Station Casinos goes shopping

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LAS VEGAS -- To say that Station Casinos, based here, has been busy during the past few months is an understatement.

First, in October 2000, the company purchased the Santa Fe Hotel & Casino from Santa Fe Gaming Corp. for $71 million, the first of its many local acquisitions.

Then in December, the company sold its two Missouri casino properties, Station Casino St. Charles and Station Casino Kansas City, to Ameristar Casinos Inc., for $475 million.

In January, Station Casinos bought the Fiesta Casino Hotel in North Las Vegas from Fiesta Hotel Corp. for $170 million.

Also in January, it purchased the Reserve in Henderson, Nev., from Ameristar for $70 million.

In addition, the company has been involved in a joint venture -- the Green Valley Ranch hotel-casino project in Henderson, with American Nevada Corp. -- that is scheduled to open in December.

Station Casinos also has a long-term ground lease with an option to purchase a 34-acre parcel of land near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Craig Road in North Las Vegas.

The Santa Fe Station Hotel & Casino.The face of the local casino market here has changed, thanks to Station Casinos' spending spree and its focus on the area.

"We were really the pioneers of the local market here," said Glenn Christenson, the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer.

"We felt that this market was where we wanted to expand, and we felt that the Missouri operations were not strategic to what we were doing. So we acquired the three properties and planned to expand."

First, the company went to the northwest corner of the Las Vegas, where it didn't own a property. It acquired the 200-room Santa Fe Hotel & Casino and promptly renamed it the Santa Fe Station Hotel & Casino.

The company also spent $40 million to renovate and expand the property, which offers a 60-lane bowling center and a 1,500-seat ice rink.

Phase one of the expansion plan included the addition of 400 slot machines to the casino floor.

When that was completed in December, the company began developing a 1,600-space parking garage and renovating some of the existing restaurants, which include the Taos Steakhouse, Capri Italian Ristorante and the Santa Fe Cafe.

An estimated 25,000 square feet will be added to the 64,100-square-foot casino floor, and the property will receive a new hotel lobby and entranceway, according to Christenson.

This work is expected to be completed by the end of this month, he added.

"We bought the property with the idea of expanding it," Christenson said. "I can see us adding things like movie theaters and child-care facilities in the future."

The acquisition of the Fiesta property not only brought together the city's top two local casino companies -- it also brought a Mexican party-themed casino into Station Casinos' fold.

The property, located on 25 acres at the intersection of Lake Mead Boulevard and Rancho Road, offers 70,000 square feet of gaming space, 100 hotel rooms, four full-service restaurants, a buffet, several fast-food outlets, bingo and a race and sports book.

Because Fiesta casinos are so well known in the community, Christenson said, "we have very little planned in the way of modifications.

"We'll spend maybe $5 million to do things such as update the computer system and integrate it into our own. We bought it because of the type of property it is. We don't intend to go changing it."

The Reserve, on the other hand, is another story.

Station Casinos plans to spend $12 million to rebrand the African safari-themed casino as a Fiesta property and rename it the Fiesta Henderson, Christenson said. The name change will take effect by the end of the year, he added.

"That will add critical mass to that second [Fiesta] brand and will be practical as far as advertising, marketing and other costs and expenses," he said.

Another $8 million will be spent to upgrade the casino floor as well as the property's parking area.

Station Casinos bought this property, Christenson said, "because we viewed it as strategic in terms of its location."

The property is situated on 33 acres at the intersection of Interstates 215 and 515 and offers 42,000 square feet of casino space, 224 hotel rooms, six restaurants and meeting space.

The $300 million Green Valley Ranch hotel-casino project is under construction and expected to be completed by December.

The 200-room property will be located on 40 acres near the intersection of the I-215 Southern Beltway and Green Valley Parkway in Henderson. Station Casinos, which owns 50% of the project, will be the managing partner and will receive a management fee for its services.

As for the 34 acres of land in North Las Vegas near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Craig Road, Christenson said, "we are continuing to evaluate what we want to do there."

If the company were to develop a casino property at the site, he said, "it would have to be up and operating by the end of December next year."

To meet that deadline, company officials will have to make a decision about construction within the next 60 to 90 days, he added.

If developed, the project would be small, he said, costing somewhere between $40 million and $50 million and offering 200 hotel rooms.

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