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Chris Jones

Westin Wait Ends, Guests Welcomed

10 November 2003

LAS VEGAS -- Though it took much more time and money than its owner anticipated, the new Westin Casuarina Hotel finally welcomed its first customers Thursday evening.

About 100 first-night guests stayed in the renovated 825-room hotel located at 160 E. Flamingo Road, the site of the former Maxim. So far only four floors of the hotel's 17-story hotel tower are handling guests, but spokeswoman Karen Gee-McAuley said additional levels will open in phases over the next three weeks or so.

Its casino, estimated at less than 15,000 square feet, opened Friday, with an on-site spa to follow at an undetermined date.

The Westin's hotel and casino were originally slated to debut July 1, but that was later pushed back to late October. The second deadline also passed without an opening, but Gee-McAuley said the hotel's owner, Columbia Sussex Corp. of Fort Mitchell, Ky., now has a presence in the Las Vegas Valley -- even if it took an extra week to obtain the necessary occupancy permits.

"We'd rather not focus on the delays," said Gee-McAuley, who said she was unaware of what caused the added wait. "We're looking forward to making contact with out-of-town guests and locals and exposing them to this amazing brand."

The new Westin bears little resemblance to the former Maxim, a relic of the late 1970s that deteriorated during its final years before financial troubles closed it for good in August 2001. The Maxim's dark interior has been replaced with Earth-toned marble flooring, wood accents and other modern touches that Columbia Sussex believes will appeal to small groups of business travelers as well as leisure visitors.

Columbia Sussex bought the site in September 2002 for $38 million.

It first earmarked about $12 million for improvements, but problems with the existing site forced Columbia Sussex to spend nearly $42 million on renovations and other improvements.