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Harrah's Implodes Bourbon Street - Loveman Hints at Early Summer Announcement

By Chuckmonster on Tuesday, 14th February 2006 11:24am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 0


Two series of explosions crackled through the early morning air Tuesday when Harrah's Entertainment Inc. imploded the Bourbon Street casino as part of a plan by the world's top casino company to redesign and perhaps consolidate several nearby Strip properties.

"We've been working on taking the building down for several weeks now. This was the dramatic conclusion," said Jonathan Halkyard, Harrah's senior vice president and treasurer, who watched the event from a 26th floor suite at the Bally's hotel and casino across the street.

The 166-room, eight-story hotel tower and parking garage was built in 1980 and has been closed since October, seven months after Harrah's bought it.

Harrah's chief executive Gary Loveman said the eight-acre site will be part of a megaproject to be unveiled early this summer that will link its properties on some 300 acres around the Las Vegas Strip.

"What we are trying to do is create a destination for customers around the country and around the world," Loveman told The Associated Press.

"If you come to this area, we will have a space for you where you can do all the things you need to do on your visit to Las Vegas with us, from a wide range of gaming brands to dining, entertainment, lodging, shopping, the whole deal," he said.

The site, just off the east side of the Strip, is near some of Harrah's other hotel-casinos, including the Imperial Palace, Harrah's, Flamingo, Bally's and Paris Las Vegas.

"I think that over time, there are other buildings that will come down, but nothing in the immediate future," Loveman said. "We're not going to tear everything down and build everything fresh. What we're going to do is be constantly recreating this space, much like Disney World does."

"That is, I think, a slightly different undertaking than trying to build the world's umpteenth luxury hotel," he said.

Last week, rival MGM Mirage Inc., the No. 2 casino operator, upped the price tag on its Project CityCenter megaresort along the Las Vegas Strip by $2 billion to $7 billion. The mixed-use development of hotels, condos, retail, dining and entertainment facilities is set to be finished in late 2009.

MGM's project featuring a 4,000-room hotel-casino will include a $150 million to $200 million monorail, which Loveman said Harrah's also was considering.

"We'll be looking at ways to get people from one end of our collection of properties to the other without having to get in a taxi and without having to walk across a substantial intersection," he said.

Harrah's became the world's largest casino company last June when it bought rival Caesars Entertainment Inc. for $9 billion. In November, it announced it would build a luxury resort under the Caesars brand in Spain and that it has plans for similar resorts in Slovenia and the Bahamas. Harrah's also is applying to build in Singapore.

The Bourbon Street demolition ends a checkered history that included many owners for the property, begun in 1980 as the Shenandoah, and rebranded in 1985 as Bourbon Street.

It was soon overshadowed by properties such as The Mirage, which set off a construction boom of theme-park styled resorts on the Strip starting in 1989.

"It's just another one of these places that opened up kind of small and never quite had the money to expand big time," said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

It survived in its later years because it offered cheap rooms and gambling close to nearby megaresorts, UNLV history professor Hal Rothman said.

"It was never big enough, never spectacular enough and never unique enough to really be worthy of anybody's attention," Rothman said. "The real estate's valuable, the building isn't."



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