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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

New Frontier Faces Possible Demolition

14 July 2005

LAS VEGAS --The aging New Frontier hotel and casino could be torn down as early as the first quarter of next year to make way for a major resort with up to 3,500 rooms, owner Phil Ruffin said.

Ruffin, who is building two condo-hotel towers with partner Donald Trump on seven acres behind the New Frontier and facing the Fashion Show mall, said the as-yet unnamed resort would have more than 6,000 rooms because it would be attached to the two Trump-branded towers. The towers are each expected to cost about $500 million and feature about 1,300 units.

Ruffin's plans for a resort on the site have shifted dramatically over the years. Two years after acquiring the New Frontier for roughly $200 million, Ruffin in 2000 proposed a San Francisco-theme resort for $700 million. He scrapped plans for the 2,500-room property and proposed a much bigger casino with a boutique hotel nearby.

His latest plan involved a 3,000-room resort at a potential cost of $1.3 billion. Ruffin said he has revised those plans upward to 3,500 rooms and as much as $1.6 billion given current market conditions.

About five years in the making, plans for the first Trump tower were eventually upsized from about 300 units at a cost of $300 million.

Taking down the New Frontier could always be pushed back further into next year, he said.

"I'm in no hurry. There's a lot of work involved in spending over a billion dollars. But we're in the planning stages. We're moving forward."

"She's an ancient old lady but she's doing really well," he said of the New Frontier. "Sales are great."

The opening of Wynn Las Vegas across the street has dramatically improved a neighborhood that has been home to some of the Strip's oldest casinos. Ruffin, like other operators in the neighborhood, is contemplating improvements to better attract more upscale customers who are newer to Las Vegas.

Ruffin said the addition of the Trump International Hotel and Tower on the site will significantly enhance the resort that is eventually built there.

"It's going to add to the value of the dirt," he said.

Ruffin has been approached by casino operators and developers interested in joint ventures but said he is no longer entertaining any deals and will pursue the development on his own.