Thursday, Nov. 6, 2003 | 11:16 a.m.
The owner of the New Frontier hotel-casino said he is exploring the idea of developing a larger condo tower "megacomplex" with business partner Donald Trump than initially envisioned.
Owner Phil Ruffin in 2000 announced plans to tear down the New Frontier and build a megaresort. In 2002, he announced a partnership with Trump to build a luxury condominium tower behind the planned resort and across from the Fashion Show Mall.
Ruffin said Wednesday he is continuing to work with Trump and that Trump has "broadened his interest to include a megacomplex." He declined to elaborate on the details of the project under consideration other than to say it would be larger scale and still include condominiums.
"He is sending in bankers next week to see if they'll accept it," Ruffin said.
Trump confirmed his interest in exploring "something on a larger scale" but that nothing has been finalized.
"We'll see what happens," he said.
Ruffin and Trump denied recent speculation that the tower and the megaresort have been delayed or that financing has been a problem.
"Phil's in great shape," Trump said.
In announcing the partnership with Trump in 2002, Ruffin had told the Sun that he and Trump envisioned a 60-story, 300-unit tower at a cost of roughly $300 million. Wednesday, Ruffin said the exact scope of the project had yet to be determined.
In a separate interview to be published Friday in In Business Las Vegas, a sister publication of the Sun, Ruffin said he was still seeking another equity partner in the megaresort project. He couldn't pin down a timetable for redeveloping the site but said interest rates have fallen and financing is available.
The New Frontier continues to make money -- profit is up about 25 percent from a year ago and occupancy is in the 80 to 90 percent range -- and a recent bond refinancing has saved the property about $2 million a year, he added.
"We're not in any great rush to go through with any kind of a bad deal," he said. "The land value continues to climb ... We've refinanced it, so we're just going to bide our time and wait for the right deal to come along."
Ruffin has tweaked the megaresort concept over the past year but said he is still committed to tearing down the New Frontier to make way for the new projects.
The resort likely won't have the San Francisco theme that was originally intended.
"We're looking at some other options, Ruffin said. "We're not sure a theme is really necessary today."
Ruffin also may ditch plans for a smaller, luxury hotel planned for the northern part of the 41-acre New Frontier parcel -- where a desolate parking lot now sits.
He is now envisioning a single, larger megaresort facing the Strip instead two hotel-casinos. The resort may be built lengthwise to maximize the site's roughly 1,100 square-foot frontage, he said.
The condo tower, financed through pre-sales of units, was expected to be built before the megaresort, he said.
"We're not in any great rush to go through with any kind of a bad deal," he said.