Friday, Sept. 4, 1998 | 10:08 a.m.
Managing partner Bert Woywood is renovating the 65 rooms in the six-story hotel, floor by floor, with about 40 rooms so far dressed up to his satisfaction.
"I spent the last four years cleaning it up," Woywood said. "It takes a long time. It's an ongoing process."
Woywood recently unveiled the refurbished top floor in what was the tallest building in Nevada from its opening in 1929 until the El Cortez opened in Reno in 1935. The Hotel Nevada and El Cortez remained the only six-story buildings in the state until the Mapes Hotel in Reno became the tallest building in 1947.
Each room at the Hotel Nevada has a different decor and color scheme, though the look throughout is based on furniture with an antique appearance. Wood and wrought iron play an active role in the decor and the walls carry artwork.
The trademark touch is a pair of lollipops laid on the pillows.
"Every room has different furniture," Woywood said. "I did that on purpose. I wanted each room to have its own charm."
Word-of-mouth has already spread about the rejuvenated Hotel Nevada, attracting guests who want rooms with an old-fashioned feel, even though each room includes a hair dryer. Some feature a refrigerator and microwave.
Rooms start at $19.95, with deluxe rooms costing $38 and $48 per night and the Kennecott Suite renting for $85.
"What I'm trying to do is play on the historical aspect of Nevada," Woywood said. "This used to be a stopover point for the Hollywood set."
Hotel Nevada guests have included Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Ray Milland, Hoot Gibson, Mickey Rooney and Tennessee Ernie Ford, Woywood said.
"Wayne Newton used to perform here," he said.
Sen. Harry Reid recently stayed in the newly redecorated two-bedroom Kennecott Suite, Woywood said.
On the ground level, Woywood doubled the casino size from 80 to 150 machines and he emphasizes that he carries the same slots as the major casinos in Las Vegas. He has also doubled parking and he is in the process of creating a rear entrance.
What the Hotel Nevada casino has that you won't see in Las Vegas is a Budweiser pool hall beer lamp over gaming tables.
"That was done by accident," Woywood said. "That was supposed to be temporary but we kept it up."
The casino walls feature 200 pictures of the White Pine County area and a collection of old guns.
Woywood has built occupancy up to near 100 percent in summer, compared with maybe 30 percent four years ago. Like all of Northern Nevada, the challenge in Ely comes with filling rooms in the off-season.
Woywood said he has built winter occupancy up to 50 percent, adding that the previous owners didn't rent rooms at all in winter.
He sees plenty of room to boost winter, spring and fall occupancy.
"This is a seasonal business," Woywood said. "My philosophy on that is we have only 65 rooms and we should be able to fill them."