Monday, Nov. 22, 2004 | 8:25 a.m.
Steam rising from a crystalline heated swimming pool in the early morning sunshine.
Brand-new fitness center, winding footpaths and a community center equipped with a giant flat-screen television.
Supermarket, shopping mall, movie theaters and a job to pay for them all are truly within walking distance.
The Desert Oasis employee apartment complex behind the Primm Valley Resort sounds too good to be true.
But, there it is.
"It's an absolutely fabulous place to live," said Sharon Babcock, a casino floor supervisor who moved in when the complex opened June 1.
It has saved her the expense and time of an hourlong commute each way from Las Vegas, she said after the 52-building complex's ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.
"You save a lot of time," she said. "You can buy your clothes at the mall, go to the movies at Buffalo Bill's, buy your food at the market. There's really no need to go to Vegas anymore."
A strong testimonial on a day filled with them, from speeches by MGM Mirage executives to signed proclamations from the Clark County Commission, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev.
The $20 million complex offers studio, one-, two- and four-bedroom apartments to employees of the area's three casinos and assorted businesses.
"It represents a new approach to on-site housing," Jonathan Boulware, Primm Valley Resorts vice president, told the group gathered for Thursday's ceremony.
There are no application fees or credit checks -- the management already knows where renters work, what they are paid and deduct rent automatically from their paychecks in four weekly installments.
Monthly rents range from $370 for a studio apartment to $560 for a four-bedroom unit. But the actual cost of living in one of these "quads" is $140 per person because they are rented to four people at once. Rents include all utilities and cable television.
But there are some trade-offs.
All units come furnished. So if Grandma's antique armoire won't fit in the bedroom, or you have a full living-room set of your own, you must put it into storage at your own expense. Storage is not available on-site.
If you're fired, you lose your home.
Apartments with two and four bedrooms come with roommates, which might or might not be of your choosing. Non-employees may not reside at Desert Oasis unless they are spouses, children or domestic partners of employees who share the same bedroom, Hilary McClain, of the company's human resources department, said.
Most of the residents are single or married employees without children, McClain said. A few resident employees have children, but they must be bused to schools in Las Vegas. And that kind of defeats the whole idea of ending a nightmarish commute.
Certainly, there will be some challenges and bugs to work out of the system. Something still seems odd about one's employer being one's landlord and grocer, too.
But Primm Valley has managed to create a walkable community in the middle of nowhere than the Las Vegas developers of sprawling urban subdivisions that sell the illusion but rarely deliver it.
"I have a car that I never use," Babcock said. "I have time to work out in the gym every day. So I've lost 18 pounds since I moved in."