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Gaming Guru

Rod Smith
 

South Coast Hosts Horse Show

15 March 2006

LAS VEGAS -- South Coast today raises the curtain on a whole new form of entertainment for Las Vegas: world-class horse shows.

Don Williams, a horse owner from New England, said Boyd Gaming Corp.'s new $600 million resort on Las Vegas Boulevard, south of McCarran International Airport, will change the dynamic of Las Vegas as a destination for him.

"(I've) never been here before, never wanted to. But we're horse people. They're our business and our hobby. That gives us a reason to come here, probably several times a year," he said.

The American Quarter Horse Association, the largest horse owners group in the country, will help kick off the new facility, the only equestrian arena in the country tied to a major hotel.

More than 800 horses were unloaded Monday and Tuesday for the Silver Dollar Circuit Show, which runs today through Sunday, South Coast Assistant General Manager Ryan Growney said.

Vendors have set up 40 booths in the exhibit hall to promote their wares to attendees.

Attendance is difficult to estimate because it's the resort's first show, Growney said, but South Coast has booked 3,500 rooms nights connected with the show.

On the peak night, 350 rooms were booked, although the association could have booked 500 if the second tower of the South Coast were already open, he said.

"So far, it seems to be a big hit. The show moved down from Reno last year and everybody is in love with the facility, especially the amenities from the front-door bellmen on. It gives them a chance to unwind after they get here," Growney said.

The South Coast Equestrian Complex features a 4,400-seat arena and 1,200 climate-controlled horse stalls on the parking structure's first floor. It also features a 31,250-square-foot show arena floor and with an overlooking bar.

Growney said 124 event days already are booked for the rest of the year and he hopes to have 40 weeks booked in 2007.

South Coast General Manager Mike Gaughan Jr. said the idea for the equestrian center stemmed from his father's involvement in horse competitions and his operating a working ranch in North Las Vegas.

But he said because the complex is the first equestrian center in Las Vegas and the first tied to a major hotel in the country, its opening and operation were a particular challenge and opportunity.

Tim Lanier, the original manager of the equestrian center who recently left the company, said South Coast and its equestrian center will appeal to a whole new market segment for Boyd.

"Horse enthusiasts as individuals have incredible discretionary income, like people who own yachts," Lanier said.

"An equestrian crowd is an affluent crowd. The center will do some rodeos, but a rodeo crowd is an extreme sport crowd. It appeals to the masses. ... With the equestrian center, the business will be unique in Las Vegas and the West Coast," he said.

"That made it really a genius thing to do. There are no other competitors for customers worth $1.5 million on average and an income of $175,000," Lanier said.

Advance bookings even before December were so successful that Boyd Gaming moved development of the second South Coast tower up to coincide with the first.

That was because the property was fully booked with equestrian events, leaving its convention and meeting areas underused, Lanier said.

"Las Vegas is more of a key to this than all the other factors involved. When people are showing horses, it's their hobby. They want to come to a great destination where they can have fun," Lanier said.

Thus, the equestrian center also moves Boyd Gaming away from catering to just local customers, he said.

In addition to the equestrian facilities, the center includes 80,000 square feet of exhibit space and 20,000 square feet of meeting and prefunction space.

The stalling area of the South Coast Equestrian Center is available only to participants to board their livestock during their events.