Projects back on track

Jun 12, 2007 3:58 AM

A couple of huge Strip projects that have been in hibernation for the past several months are beginning to stir with activity, fueling hope they may actually come to fruition.

The first is Crown Las Vegas, a $5 billion hotel and casino earmarked for the old Wet ”˜n’ Wild water park south of the Sahara Hotel.

The developer, a Texas businessman, last week made a $40 million payment to retain control of the 27-acre parcel, which is proposed to be the site of an 1,888-foot high hotel-condo tower.

Shortly after retaining the option, Australian billionaire James Packer announced that he was buying into the project for a 37.5 percent stake.

If the project is completed, the 142-story, 5,000-room hotel-casino would be 739 feet taller than the Stratosphere, and the tallest building in the Western hemisphere.

Just a stone’s throw south, the backers of the proposed Fontaine-bleu resort announced they had lined up more than $4 billion in financing for its project on the site of the former El Rancho hotel/casino, which closed in 1992.

As part of the financing, Fontainebleau raised $565 million in private placements of common and preferred equity, including the consummation of its agreement with Publishing & Broadcasting Limited (PBL) of Australia under which PBL invested $250 million in exchange for a 19.6% interest in the company. The debt financing was led by Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and Barclays. Also participating were Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation.

"We are pleased to have such prestigious financial partners behind us as we move forward with the development of Fontainebleau Las Vegas and the regeneration of Fontainebleau Miami Beach," said Jeffrey Soffer, Executive Chairman of Fontainebleau Resorts. "Their enthusiasm and commitment serve as strong endorsements of our ability to execute the Fontainebleau vision."

"With this outstanding financial sponsorship, we will establish our brand with landmark resorts in two of America’s top entertainment cities," added Fontainebleau Resorts CEO and President Glenn Schaeffer. "Our future growth path will be decidedly international as we deliver Fontainebleau’s poetic style and sensuous appeal to other destination markets, with the lights turned up full."

In February 2007 the company began construction of Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a spectacular $2.9 billion, 63-story, 3,889-room resort, condo-hotel, casino and entertainment destination on the Las Vegas Strip, anticipated to open in fall 2009.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas will feature dramatically high ceilings, signature restaurants, 60,000-square-foot spa, 3,200-seat performing arts theater, trend setting retail, state-of-the-art meeting space and the world’s largest rooftop pool and club scene with incredible views directly down the Las Vegas Strip. The project encompasses 25 acres and features two dynamic entrance lobbies, one for drive-in guests off the Strip and one conveniently situated at Paradise Road near Las Vegas Convention Center.

The forerunner of a new generation of world-class resorts, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will bring the Fontainebleau brand to Las Vegas in dramatic fashion. Embodying a spirit of classic elegance meets cool ... with a touch of Zen, it will offer an aesthetic environment of light, reflection and space. Fontainebleau Las Vegas takes its cue from Morris Lapidus, the innovative architect who designed the curvilinear Fontainebleau in Miami Beach more than a half-century ago.