|By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Feb. 23, 2007 - When developers first approached North Las Vegas officials about including a casino in the Aliante master-planned community, the reception was lukewarm at best.
"Five years ago when they first started planning Aliante, when they said they wanted a casino, my initial reaction was no," said North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon. "It took a lot of lobbying and effort to convince me that it is a good part of the community. Apparently, they were right."
Everyone was all smiles Thursday morning as developer American Nevada Co. and gaming company Station Casinos broke ground on Aliante Station.
"What we tried to do was convince him it's not just about gaming," Station Casinos President Lorenzo Fertitta said about his company's talks with Montandon. "We just don't throw up four walls and put in slot machines. I think after they saw what we did at Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock they understood this is a full-scale entertainment complex."
The $600 million project, which will be built on 40 acres north of the Las Vegas Beltway, is an equal partnership between Station Casinos and American Nevada's parent company, Greenspun Corp.
The groundbreaking comes less than 10 months after the opening of the $925 million Red Rock Resort and is the first project in North Las Vegas for Station Casinos since opening Texas Station in 1995.
It is Station Casinos' 17th property in Southern Nevada.
The mixed-use development is scheduled to open late next year with 202 hotel rooms, a 16-screen movie theater operated by Regal Entertainment Group, six restaurants and a large casino. The resort will bring 1,700 jobs to the area.
Station Casinos Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Frank Fertitta III and brother Lorenzo Fertitta were careful to point out that while the initial construction cost is more than a third less than Red Rock Resort, residents shouldn't expect less quality at the property.
"It is actually taking the best ideas from both Green Valley and Red Rock and trying to combine them into Aliante," said Frank Fertitta III.
Red Rock Resort opened with 416 rooms and Green Valley Ranch Resort opened with 196. Tentative plans for Aliante Station call for a second phase of nearly 200 additional rooms, a bowling center and a bingo room.
"As far as the quality and the style, this is going to be right on par with Red Rock in the rooms and the lobby and everything else" Lorenzo Fertitta said. "We are going to have a resort component to this."
It is the first large construction project between the two companies since the opening of Green Valley Ranch Resort in 2001. Both companies also jointly own and operate Barley's Casino and the Greens Supper Club, both in Henderson.
Greenspun Corp. President Brian Greenspun, whose company helped develop Green Valley, said he is not surprised that development has started shifting to the north.
"I am thrilled to see something this far out," Greenspun said. "For the longest time the valley has been moving to the south and to the west. It was already a natural movement to go to the north. For someone who never understood why it went to the north to now see it moving to the north this way is very satisfying."
The Fertitta brothers were born and raised in the Las Vegas Valley and compare the current growth of North Las Vegas to what happened in Henderson the past two decades.
"Both Henderson and North Las Vegas were viewed as, growing up here early on, not having a lot of the new things going on there," Frank Fertitta III said. "Now that's completely reversed itself. If you look at North Las Vegas, this is the fastest-growing area of the county. I guess its time has definitely arrived."
While the city has started to expand since Montandon took office in 1997, he has been outspoken about his concern that the stretch of the Beltway that runs through the city could become a "second Strip." There are three other parcels zoned for casinos.
Olympia Group principal Guy Inzalaco, whose new development Park Highlands neighbors Aliante, said in December that his company would like to add a casino development to its master plan.
Montandon added that while the new homes are helping the city's tax base grow, the economic impact from gaming revenue, room taxes and job growth from Aliante Station will help the city keep pace with the growing demand for basic services.
While the city weighs its gaming future, Station Casinos is also deciding where to go next. The company has submitted early plans to Clark County planners for development of 67 acres south of the Beltway on Durango Drive. Lorenzo Fertitta said the company is also working on designs and entitlements for its first project in Reno.
"We haven't figured out which one is next," he said. "We are definitely looking forward to developing these projects as soon as we see fit."
The Fertittas and Los Angeles-based Colony Capital are trying to take the publicly traded company private in a private equity deal worth $4.7 billion.
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Copyright (c) 2007, Las Vegas Review-Journal
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