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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2001

Desert Inn makes way for resort

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Plans for the historic Desert Inn resort have been formally announced — a 45-story, 2,455-room, 514-foot golden glass tower, complete with a four-acre lake.

Demolition continues at the Desert Inn on the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel, once home to billionaire Howard Hughes, is coming down to make way for a resort that many hope will start a building boom on the Strip's north end.

Associated Press

"This resort will redefine, once again, the luxurious megaresort in Las Vegas," wrote DeRuyter Butler, executive vice president-architecture for Butler Ashworth Architects Ltd., in a letter to the Clark County Planning Commission.

The resort is being developed by owner Steve Wynn, who is credited with starting the megaresort boom on the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. Among the hotel-casinos he developed before selling them to MGM Grand Inc. in 2000 are the Bellagio, Mirage and Treasure Island.

Wynn plans to transform the 51-year-old Desert Inn into a water-dominated, high-end megaresort observers think will kick off a new Strip building boom. Last year Wynn purchased the legendary hotel-casino, which played host through the years to such notables as Frank Sinatra and was home to Howard Hughes.

It is estimated the project will cost $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.

The plans were to be considered by the planning commission yesterday. The commission staff has recommended approval.

With construction likely to take a couple of years, the timing could not be important for Las Vegas. Since the last wave of expansion ended in August 2000, Las Vegas visitor growth has slowed considerably.

"I would say everyone in town is rooting for him," said Andrew Zarnett, gaming analyst for Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown. "It's essential that Las Vegas have a (new wave of development) to grow visitation in that city."

Wynn's newest resort will include a 120,000-square-foot casino, 15 restaurants and entertainment venues, 70,000 square-feet of retail space, 132,000 square feet of convention space, showrooms of 1,500 and 2,000 seats, two wedding chapels, a luxury spa and a massive three-acre pool deck.

Wynn also plans to keep the Desert Inn's famed golf course intact, according to the plans on file.

The project borrows many elements that were used with success at the upscale Bellagio. In front of the lake, that is roughly half the size of the one at Bellagio, will stand a 44-foot fountain.

"A small water ballet located adjacent to the waterfront dining patios is planned," Butler wrote.

The resort also will include an art gallery. "Wynn Gallery," spanning 1,316 square feet, will be temporarily housed in the St. Andrews Tower, which is one of the Desert Inn's existing buildings.

"Limited public displays of Mr. Wynn's collection are expected," wrote Glen Ashworth, director of architecture for Wynn Design and Development, in a letter to the planning commission.

The St. Andrews Tower, along with the Palms Tower and the Desert Inn's luxury villas, will remain a part of the resort complex.

The new resort will be built where the remainder of the Desert Inn's buildings now stand. These buildings are being demolished without explosives.

Wynn Resorts will implode the high-rise Augusta Tower, the southernmost of the Desert Inn buildings, on Oct. 23, said Irwin Molasky, Wynn's business partner.

When those buildings are gone, in their place will rise a tower, which would be just a few feet short of the 525-foot-high New York-New York tower.