Marriott plans hotel in Las Vegas

8 April 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A plan buried in the Nevada recession has resurfaced.

Marriott International plans to build a large hotel across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center but has not laid out a timeline.

To preserve the unrestricted gaming license on one corner of property Marriott owns, slot route operator United Coin Machine plans to operate a tent casino on April 27. Rob Woodson, United vice president of regulatory compliance, said that the company will operate 16 slots for eight hours on what is now a vacant lot.

As part of the application, Woodson said, Marriott executives sent him confirmation that they were still interested in building a 3,500-room hotel. The plan was first floated at least three years ago, for the block bounded by Paradise Road, Convention Center Drive, Debbie Reynolds Drive and East Desert Inn Road. Marriott controls all but two parcels on the block, where it operates three hotels with 605 rooms.

"We sure hope they do this," said Woodson. "Once the economy gets well, gets healthy, I think we will see some building."

The Nevada Gaming Control Board gave its approval to the tent casino on Wednesday. Marriott representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

Evan Glusman, general manager of Piero's Restaurant, recalls that Marriott executives approached him in mid-2008 about selling his property. Piero's, opened by Glusman's parents nearly three decades ago and owned by a family trust, fronts Convention Center Drive between the Las Vegas Marriott and the corner lot where the tent casino will be.

"We are not for sale," Glusman said. "They did come to us, but it would take a huge amount of money to get us to sell."

The renderings showed to him called for razing the current hotel, plus the adjacent Residence Inn and Courtyard hotels run by Marriott, and replacing them with a Marriott plus an attached Ritz-Carlton. They had also had submitted paperwork to county planning officials about their intentions.

Glusman said he was told that if he did not sell, Marriott would build around Piero's in a U shape.

"I just laughed it off," he said. "If they want to do that, it's fine with us. We would keep right on going."

But like many other proposals drawn up during the boom times, this one was quietly filed away as recession and overbuilding took a large bite out of the tourist and convention industries.

"I don't think they (Marriott) have any plans for doing anything here for a while," Glusman said. "But if they start moving forward, I'm sure we will hear from them again."

A range of experts predicts no new large hotels will be built in Las Vegas for the next few years and perhaps more than a decade until visitor demand catches up with supply. Last year marked an improvement from the depths of the recession, but key industry benchmarks are still below the 2007 level.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the 43.4 million room nights sold in 2010 were 1.4 percent fewer than three years earlier, while the average room rate of $94.91 was down 28 percent. Still, Marriott opened the 299-room Spring- Hill Suites about one block north from the tent casino site in October 2009. With it, Marriott now operates different hotel brands with 1,452 rooms across the street from the convention center either to the west or south. Only the Las Vegas Marriott, with 2,956 rooms, has a larger presence in the immediate vicinity.

The site of the tent casino was formerly The Beach nightclub, which closed about four years ago. At that point, Marriott took over the property and demolished the building, leaving behind the parking lot and an L-shaped patch of dirt.

Occasionally, it is rented out for displays, primarily by companies that want highly visible advertising for conventions.

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