Locals’ casinos quietly launch a building boom

May 29, 2001 10:18 AM

For the first time in years, no new Strip resorts are scheduled to open in the foreseeable future. Moreover, ground is yet to be broken on the London Bridge and Forbidden City projects, and the Desert Inn’s fate remains grist for the rumor mill.

Although there’s a building lull on the Strip, construction dollars haven’t yet dried up and blown away. Millions are being spent on off-Strip or "neighborhood" casinos as well as expansion and upgrades to existing resorts.

The two hotels scheduled to open later this year are the Palms Hotel Casino and the Resort at Green Valley Ranch.

The $265 million Palms occupies land on Flamingo Road between Valley View Boulevard and Arville Street - across from the Rio and the Gold Coast. Developed by George Maloof, owner of the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, and former owner of the Fiesta Hotel Casino, the Palms will have only 455 guest rooms and will rely on its nice mix of restaurants, two night clubs, 14-screen theater and child-care center to attract a locals clientele.

The $270 million Resort at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson is partially owned by the Station Casinos chain so it will also be heavily weighted with dining choices and a casino well-stocked with locals-preferred video-poker machines. And with only 200 guest rooms, the developers aren’t concealing the notion that the Resort is geared primarily toward the Green Valley market.

Major expansion projects are also under way at the Stratosphere and The Orleans.

The Stratosphere recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, which coincides with a $75 million expansion that will nearly double the number of guest rooms and add a variety of dining and entertainment amenities to the north Strip resort. At the heart of the project is a 24-story hotel tower that will contain 1,002 additional guest rooms and 100 suites, many with oversized spa tubs and sweeping views of the Strip. The tower is scheduled to open in July.

Also in July, the Stratosphere will christen a 67,000-square-foot pool and recreation deck that will be perched on the eighth floor of the new tower. Creature comforts will include private cabanas, a hot tub spa, special-event area, poolside cafe and cocktail bar.

Opening last week was the Stratosphere’s new Lucky’s Cafe, a 24-hour coffee shop located on the casino level next to Images Lounge. The 300-seat restaurant has the ambiance of "vintage Las Vegas" with artwork and historic photographs of the city adorning the walls.

Rounding out the dining component of the expansion will be the beefing up of the buffet to include new cooking stations, including an American Bounty section for "down home" country favorites such as fried chicken, meat loaf, catfish and mashed potatoes. Later this summer, the Stratosphere will also unveil a new Tex-Mex and oyster bar restaurant, which will take the place of Montana’s Steakhouse.

The final major addition to the Stratosphere will be an Outdoor Events Center that will host headline entertainment and special events such as world-class boxing. The center will be built on the north side of the property with its entrance adjacent to the new buffet. It will seat 3,752 guests with a mix of 1,612 chairs and 2,140 bleacher seats. Construction is scheduled to begin in June with a launch date in early September.

Led by a $100 million expansion at The Orleans, Coasts Resorts is in the process of upgrading all of its off-Strip properties.

Already completed at The Orleans is the new Sazio Italian Restaurant, the latest brainchild of master chef Gustav Mauler, who operates two dining rooms at The Regent and Brendan’s, an Irish-style pub that serves imported beers and live entertainment.

Later to come are 40,000 square feet of additional casino space, a 9,000-seat events arena and a much-needed 620-room hotel tower.

"The expansion is demand-driven," said Coast President Harlan Braaten, who added that The Orleans plans to use boxing and show events to help fill guest rooms, which have run at more than 95 percent capacity for the last two years.

The new hotel tower will increase The Orleans’ room total to 1,460. A new 2,600-space parking garage facing Arville Road will increase the number of parking spaces to 8,500.

The Orleans’ sister property, the Gold Coast, is in the midst of an expansion that has upgraded the casino pit and race and sports book areas and doubled the size of the buffet.

The Gold Coast also just opened a new gift shop, a Seattle’s Best Coffee pub and plans to remodel its showroom later this year.