New deal for the New Frontier?

Sep 2, 2003 9:12 AM

The owner of the New Frontier says he will announce plans for a new themed hotel on the site of his existing property within two months.

"We just haven’t had the right deal," Phil Ruffin, owner of the New Frontier, told the Wichita Eagle last week. "It’s time to move. A deal with be struck within the next two months."

Ruffin, who also owns the dog track in Wichita, Kansas, purchased the New Frontier for $165 million in 1997.

About two years ago, Ruffin announced plans to raze the Frontier and build a $1 billion San Francisco-themed resort.

Since then, he’s struck a deal with Donald Trump to build timeshare units on the back portion of his 41-acre property.

Construction has yet to begin on the 60-story, $300 million time share property. Trump would not be part of any casino deal, Ruffin said.

Ruffin said he still plans to level the Frontier and build a new resort, but at a cost substantially below $1 billion.

A few months ago, a rumor surfaced that Ruffin was trying to pen a deal with Steve Wynn to partner the development of a new hotel-casino.

But Ruffin shrugged off the rumor, although he didn’t deny it.

"No comment," he said. "You’re trying to get me in trouble here."

Wynn is currently building a mega-resort on the site of the old Desert Inn, directly across the street from the New Frontier.

Ruffin said his property is suited for whatever deal he makes.

"It is the best location left in Las Vegas on the Strip," he said. "We’re right in the middle of all the new development."

Other development nearby includes the expansion of the Fashion Show mall, immediately south of the New Frontier.

Early this year, Ruffin successfully refinanced his $104 million mortgage. The lender, Societe General of New York, dropped the interest rate from 8 percent to 5 percent.

The original Frontier Hotel was one of the first properties to open on the Strip. It opened in 1942 and was renovated and expanded several times. It currently has 986 rooms and a 100,000-square-foot casino.

At the time Ruffin purchased the New Frontier, it was embroiled in a labor dispute that was the longest in the nation’s history — seven years.

But shortly after Ruffin assumed ownership from the Elardi family, he signed a deal with the unions that had boycotted the hotel.