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Howard Stutz

Removal of Fontainebleau construction crane signals doom for ill-fated Strip hotel

15 May 2014

LAS VEGAS -- Construction workers this week began dismantling a large crane that has sat unused atop the mothballed Fontaine­bleau on the north end of Strip for more than five years.

The activity is the latest chapter in the sad history of the shuttered Fontainebleau, which was to have been a 3,889-room hotel-casino with a price tag of $3 billion before the development went bankrupt. Construction was halted in April 2009 when the building was 70 percent completed.

Billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn bought the Fontainebleau for $150 million out of bankruptcy in January 2010. His company in recent years has sold off furnishings and other items that were purchased exclusively for the Fontainebleau by its original owners.

Kelly Hadland of Compass Equipment of Arizona, which bought the crane from another party, said Tuesday the company plans to move the crane to an out-of-state job site. Arizona-based Stafford Tower Crane of America was hired by Compass to dismantle it.

Hadland called the crane “an economic eyesore” for the Strip.

“It’s been a big challenge but our goal is to get it off the building and send it to its new home,” Hadland said.

A plan to remove the crane was filed with the Nevada Business and Industry Department. An agency spokeswoman said the crane’s owner and the contractor met the various requirements before starting the job, including a zone survey and a plan review meeting.

A Nevada Contractors Board spokesman said Stafford has an active state contractors license.

In a brief telephone interview Tuesday, Patrick Stafford of Stafford Tower Crane said the company had hoped the removal would not attract publicity. It could take up to a week to dismantle the crane because of weather issues such as wind.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, whose district includes the Strip’s northern end, has not been shy about calling for a plan to remove the unfinished structure or at least to clean up the site.

County officials said Tuesday they did not push to have the crane removed, but Giunchigliani said Tuesday she’s happy to see it go.

Representatives of Ironworkers Local 433 said they plan to set up an informational picket because nonunion workers are doing the job.

Icahn, who operates a New York investment firm and is considered the world’s 25th richest person with a net worth of $24.5 billion, has said little about the Fontainebleau since he acquired the building and its 24 acres between the Riviera and the former Wet n’ Wild water park site. He did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

In a 2010 interview, Icahn said he would consider his options on the Fontainebleau after Las Vegas, which was then in the grips of recession, showed signs of recovery.

A revival is taking place on the Strip’s north end around the moribund Fontainebleau.

Last week, Malaysia-based Genting Berhad was given a preliminary go-ahead to begin construction later this year on a $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas, a reworking of the 87-acre Echelon/Stardust site, which also had been mothballed during construction.

SLS Las Vegas, the $415 million renovation of the Sahara, opens Labor Day weekend.

Also, MGM Resorts International announced a partnership with Cirque du Soleil and an investment firm to build City of Rock, a permanent, 33-acre, open-air concert venue with a capacity of 80,000 at the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and the Strip.

Even with that activity, many analysts have said it would be more cost effective to demolish the Fontainebleau rather than try to finish it.