Friday, April 16, 2004 | 10:33 a.m.
About a dozen earthmovers, water trucks and other heavy equipment pressed down dirt on a windy swath of land at the corner of Charleston Boulevard and Interstate 215 Thursday as Station Casinos Inc. executives broke ground on the company's most expensive locals casino to date.
There wasn't much to look at. But nearby resident Steve Rudden, looking at renderings of the planned Red Rock Station casino at the groundbreaking event, already envisioned a resort oasis at his doorstep complete with palm trees, waterfalls and retail shops.
Rudden, a union carpenter, didn't seem to mind that the resort would be nonunion. The casino will beautify his neighborhood and complement existing new development along Charleston Avenue, he said.
"I think this is going to be the most community-friendly casino there is," Rudden said. "I think it's going to be fabulous."
Another nearby resident, Jerry Fill, also showed up at the event, nearly giddy with excitement about the prospect of a major development next door. Fill complained about long wait times at Summerlin restaurants and said the property will add necessary amenities to a growing part of town.
The Summerlin-area resort will benefit residents who "don't want to go down all the way to the Strip. And do you really want to deal with the traffic downtown?" he said.
There didn't appear to be any dissenters on hand to watch the humble beginnings of Station Casinos' ninth major Las Vegas casino. Red Rock Station will open in early 2006 with 400 rooms -- the first phase of a hoped-for complex with up to 1,000 rooms. The company lowered the height of the tower to 198 feet from 300 feet in a compromise with residents and environmentalists who fought the height of the building and said it would mar the Red Rock landscape. The tower will simply be wider to accommodate the initial plan of 400 rooms, which hasn't changed.
The construction of future towers will depend on demand and will likely occur after the property has been operating for about nine months to a year, which is standard timing for the company's other master-planned resorts, Station Casinos President Lorenzo Fertitta said.
"We believe this is the best site for a suburban casino in the Las Vegas Valley," he said. The success of Green Valley Ranch Station in Henderson paved the way for the investment in Red Rock, which is already planned on a much bigger scale than its Green Valley counterpart, he said.
"This would be like phase two or three at another property," he said.
Station Casinos executives revealed few additional details Thursday since the resort was approved by the Clark County Commission in January, saying they intend to keep some features "under wraps" until the property opens.
The casino will be 87,000 square feet with 2,700 slot machines, 60 table games, a race and sports book, poker room and bingo parlor. The resort will contain six bars, a 16-screen theater by Regal Cinemas, an arcade, a child-care center, a lounge, a 40,000-square-foot meeting and convention area, a 20,000-square-foot salon and spa as well as 10 restaurants.
Station recently said the resort would cost from $450 million to $475 million and would generate from $60 million to $65 million in cash flow in its first year of operation. That was better than some analysts had expected but is based in part on the accelerated success of Green Valley Ranch Station, which has earned the company a return on investment of about 19 percent after only two years. That kind of return is generally achieved over a longer period, executives said.
Red Rock Station will look much different from the Mediterranean and Argentinian design of Green Valley Ranch, the company's most luxurious casino. The Red Rock resort will have a "Palm Springs desert" feel that's upscale yet comfortable, Fertitta said.
"It's the kind of place where a guy playing blackjack in a suit and tie could sit next to a guy wearing a T-shirt," he said.
The general contractor hasn't been determined. The Friedmutter Group, a Las Vegas design company responsible for the look of the company's Green Valley Ranch Station casino, is part of a group of architects and designers working on the project.
The company is moving onward and upward, with several other sites in the hopper for future casino development.
Station Casinos owns a parcel of land at I-215 and Town Center Drive and has also been named as a likely developer for a casino site in the Aliante master-planned development in North Las Vegas. Station spokeswoman Lesley Pittman said the company is interested in the Aliante site but hasn't formally considered it yet.
But executives say they are focused on Red Rock for the time being and that the company is likely to begin redeveloping its Wild Wild West casino after the Summerlin resort is complete. Wild Wild West is an aging hotel-casino on a large pad that Station Casinos has purchased with the aim of crafting a major resort on the site.
The property probably will become the next development target because its location west of I-15 at Tropicana Avenue is tailor-made for a "great locals and tourist property," Fertitta said.