Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004 | 11 a.m.
Drivers looking to park at The Venetian on Monday afternoon likely spent a little more time walking, as traffic from one of Las Vegas' biggest conventions forced the hotel to turn away those looking to use the resort's parking garage.
The Venetian's neighboring casinos have grumbled recently about the Italian-themed resort's lack of parking, with Wynn Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn among the critics. Other resorts have complained of Venetian employees parking in their garages.
Visitors to the Venetian Monday may have felt the same frustration neighboring casinos have expressed.
According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Associated Surplus Dealers/Associated Merchandise Dealers convention drew roughly 55,000 convention-goers to the Sands Expo & Convention Center, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Mirage Events Center. The Sands and The Venetian are connected and owned by the same company.
The gathering forced traffic to a crawl at The Venetian, as many drivers circled the hotel and tried to park next door at Harrah's or across the Strip at Treasure Island or The Mirage.
Ron Reese, a spokesman for The Venetian, blamed the gathering for the traffic snarls, saying that most members of the Santa Monica-based organization drove in from California.
"It's a 50,000-person convention with a lot of California drive-in traffic," Reese said. "When the shows come you know your garage is going to be full."
The convention, which began Sunday and concludes Thursday, represents military surplus retailers and bills itself as the largest general merchandise show in the country, according to the organization's Web site.
Traffic-related issues are not uncommon during busy convention weekends, when hotel rooms are typically 99 percent booked, Reese said.
Monday's parking shortage at The Venetian followed recent battles over parking between The Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson and Wynn, whose new, $2.4 billion resort is scheduled to open across from The Venetian in April.
Wynn's representatives charged that The Venetian has never fulfilled its obligation to build sufficient parking for the property, and claimed Adelson's executives purposefully submitted incorrect numbers to Clark County planning officials to avoid building sufficient parking for their planned new resort.
Wynn's attorneys were able to delay approval of Adelson's parking plans -- and his plans to build a new megaresort next to The Venetian -- for a month before Adelson received the go-ahead for the $1.6 billion project from the Clark County Commission in July.
The county approved the plan only after Adelson's lawyers promised to strictly monitor employee parking and make sure workers didn't park at competitors' hotels.
Frank Schreck, a top Nevada gaming attorney representing Wynn, said Monday's parking shortage was representative of an ongoing problem his client has faced with Adelson.
Schreck has previously accused Adelson of failing to build enough parking to accommodate the army of employees at the Italian-themed resort and the stream of tourists who visit each year.
Reese on Monday would not comment on the parking dispute between the two resorts and their high-profile owners.
Schreck said Monday's problem underscored what he says will only become a larger issue when Wynn's new megaresort opens.
"It confirms what we've been saying," Schreck said. "They don't have adequate parking for customers and employees. They (the convention-goers) have to park somewhere so they're going to park at someone else's garage."
At its current rate, customers at The Venetian and those attending nearby conventions will likely spill over into Wynn's new casino parking garage, Schreck said.
The Mirage on Sunday had to restrict its parking garage to registered guests after the convention started, Yvette Monet, a spokeswoman for MGM Mirage, said.
That was rare for the company, but she said the problem was "typical of this convention."
Harrah's, which is next door to the Venetian, requires people who want to park at its casino to show the security guard posted at the rear entrance either a room key or a player's club card, company spokesman David Strow said.
Strow would not comment on whether the measure was implemented to combat overflow parking from The Venetian and said it was to "make absolutely certain that every (Harrah's) hotel guest and player has a place to park."
Strow said turning away people wanting to park is "not something that happens that often."
Representatives for both Harrah's and MGM Mirage, which owns The Mirage and Treasure Island across the Strip, both said traffic was not a problem at their respective hotels Monday afternoon.