Friday, April 11, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
What was once a Western theme park in Henderson is now being touted as one of the area's last big pieces of commercial land suitable for a major casino project.
The asking price for the 126-acre property at Boulder Highway and Wagonwheel Drive: $30 million, or just over $5 per square foot.
"This is a massive piece of real estate suitable for a gaming project," said James Stuart of Stuart Mixer Commercial, the agent for the property. "There just aren't too many of that size that are left."
Stuart explained that with the recent growth of gaming along the Boulder Highway corridor through Henderson, including Boulder Station, Sam's Town and Jokers Wild, the conversion of what was once Old Vegas theme park to a casino resort should be viewed by prospective buyers as a natural progression.
But commercial real estate brokers and gaming analysts note that beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- and despite a 30 percent revenue growth along the Boulder corridor in the past two years, they still see the Old Vegas property as "locationally challenged."
"The growth simply hasn't caught up with that site yet," said Jackie Young, senior vice president of Lee & Associates' commercial real estate services.
Young noted that there are still gaming opportunities along sites in the area of the Las Vegas Beltway in southeast Las Vegas, and until those are developed, she questions whether a gaming property at Old Vegas would be a viable project.
"Remember, the closer (to Las Vegas), the better," Young said.
Joe Milanowski, gaming analyst for USA Capital, questioned whether a resort could be a profitable project at that location.
"To be truly successful, you have to feed off traffic," Milanowski said. "These guys want $30 million for the property, and you have to spend $100 million to develop the facility. That's a lot of money to try to recover in this market."
But Stuart noted the same fears were once expressed about the location of Sam's Town -- a successful Boyd Group property considered to be the flagship of the Boulder Highway.
He also said demand for more casino properties is pushing beyond the current prime tourist locations, and existing casinos on Boulder Highway are spurring additional resort projects that cater to the area's growing recreational tourist market.
"The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Park are just minutes from this site. Together they attract 11 million visitors each year," Stuart said.
Old Vegas is owned by Focus 2000, a private company held by Tony Marnell, chairman of MarCor Resorts, Inc., which owns the Rio hotel-casino.
MarCor bought the Old Vegas property for an undisclosed amount ten years ago.
Originally called Westworld, the $7.2 million park was opened in 1978 by Houston-based Westworld Inc., which at one time owned both Old Vegas and Old Tucson, an amusement park in Arizona.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Old Vegas employed 100 people.
It was a Hollywood-styled reconstruction of an Old West town with staged saloon brawls, a running train ride and a stagecoach.
Old Vegas closed in 1986 after operating a little more than a year under bankruptcy protection.
Several reopening proposals were made in recent years, but none came to fruition.
But Stuart says all it takes is a gaming entrepreneur with a viable plan to bring the property back to life as a premier gaming resort.
"With all the recent activity along the Boulder Corridor, you have to ask yourself, where do you want to be as gaming continues to grow," Stuart said.