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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Growth Spurs Possibility of Third South Coast Tower

18 May 2005

The first resort to open on the "South Strip," now more than half built, could eventually have up to 2,000 rooms after a third hotel tower is built to meet future demand, Boyd Gaming Corp. executives said.

At a ceremony Tuesday to celebrate the completion of the main hotel tower roof, Boyd officials said the South Coast resort at Silverado Ranch and Las Vegas Boulevard is still on schedule to open early next year.

Last week officials said they would expand the South Coast by adding a 700-room hotel tower, bringing the total room count to 1,350 and boosting the resort's pricetag by $100 million to $600 million. The second tower would open soon after the first.

Michael Gaughan, Chief Executive of Boyd subsidiary Coast Casinos, said the pace of development along the South Strip has surprised everyone.

"I knew this would be a good area but I had no idea it was going to be this good," Gaughan said. He purchased the land for the South Coast about three and a half years ago before several major high-rise projects began development nearby.

The property gives more credence to future visions of a Las Vegas Strip that will extend more than five miles south of Mandalay Bay, bringing casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard that much closer to visitors driving in from California.

Major construction work on the resort is complete, including foundations, walls and mechanical functions such as plumbing, officials said.

"This is a pretty big milestone," said Michael Gaughan, Jr., Gaughan's son and the manager of the property. "This is the time when we start to turn it over to craftsmen to do millwork and detail work."

From the outside, passersby can see finished walls on the hotel tower several floors up and the beginnings of the resort's entrance.

Tuesday, Boyd Chief Executive Bill Boyd touted the resort's key attraction: the first major equestrian center in Las Vegas.

The outdoor area will attract horse lovers from across the country and abroad, Boyd said. "This will take the place of Fort Worth, Texas, and California cities" that already have such centers, he said.

Boyd said the property -- the company's newest since his company merged with Coast Casinos last year -- will incorporate "the best features of all of our properties" between the Boyd and Coast casino chain.

Unlike competitor Station Casinos Inc., Boyd Gaming's experience developing South Coast has been smooth sailing.

Nearby homeowners have complained about upcoming Station casinos at Red Rock in Summerlin and Durango Road at the Las Vegas Beltway, saying they weren't aware of the existence or scope of the projects.

While the South Coast isn't far from the bumper crop of homes sprouting up on the South Strip east of Las Vegas Boulevard, nobody seems to be complaining about the project.

"I've had zero phone calls," Gaughan Jr. said. "All the feedback from the surrounding people has so far been positive."

Some 2,000 construction workers are building the South Coast. Many were on hand Tuesday to get a complimentary lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers before getting back to work.

Darren Gillet, project superintendent for J.A. Tiberti Construction, said the South Coast is the biggest project he has overseen since he joined the general contractor in 1990.

"It's also the most efficient," he said. The company is maintaining "an aggressive but obtainable schedule."

Each resort project has its challenges that contractors learn from, he said.

"It's a learning curve," he said.

Francisco Jaquez, a laborer and general foreman on the project, said the South Coast is "one of the best jobs" he has had during his 17 years in construction.

Jaquez said he has worked on several major casino construction sites over the past 14 years in Las Vegas including the Excalibur, Luxor and Monte Carlo.

The city's growth has surprised him.

"When I came to town it was not that big," he said.