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Arnold M. Knightly

New Speedway owner has revival plans

18 January 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- People with connections to some of the biggest names on the Strip are taking their cachet to a small gaming property lacking glitz.

Las Vegas-based Ganaste completed an $11.4 million real estate purchase of the Speedway Hotel and Casino from Chester, W.Va.-based MTR Gaming last week. The partnership also has an agreement to purchase the property's casino operations for $6.8 million once it obtains a gaming license.

"We believe we can revive this asset," said Ganaste managing partner Seth Schorr, the 31-year-old son of Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chief Operating Officer Marc Schorr. "We believe we can refurbish the asset and bring it back to a level of not only where it was but improve it."

Reviving the North Las Vegas property includes spending nearly $3 million in the next couple years for a much-needed paint job, better lighting for a dreary casino, replacing well-worn carpet and a better air filtration system.

Until it obtains a gaming license, MTR Gaming will continue to operate the North Las Vegas casino, hotel and restaurant, paying $70,000 per month.

Once Ganaste takes over operations, Schorr and partners Mike Mixer and Alexander Rodrigo will be involved in the day-to-day operations of the property.

For now, the new owners plan to familiarize themselves with the property, its 188 employees and its customers.

There are no plans to tear down the buildings on the 6.5-acre site on Civic Center Drive on the corner of Interstate 15 and Cheyenne Avenue. The property was built in four phases, with the casino and the 95-room hotel added only a decade old.

Rodrigo said the partners are in the industry for the long term. Ganaste, which means "you won" in Spanish, plans to use its first purchase as a training ground to learn the hotel and casino business before making other acquisitions.

"I think the focal point is this is Ganaste's first opportunity to hone our skills," Rodrigo said. "We really feel we have the perfect mix of backgrounds, and this asset allows us to capitalize on those things."

Mixer is founder and senior vice president of Colliers Nevada, a subsidiary of commercial real estate firm Colliers International. Rodrigo is vice president at Colliers Nevada.

The two recently worked on MGM Mirage's $575 million purchase of 33 acres on the corner of Sahara Avenue and the Strip in April.

The trio received some financial assistance and industry advice from a pair of big-time acquaintances.

Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal and Bruce Deifik, president and chief executive officer of the real estate development company American Nevada Co., are equity partners in the purchase.

Schorr said Ganaste plans to be more of a hands-on owner than MTR Gaming, which he said neglected the property while focusing on its expanding gaming interests back home.

Schorr said he and Rodrigo will set up offices on site and will listen to the employees, react quickly to their concerns and interact with customers.

The new owners met with city officials, including Mayor Michael Montandon, Wednesday to hear the city's vision for North Las Vegas and the redevelopment area, where the Speedway is located.