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Adrienne Packer

Venetian Expansion to Proceed

22 July 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Clark County authorized The Venetian to proceed with its expansion plans Wednesday despite concerns that construction will interfere with Steve Wynn's newest landmark, Wynn Las Vegas.

Venetian representatives convinced Clark County commissioners that it will provide at least 7,600 parking spaces to accommodate guests, employees and construction workers while a new parking garage is built.

Commissioners voted 4-2 to allow The Venetian to proceed with its expansion, but vowed to halt construction if the number of parking spaces falls below that mark or employees are caught parking on neighboring competitors' property.

The strict conditions attached to their approval reflected commissioners' concerns about The Venetian's history of failing to fulfill agreements.

"There isn't a level of trust with the applicant," said Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, who voted to allow the project to progress. "But those persons representing them are not going to let this fall by the wayside or let something happen that would be detrimental to their reputation."

High-powered legal teams represented two of the Las Vegas Strip's most influential casino developers, Wynn and Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson, during Wednesday's three-hour hearing.

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan handled most of the lobbying for Adelson and Frank Schreck, a prominent gaming attorney, fought the battle for Wynn.

Their presence appeared to make the decision on parking adequacy more difficult for at least one commissioner.

Wynn's attorneys cast serious doubt on The Venetian officials' ability, and willingness, to fulfill their promise to put measures in place to ensure their employees will park in designated temporary lots and not at Wynn's resort.

Wynn's greatest fear is that, left with few places to park, Venetian employees and construction workers will take up space in his parking garage directly across Sands Avenue.

The $2.4 billion Wynn Las Vegas resort is scheduled to open April 28. The Venetian's six-story underground garage, which will provide about 7,000 parking spaces, will still be under construction.

"We have a big event at the end of April," said Wynn attorney Todd Bice, adding that if The Venetian's plans don't pan out, "who pays the consequences? We do."

The Venetian landed leasing deals with Casino Royale, the New Frontier and a private property owner. It also purchased an apartment complex at Sands Avenue and Koval Lane, which it plans to raze and convert into a parking lot. Another temporary lot will be at Valley View Boulevard and Spring Mountain Road, where a shuttle will transport employees to the hotel.

Schreck said The Venetian's parking is already inadequate. The hotel has 4,420 spaces in its existing parking garage and 585 surface spaces. Years ago the county granted The Venetian a 50 percent reduction in required parking spaces until construction of the resort is completed.

Schreck said that is exactly why the hotel's new convention center remains unfinished after two years. Venetian representatives could not explain why the center has yet to be completed.

Schreck also wondered why Venetian officials pleaded for permission to proceed with makeshift parking accommodations after it had years to plan for the expansion and provide parking.

"The Venetian is like a child who murders his parents and then seeks sympathy that he is now an orphan," Schreck said. "Every other developer has to do their parking in advance."

Commissioner Myrna Williams first moved to deny allowing The Venetian to proceed with its expansion plans, but the motion died with a 3-3 vote. Commissioner Rory Reid abstained because his colleagues at the law firm Lionel Sawyer & Collins made up much of Adelson's legal team.

Commissioner Chip Maxfield followed Williams with a motion to approve The Venetian's parking plan. Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, Kincaid-Chauncey and Lynette Boggs McDonald, whose early vote supported Williams, voted with Maxfield. Boggs McDonald could not be reached for comment after the meeting.