|By Jennifer Robison, Las Vegas
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 25, 2006 - Frank Scott, a founder of the Plaza Hotel and Casino and a longtime local banker, died Wednesday. He was 85.
Scott's protean business interests ranged from Tonopah's Mizpah Hotel -- which he bought, restored and sold in the 1970s -- to efforts to develop a magnetic-levitation train that would connect the Strip and downtown Las Vegas.
"He was an active guy. He was one of the leading citizens of Las Vegas," said Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno. "If you had a list of movers and shakers, Frank Scott was on it."
Scott, the son of a storekeeper for the Union Pacific Railroad, moved to Las Vegas in 1936 at age 16. A year later, he took a job at a 5th Street Texaco gas station owned by U.S. Sen. Berkeley Bunker.
Scott went on to serve as an infantry lieutenant in World War II. When he returned to Las Vegas after the war, he started a roofing and flooring company. In addition, he operated a building-materials company and a concrete plant.
But Scott's biggest dream involved building a hotel on the site of the former Union Pacific depot in downtown Las Vegas. In 1960, he initiated nearly a decade of negotiations with officials of Union Pacific, looking for a deal that would give him acreage for a property.
The effort paid off in 1971, when Scott opened the Plaza with partners Sam Boyd, J.K. Houssels Jr. and U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon. Scott was president and chief executive officer of the property from the time it opened until 1983.
The deal Scott struck with Union Pacific didn't stop at the borders of the Plaza site. It also encompassed an agreement to make 61 vacant, adjacent acres available for future development.
And though it's taken the better part of four decades, dirt has been turning and steel has been coming out of the ground on that 61 acres, which lies at the confluence of Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95. The site is now home to the World Market Center furniture showcase, and work will begin soon on a Frank Gehry-designed Alzheimer's research center.
Former Nevada Gov. Bob List said Scott's arrangement to reserve the 61 acres for development and remove the railroad tracks running through it is his greatest local legacy.
"He made dynamic growth possible for downtown Las Vegas," List said.
"Frank really had a vision of wanting downtown Las Vegas to become something. He was a very sharp businessman. It wasn't that easy in those days to put financing together," Raggio said.
Scott's career wasn't limited to hotel development.
In 1969, while he was preparing to develop the Plaza, Scott became a director of First Western Financial Corp., holding company of First Western Savings & Loan. The company was mired in debt and had a sizable portfolio of repossessed property. Scott directed the sale of the real estate holdings and helped turn the bank around.
By the time Scott stepped down as chairman and CEO of First Western in 1988, it was the state's second largest savings and loan, with $1.2 billion in assets.
He retired from the bank to focus on yet another dream, an as yet unfulfilled one: The construction of a 4.5-mile mag-lev train that would use Union Pacific rights of way to link downtown and the Strip.
Scott was also an early leader of the Downtown Progress Association, a forerunner of the Fremont Street Experience. He was chairman of the Nevada State Contractors Board and president of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the Nevada Development Authority and the Nevada Resort Association. In addition, he served on the board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. In 1985, he cofounded and headed local television station Channel 21.
"He lived a wonderful life. Another one of our real giants fades into history, and we'll miss him," List said.
Scott is survived by a daughter, Elizabeth Foremaster of Sacramento, Calif.; two sons, R. Lane Scott of Newport Beach, Calif., and Richard Scott of Las Vegas; a brother, Floyd Scott of St. George, Utah; a sister, Alice Reed of Las Vegas; five grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
Services will take place at 1 p.m. on Monday at Palm Mortuary Downtown, 1325 N. Main St. Burial will follow at Palm Memorial Park.
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