Quest for gold in downtown

Apr 22, 2008 7:00 PM

By David Stratton | In a sense, the new owners of downtown’s Gold Spike have already won their first poker-style "showdown" in the high-stakes casino game.

The Siegel Group – which owns and operates extended stay apartments in Las Vegas and Reno – had their sights set on the Gold Spike last summer. But Florida developer Gregg Covin slipped in and bought the property from Tamares, owner of the Plaza, Las Vegas Club and Western casinos.

Undeterred, the Siegel Group took a calculated risk and bought the adjoining Travel Inn, which turned out to be a decisive bargaining chip.

"Because the Travel Inn’s property extends all the way to Fourth Street, Covin couldn’t expand the casino northward," said Michael Crandall, the Siegel Group’s director of business affairs. "We effectively checkmated him, and he pretty much had to sell the property to us."

Even though Siegel paid a premium – the $21 million purchase price was about $5 million more than Covin paid – Crandall said the company is thrilled with their first gaming venture.

"We love what’s happening in downtown Las Vegas and believe we can create an exciting property for locals and visitors alike," Crandall said.

Renovations to the aging hotel/casino located at the corner of Fourth Street and Ogden Avenue have already begun.

Crandall said the initial changes will take place on the casino floor, most of which will be completed by July 1. A new pizza oven and counter is being added, which will flank the lobby and registration desk.

The existing restaurant will be upgraded and expanded, overflowing into what is now the bar area.

The bar will be moved and modernized into a U-shaped configuration and, in its place, a new sports book operated by Leroy’s will be installed.

In addition, the guest rooms will be upgraded, with top floor suites featuring balconies and views of the downtown area.

During the renovation, the property will stay operational, with no layoffs planned for the Gold Spike staff, Crandall said.

In the casino, once Navigante Group’s contract expires in July, the Gold Spike will feature about 300 modern slots operated by United Coin, and will bring back a limited number of table games, blackjack and roulette, at the start, Crandall said. He added that the company hopes to secure a casino license in the future.

Overall, Crandall said the immediate goal is to create a casino where locals as well as visitors can come for "good food, good gambling and a fun, safe experience."

For the future, the company plans to re-open the Travel Inn and connect it to the Gold Spike. It also plans to convert the motel’s parking lot into a pool area, and eventually build a hotel tower at the north end of the property, which extends to City Hall’s parking garage.