Las Vegas Sun

November 21, 2018

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End of another era nears as developers plan new megaresort

The south end of the Las Vegas Strip long has been home to such icons as the neon "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign and the Glass Pool Inn. But the 50-plus-year-old hotel that was made famous in movies such as "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Casino" soon could fall to the wrecking ball.

Details about a proposed megaresort are scheduled to be announced Thursday by New World, LLC, a partnership of Las Vegas land developers who have purchased about 77 acres east of the Mandalay Bay resort.

"It's going to be a real boost for Las Vegas and the Strip," said land developer Howard Bulloch of Prudential Americana Group Realtors and Desert Land LLC.

Preliminary plans for "World Port Resorts" include hotel-casinos, a convention center and fine arts facility, according to a statement issued by the developers.

Because of the project's location near McCarran International Airport, the developers filed plans with the Federal Aviation Administration to build four structures on the site, including a 40-story tower, though county officials have not received final plans.

Neither Bulloch, nor his partner David Gaffin, would reveal details about the proposed project until Thursday's announcement.

About 55 acres adjacent to the airport were sold to Bulloch by Clark County, said Hilarie Grey, airport spokeswoman. The county will use cash plus land it received in the deal to pay for consolidating car rental facilities about a mile south of the airport.

The developers also acquired the Casa Malaga Motel and the Miami Beach Motel in addition to the Glass Pool Inn, known for its above-ground swimming pool with circular, underwater windows.

"The older properties don't draw tourists," said Erika Brandvik, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "Las Vegas is famous for reinventing itself."

In recent years, smaller properties have struggled to compete with the 3,000-5,000 room, billion-dollar megaresorts down the Strip.

For example, Steve Wynn, the former owner of Mirage Resorts Inc., purchased the historic but ailing Desert Inn, which he plans to replace with a massive new megaresort with two 59-story hotel towers. His plans also include turning the golf course into a giant lake.

"The new megaresorts really shine the spotlight on Las Vegas," Brandvik said.

The south end of the Strip has been the prime focus of recent development. After the opening of Mandalay Bay resort in March 1999, the Paris Las Vegas and Aladdin resorts opened their doors south of Flamingo Road.

And an 18-hole golf course - the 155-acre, $32 million Bali Hai Golf Club - that opened last month might be the only greens left on the Strip since Wynn announced plans to tear up the championship Desert Inn course.

"Growth and new projects are always good for the town," said Bill Bible, president of the Nevada Resort Association.

But for now, there are no plans to move the sign that has become synonymous with "Sin City," which also appears in current television ads sponsored by the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority.

"I'd be surprised if anyone is planning on removing that sign," Brandvik said. "I think it would be thoroughly missed."