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Gaming Guru

Arnold M. Knightly
 

Revamped Vegas casino a hit for first weekend

3 May 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Oasis at Gold Spike may be the most aptly named property introduced this year.

Sitting on the downtown corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Ogden Avenue, the renovated 50-room boutique hotel is across the street from empty lots and in the shadow of three financially troubled projects: the nearly empty Streamline Tower condominiums, Neonopolis and the vacant Lady Luck.

The revamped property, formerly the Travel Inn, opened its new rooms last weekend and sold out. The owner, the Siegel Group, expects more of the same.

The Oasis is the newest part of what is now the 1.5-acre Gold Spike complex. The combined buildings have 162 rooms with a restaurant, a new pool and a 15,000-square-foot casino. Siegel Group took both buildings from near skid-row condition -- the Travel Inn had been closed six years -- to downtown boutique status after spending nearly $30 million on acquisition and renovation.

Siegel Group President Stephen Siegel said the Gold Spike was selling out its rooms on the weekends even before adding the Oasis rooms. The Gold Spike was recording an occupancy rate of nearly 85 percent midweek, too.

Room rates range from $39 per night to $199 per night for combined suites on the Gold Spike's top floor. The suites have connecting doors that can be opened for groups. The top-floor suites have balconies.

"For a couple hundred bucks you can't get this anywhere," Siegel said.

All the rooms at Gold Spike and Oasis have been completely renovated from the carpet to the bathrooms. New furniture and fixtures have been added, including 32-inch flat-screen TVs and iPod docking alarm clocks. Each of the Gold Spike's suites is designed differently with varying amenities, such as stripper poles, pool tables or distinct furniture.

The rooms are being marketed as the nicest downtown rooms at a value price, Siegel said. They are sold through the company's website, in-house promotions and marketing and online travel sites such as Travelocity and Expedia.

Getting the rooms from rundown to a "nice, clean modern feel" was not easy, said Michael Crandall, Siegel's business affairs director for Las Vegas.

"There was a lot of stuff we didn't expect," Crandall said. "Every time we thought we were ready to go, a plumbing issue would pop up. Once we'd put in a new floor, we'd have to pull it back up to fix another plumbing problem. It was an absolute nightmare. That's the price you pay renovating these old buildings."

The Oasis' original building was built in 1962 and the Gold Spike was built 15 years later.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman described the Siegel Group as "phenomenal people" and "opportunistic" in the down economy.

"They're opportunistic in the sense that they take advantage of opportunities that perhaps people with more age and more experience wouldn't take," Goodman said. "It's all turned out to be a plus. They're full of energy and full of ideas and I am continually patting them on the back because they deserve it."

Before the Siegel Group bought the Gold Spike in early 2008 and renovated the property, Goodman said he wouldn't go to the downtown hotel-casino, which is a block from City Hall.

"There was a time where I wouldn't walk in there for fear of getting a secondary lung disease," Goodman said. "Now, it's as cool and neat as a place as there is in the entire downtown."

The Oasis and Gold Spike are not the Siegel Group's only turnaround projects.

Rumor, formerly the St. Tropez across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel on Harmon Avenue, is being renovated, with construction crews on site seven days a week. Siegel Group bought the closed-down property for $10.5 million in September and began stripping the building to the bare walls and floor.

The company is spending $3.5 million to renovate and rebrand the property, which is scheduled to open in mid-June.

"Nothing in Vegas exists like this property," Siegel said of the sprawling two-story complex on 4.2 acres. "You have all the rooms enclosing the courtyard and an unbelievable location. We'll feed off the traffic of the Hard Rock. We're directly down the road from CityCenter."

The property plans to draw musicians and customers who want the Las Vegas vibe without the hassle of a large property, a crowded pool area and noisy casino. Plans call for the property's 150 rooms to have the "modern boutique feel one would find in Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami," Siegel said.

There will be 146 suites, each about 450 square feet, plus four big suites starting at 900 square feet. Mark Tracy, who recently helped design the Hard Rock Hotel's pool villas, is designing Rumor's large suites. Tracy is also redesigning the pool area.

The pools are part of a large open-air grass courtyard that will be used to host concerts, nightclub-style pool parties and whatever else Siegel Group can dream up.

Although Rumor will have limited gaming, with only eight slot machines at the bar, it will be marketed to 21-and-older customers.

Overseeing Rumor for Siegel Group is high-profile executive Yale Rowe, formerly of the Hard Rock Hotel and the Silverton.

Crandall said he and Siegel had known Rowe from Rowe's Hard Rock Hotel days, which ended late last year.

"This property came about and it seemed like a really good fit for Yale," Crandall said. "He decided to give it a shot."

Rowe is a University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate and has been in the hotel industry since joining the Luxor in 1992. He also spent time at Green Valley Ranch Resort and a long stint with the Bennett family's gaming interests, which included the Sahara and Paragon Gaming.

Besides the Gold Spike, Oasis and Rumor, Siegel Group also owns the Resort on Mount Charleston and the Artisan, which was acquired in January.

The company got its start in 2004 buying depressed apartment complexes, many of which were crime-ridden weeklies. They have been renovated and rebranded into a chain of flexible-stay apartments under the Siegel Suites name.

Siegel said what will be the company's 18th Siegel Suites is in escrow, which will give the company 4,000 apartments in Clark County.