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Arnold M. Knightly

Olympia Gaming set to enter market

19 March 2007

NEVADA -- Olympia Gaming plans to start construction this summer on its first Southern Nevada resort property, the $1 billion Southern Highlands Resort, with the first phase expected to be completed by fall 2009.

Chief Marketing Officer D.C. Graham said the company is finishing the final designs for the project. The resort will be a mixed-use development with 1,400 hotel rooms, a casino, convention space and seven to eight restaurants.

Southern Highlands Resort will be built on 70 undeveloped acres on the northwest corner of St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard South bordered by Interstate 15 to the west, 3 miles south of South Point.

The project was approved for 3,200 rooms, a 120,000-square-foot casino and a 530-foot-high hotel tower last year.

Graham said the property will open with more rooms than other recent off-Strip projects, such as South Point which opened with 700. He said the convention and meeting space will be key to filling the rooms midweek.

"We believe this is a critical component of our business model and success," said Graham.

Graham said Olympia Gaming wants to begin filling sales positions in the fall so it can start selling meeting space and booking conventions.

In the highly competitive convention market, large groups sometimes book five to 10 years in advance while smaller gatherings sometimes start looking two to three years before the meeting date, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

John Knott, executive vice president of CB Richard Ellis' Global Gaming Group, said that even though Southern Highlands will be near South Point, Olympia Gaming isn't planning to directly compete with that property.

"Southern Highlands is looking at a different type of product," Knott said. "When you look at the success of Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock Resort, certainly Southern Highlands is looking to put more of a upper-end property in there."

While the company has been busy hiring the operations personnel -- it announced the filling of five key positions in February -- it will probably be late summer before a general manager is hired.

Olympia Gaming is a division of the Olympia Group, which is developing the 2,700-acre master-plan community Southern Highlands.

Graham said that while residents of that community and other residents from the south part of the valley will be a focus for the property, regional visitors from Los Angeles and San Diego will also be the targeted.

Olympia Group broke ground in December on the 2,675-acre master-planned Park Highlands development, which includes a 56-acre non-gaming resort-commercial parcel.

Olympia Group principal Guy Inzalaco said in December that the company would like to add a gaming property to the development.