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Amanda Finnegan

Fireworks mark opening of Aliante Station Casino

12 November 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Things didn't go exactly as planned at Aliante Station's grand opening Tuesday night, but Station Casinos execs certainly aren't complaining.

Playing off of the number 11, doors were scheduled to open at 11:11 p.m., the time of day when legends say wishes come true.

Station Casinos executives may have gotten their wish for a successful opening night.

After an 11-minute fireworks display by Grucci's of New York at 10 p.m., crowds flocked to every casino entrance and cars were backed up for a mile on the 215 West Beltway. At 10:40 p.m., staff decided it was time to scratch superstitions and let a curious public in a little early.

Station Casinos spokesperson Lori Nelson said visitors began to show up as early as 8 p.m. for the premier.

"It's been going great so far," Nelson said just after 11 p.m. "After we saw the crowds of people after the fireworks and got the OK from the fire department, we had to open the doors."

Thousands of local residents flooded the casino floor, restaurants and bars to get a peek at the finalized product in their own backyard.

The $662 million joint venture between Station Casinos and the Greenspun Corporation, which publishes the Las Vegas Sun, began with a groundbreaking in February 2007.

Set on a 40-acre lot within the Aliante community, Aliante Station general manager Joe Hasson calls the property "a resort for locals."

Before the clock even hit the scheduled opening time, The Original Pancake House restaurant was seating a line of customers, and bartenders at the Access Bar were serving up cocktails to a row of filled bar stools.

Finding a seat at one of the 2,500 slot and video games was even a challenge. Gamblers lined up around the Wheel of Fortune slots, first for a chance to grab a seat, then to win more than $2.7 million.

All but two tables remained full in the casinos brand new poker room and high rollers set up shop at the $50 minimum table games.

Sticking with the number 11 theme, Paul and Shannon Aldridge of North Las Vegas placed their first bets at 11:11 p.m. and wished for luck.

"We lost $2, so I guess it wasn't so lucky for us. Oh well," Shannon Aldridge said.

But gamblers who lost weren't completely out of luck. Visitors who signed up for the Station Casinos Boarding Pass and played even $1 with it qualified for a bundle of prizes.

Although Aliante won't welcome its first hotel guests until Friday night, visitors toured open rooms to catch a glimpse of the 202-room, nine-suite accommodations. With rooms starting at $49 a night and 15 percent off for locals, the property is staying true to its mission to cater to locals.

"We're already thinking about staying a night," Shannon Aldridge said. "The property is gorgeous. I like it better than Green Valley [Ranch] and Red Rock [Resort]."

Station executives said they aimed for the high-end feel of Red Rock Resort and Casino and Green Valley Ranch, but with cheaper rates and more gaming to appeal to locals.

Pam Roberts of Sun City Aliante headed to her favorite part of the property with a group of friends and champagne in hand.

"I'm a pool and water person so I had to check it out and it's absolutely perfect," Roberts said of the Aliante pool.

Roberts, who has photographed Aliante Station since it was just a mound of dirt, said she has been waiting five years for the opening.

"I love the idea of a locals resort. We love the idea that we can kind of call it our own. It's part of the community and it's somewhere we can go instead of driving an hour," Roberts said.

Aliante is opening during a rough time for the Las Vegas economy. On Monday, Station reported a loss of $23.4 million for the quarter ending Sept. 30. That compares to income of $3.7 million for the third quarter in 2007.

As a real estate developer herself, Roberts said she can see the benefits of the property.

"Now that the neighborhood has developed and we have all age groups, I think it will be successful. I think it will help us and help them," Roberts said.

Station Casinos may have had its wish granted for a profitable first night, but long-term success for Aliante Station during economic woes is still a gamble. At least locals will be on their side.