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Arnold M. Knightly
 

Wet 'n Wild site project proceeding, official says

29 May 2007

By Arnold M. Knightly

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Texas-based businessman behind a proposed 1,888-foot hotel-condominium tower for the old Wet 'n Wild site said Friday he has made a $40 million land option payment and the project is proceeding.

Christopher Milam, principal of Austin, Texas-based IDM Properties, said he continues to control the option for the 27 acres after making the payment this week to Archon Corp., the land's owner. Milam said he is still awaiting a Federal Aviation Administration ruling on a proposal for a 142-story tower.

The project is scheduled to go before the Clark County Commission in July but could be postponed if there is no ruling by then.

Milam, through the holding company LVTI, and Archon entered an option agreement for the old water park site for $450 million. A $5 million deposit was made June 27 and the due date for the latest payment was extended three times.

Archon is leasing the site as a construction staging area for the $2.8 billion Fontainebleau hotel casino condominium project, which is scheduled for completion in 2009.

The Wet 'n Wild site's purchase price has been raised to $475 million, according to an investor's note from Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Lerner. The price increase would be in line with rising land values in the area; MGM Mirage announced in April the purchase of 34 acres across the street for $17 million per acre. The Sahara, which borders the Wet 'n Wild site on the north, is reportedly being sold for $17 million to $20 million per acre to Los Angeles-based SBE Entertainment Group.

Milam brought his vision for what would be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere before the Clark County Planning Commission in late November.

The commission approved the $5 billion, 5,000 unit mixed-use project, 739 feet taller than the Stratosphere, for use permits and design reviews pending the height waiver.

The project's height elicited concerns from officials at Nellis Air Force Base and the Clark County Department of Aviation, who said the project would adversely affect air traffic.

Archon once owned the Santa Fe on North Rancho Drive but sold it in October 2000 to Station Casinos.

Wet 'n Wild was closed in August 2004 with plans by Archon to develop its own 3,002-unit, 611 foot hotel project but the project never moved forward.

Archon Corp. representatives couldn't be reached for comment. In October 2005, Milam's IDM Properties was named developers of Peter Morton's $1.25 billion resort condominium project behind the Hard Rock Hotel. Morton then changed course and announced in May 2006 he was selling the gaming property to Morgans Hotel Group for $770 million.