silverton, which has 300 rooms and suites in a contemporary lodge-like setting, will celebrate its 20-year anniversary in July.

Details for the birthday bash are still in the planning stages and will be announced at a later date.

CORRECTION: Last week’s column should have read that the International Gaming Institute is located in the Stan Fulton Building, not the Sam Fulton Building, at UNLV.

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