Friday, June 2, 2000 | 11:05 a.m.
North Las Vegas officials say they're expecting a complex land deal soon that could result in a change of venue for a controversial new hotel-casino proposed by Station Casinos Inc.
If it occurred, it could result in a more favorable location for what will be Station's second North Las Vegas casino -- and it would also help smooth over concerns of North Las Vegas city officials, who have opposed a casino development adjacent to a neighborhood off Martin Luther King Boulevard since it was first proposed in 1998.
A group of unidentified investors represented by Las Vegas attorney Stan Parry has taken an option to purchase the Craig Ranch Golf Course from Stimson Enterprises. The land spans 173 acres on Craig Road, just west of Martin Luther King.
As part of this potential purchase, the group has indicated an interest in zoning 30 to 40 acres of vacant land for gaming use. Such a move would have to be approved by the North Las Vegas City Council.
That land would be just blocks away from a 34-acre parcel near the intersection of Craig and Martin Luther King. The land is already entitled for gaming use, and Station has announced plans to develop a $100 million to $150 million hotel-casino at that site by the end of 2002.
"The only way we'd consider (approving the golf course site) would be to restrict the (Station) site to not be gaming," said Mayor Mike Montandon.
The ultimate goal of the investors is to entice Station to drop the gaming entitlement at its current site in exchange for developing the Craig Road site, said North Las Vegas City Attorney Sean McGowan, who has met with the investors.
"They (Station) could participate in a win-win situation," McGowan said. "The city didn't like the (current) site in the first place. This may be an alternative."
But there's one issue that hasn't been resolved. While Station has been approached by the investors, it isn't currently participating in talks with North Las Vegas.
"They don't want to look like they're pursuing new locations," McGowan said. "At some point, it's evident to me that Station has to come forward and say, 'We're in.' "
Station has already given up one concession to North Las Vegas -- in its initial development pact, Station included provisions that would bar casino development on an 18-acre site 1.5 miles east of the Martin Luther King site.
Parry confirmed he is representing a group of investors with an option to buy the golf course, but said it was "premature to say anything" about possible plans for the site.
Key Station executives could not be reached for comment.
If successful, the deal would be yet another twist in the quest to build a casino in the North Las Vegas neighborhood.
In 1998, NevStar Entertainment Corp. proposed "NevStar 2000," on the land, owned by Desert Mesa Partners Ltd. The North Las Vegas City Council attempted to block this proposal, but was overruled by a state judge because the land was already zoned for gaming.
NevStar fell into bankruptcy last year, spelling the end of the NevStar 2000 project. But Station moved in, signing a long-term lease with Desert Mesa to develop the land parcel. Station's plans increased the size of the casino floor from 47,000 square feet to 69,000 square feet.
In early May, the North Las Vegas City Council approved Station's proposal despite vocal opposition from some local residents. City council members told the audience the judge's ruling left them with little choice but to approve the casino.
Now, Montandon sees potential for a deal that would benefit both Station and the city. Station would gain frontage on busy Craig Road near I-15, while North Las Vegas would move the casino further away from residential development, Montandon said.
"That's kind of a no-brainer," Montandon said. "It's buffered from homes by the golf course, and it's on Craig Road, which is the preferred arterial.
"We would prefer no casino development, but that's not a real viable option. This would be something I would support."