Construction under way on Red Rock Station

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Construction under way on Red Rock Station
« on: April 21, 2004, 14:47:48 »
A construction vehicle sprays water Thursday at the Red Rock Station site. Executives hope to lure locals and tourists to the resort.



Hoping to bury last year's zoning controversy like so many unwanted tumbleweeds, executives from Station Casinos on Thursday staged a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of their proposed Red Rock Station resort.

With bulldozers now in their second week of preparing the hotel-casino's approximately 70-acre site near Charleston Boulevard and the Las Vegas Beltway, the windswept smile-and-shovel event was largely a public relations ploy to build public interest in the 400-room project long before its scheduled debut in early 2006.

But more than that, Station Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank Fertitta III said he hopes early signs of construction will persuade nearby residents to get behind a project that only months ago ignited a storm of controversy in the tony suburban development.

"We always want to be good citizens and good neighbors, and there were some frustrating moments in negotiating with the residents," Fertitta said of last fall's battles with some neighbors over the height of Red Rock Station's planned hotel and timeshare towers. "But I think the final outcome is something they can be happy with and that Station can be happy with.

"(The compromise) will work for everybody in the entire community because, ultimately, these residents are our customers."

Station originally hoped to build three towers on the site, one climbing as high as 300 feet with a pair of others marked for 200 feet. A group of residents protested for 100-foot height restrictions, and the Clark County Commission eventually approved an agreement that limited the height of one tower at 198 feet and eliminated the two smaller towers altogether.

With that obstacle cleared, Fertitta said his Las Vegas-based company is now focused on developing what he hopes will become the crown jewel of Station's already expansive locals casino empire.

"This will be the best casino ... that Station Casinos has ever done," Fertitta said of Red Rock Station, whose projected $450 million to $475 million cost would easily exceed the company's most-recent upscale property, Henderson's $300 million Green Valley Ranch Station, which opened in December 2001.

Station Casinos owns a 50 percent stake in that property, which is co-owned by the Greenspun family of Henderson.

The 2,000-employee Red Rock resort will include an 87,000-square-foot casino featuring 2,700 machine games and 60 gaming tables; race and sports books; poker room; and 600-seat bingo parlor.

Nongaming amenities include a 20,000-square-foot spa, 10 restaurants, a 16-screen cinema as well as pool and beach areas.

Fertitta hopes the project's proximity to the highway will help Red Rock Station attract people from around the Las Vegas Valley, as well as out-of-town visitors. If those goals are achieved, the property would give a huge boost to Station's bottom line.

Fertitta expects Red Rock Station to generate a first-year return on investment "in the mid-teens" before improving to more than 20 percent per year as the area develops.

"This is a much bigger investment than we've had in the past, but the demographics are better, the location is better and I expect we'll get similar returns on this project," Fertitta said.

Kevin Orrock, an executive vice president with Summerlin developer The Howard Hughes Corp., on Thursday described the planned casino site as "ground zero" for the community's proposed urban core, a 400-acre master-planned district to be known as Summerlin Centre.

Orrock added he's confident Station Casinos will build a project that nearby residents will embrace and that will serve as a centerpiece for the development's planned commercial area, which will also include offices and high-density residential areas.

"When you get a project of this magnitude, it's going to create the momentum in the area around it," Orrock said. "It's key to have the best players and the best product in the market."

Added Fertitta: "That's one of the things that really attracted us to this site: It was really the cornerstone of a 400-acre planned urban core. We saw a tremendous amount of commercial density here ... and felt that being in the middle of that, with our casino, restaurants and entertainment, would create a synergy between all of these" nearby developments.