Interest surges on 'South Strip' - Saturday 12th of March 2005

estimates at least 6,000 residential units are going up along Las Vegas Boulevard "with no restaurants, food and beverage and gaming" to serve them before South Coast gets built.

Cavileer said the property could cost $500 million and feature some 200,000 square feet of casino space and 1,000 hotel rooms.

That project -- which also envisions a retail and residential component around a man-made lake -- is expected to be complete in about five years.

The second hotel tower, part of a $75 million expansion including the garage and meeting space, will feature a more upscale, all-suite room product, Cavileer said.

Like the Silverton, the South Coast resort ended up becoming a larger project than originally anticipated.

A change in the region's master plan allowing for high-rise condos in addition to lower-density homes has also boosted prospects for the project, which would be the first hotel and casino to be built on Las Vegas Boulevard south of Mandalay Bay, Gaughan said.

Three timeshare complexes are within a mile of the South Coast and a fourth is underway, while several condo projects are under development, he said.

"We definitely foresaw a lot of development around Las Vegas Boulevard but we were pleasantly surprised with the new plans for development west of I-15," he said.

The South Coast will cater to a mix of locals and tourists given its proximity to new local neighborhoods as well as becoming the first resort Southern California drivers see when they drive into Las Vegas, Gaughan said.

Coast Casinos, now a subsidiary of Boyd Gaming Corp., has more experience than many operators as its Orleans and Suncoast properties also serve two distinct markets.

"We feel it's going to be a lot like the Orleans," Gaughan said of South Coast. "We are a local property first and foremost. But at 1,900 rooms and eventually with 2,000 rooms, we also will be a destination resort."

"The developments coming in along the (south) Strip will probably share that concept as a resort-type destination but I don't know if they'll be able to deal with the locals as well as we can."

The 419-room Suncoast, located in the affluent neighborhood of Summerlin, established a lucrative niche by drawing locals as well and regular, out-of-town visitors. The property is now one of the company's most profitable and charged an average daily rate of $86 per night last year -- the highest of any Boyd hotel including its Strip properties.

Developer Garry Goett threw his hat into the ring this week, announcing plans for a second casino that would be built with retail and residential units at St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard. Goett, chief executive of Olympia Group, has previously outlined plans to build a casino, regional mall and residential units on the Boulevard between Cactus and Starr avenues. Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group is a partner in the mall, expected to be at least 800,000 square feet.

Landowner John U. Tippins IV, who also represents owners of some 35 acres along the south Strip, said he envisions the region developing primarily into an entry-level market for locals rather than a tourist market because it is affordable relative to the Strip.

The southern end of the Strip is poised to become a haven for younger, upwardly mobile people who work on the Strip and want the convenience of a nearby neighborhood, said Tippins, whose company DBS Tippins is affiliated with developer Mark L. Fine and Associates.

The Silverton's upgrade from its roots as the cowboy-themed Boomtown Casino marks one of the best makeovers in Las Vegas and is aimed at more effectively tapping into the Southern California market, Tippins said.

"From 21 to 80 years of age, there's something for everyone there," he said.

Southern Californians -- already the biggest chunk of the Strip's tourist market -- are becoming an increasing percentage of the Silverton's business along with tourists from further afield who are coming from the Strip to check out Bass Pro Shops, Cavileer said.

"It's not just a value-oriented customer you're talking about," he said. "These are great candidates for anything you can build ... especially when you can give them something to do that's similar" to the Strip.

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