Vital Vegas

Owners of The D, Golden Gate Acquire Key Parcel Downtown

Derek and Greg Stevens, owners of The D and Golden Gate casinos, have acquired a coveted parcel of land in downtown Las Vegas, this time from casino giant Boyd Gaming.

The land is located between Plaza Las Vegas and Main Street Station, just across from the closed Las Vegas Club, a site where the Stevens plan to build a Strip-style resort, currently being referred to as “18 Fremont.” (Recently, Derek Stevens was asked about likely names for the new resort, and he said, “Grandissimo is in the lead, but only because we haven’t come up with any others yet.”)

Here’s a look at the site, a coveted location downtown, and critical to plans for 18 Fremont.

Sort of a blank slate. Las Vegas has been known to do some interesting things with its blank slates.

At the moment, the parcel in question is essentially an empty lot, but is home to two vintage train cars, an attraction viewed by upwards of 14 people each month.

One car is The Blackhawk, the private car used by Buffalo Bill. The other is The Cascade, from the 1980s. We trust a sale of the train cars is already in the works. You know who to call, classic train nerds.

The train! The train! (Millennial translation: It’s a “Fantasy Island” pun.)

Here’s a look at the lot and the trains, because that’s how we roll.

So, what’s the big deal about an empty lot?

For one thing, it provides many more options for the new resort at 18 Fremont. The lot could provide much-needed space for parking or other infrastructure, but specific plans have not been announced. It’s unlikely the hotel itself, or the casino, would be extended across Main Street. Its expected one of the Las Vegas Club towers will be imploded in mid-2017 (“between May and September”), the other tower is likely to have floors added. The cost of the new resort is expected to surpass $100 million.

Furthermore, as mentioned, this has been a closely-held piece of land for years. (Main Street Station opened as Holiday International in 1978. It became the Park Hotel and Casino in 1987.) Boyd purchased the hotel in 1993.) Dozens of offers have been made on the parcel over the decades, but Boyd officials have always declined. The approval of the sale by Boyd Gaming signals a belief the new resort will “lift all the boats” downtown.

In fact, some speculate many of the renovations happening at the three Boyd resorts downtown (The Cal, Fremont and Main Street Station) are in anticipation of the influx of new business as the new resort comes online. Yeah, it’s that big a deal.

The former baseball-themed Las Vegas Club.

Following the purchase of the Las Vegas Club, the Stevens also acquired the Glitter Gulch Strip Club, Mermaids casino, and two retail spaces (which nobody ever thought would sell, frankly, and which could have been a major thorn in the side for developers of the new resort).

Those combined, strategic purchases mean an entire block of prime Fremont Street real estate can now be devoted to the new resort.

Teddy Roosevelt, Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill slept here. Which we now can never unsee.

The acquisition of the land between Plaza and Main Street Station caps off an impressive set of investments in downtown Las Vegas, unprecedented since Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project went on a real estate buying spree totaling $100 million.

Let’s do a run-down of the journey so far.

Derek and Greg Stevens first invested in Golden Gate, and they now own it outright.

What, we were going to share a photo of the exterior of the Golden Gate? Do you know this blog at all?

Next, they purchased Fitzgerald’s and turned it into The D Las Vegas after a $22 million overhaul.

In 2013, the Stevens purchased the abandoned Clark Count courthouse for $10 million. The building was demolished and the site is now the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

The courthouse wasn’t imploded, but a tower of the former Las Vegas Club probably will be due to its dense construction materials. Expect hoopla.

The Stevens then were the sole bidders for downtown’s Bridger Building. It was purchased for $2.7 million. The building will be used for office space and will serve as a distribution center for the Stevens downtown casinos.

Then, the Las Vegas Club was purchased for a rumored $40 million from Tamares Group, who also operate the Plaza Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Club closed at midnight, Aug. 19, 2015.

The former Las Vegas Club gift shop. And casino. And likely CVS, until Derek Stevens saved the day. Long story.

Next, the purchase of Girls of Glitter Gulch, Mermaids and La Bayou were acquired, all in one pop. They closed on June 27, 2016. It’s expected the La Bayou site will be used to expand the adjacent Golden Gate’s casino.

 The Stevens then closed on a small but pivotal deal involving two small retail shops. The small stores (0.08 acres, to be specific) between Mermaids and Glitter Gulch were purchased from businessman Haim Gabay for $13.5 million. Funds from that purchase were, in turn, used to purchase the Bonanza Gift Shop on Oct. 21, 2016.

That’s not a typo, $13.5 million. The courthouse purchase gave the Stevens an entire city block, for $10 million.

With this most recent purchase of the land between Plaza and the Ogden Ave. underpass (for $7.5 million), it’s clear the Stevens are in it for the long haul, and they have big, juicy plans for Fremont Street and beyond. (And by “beyond,” we mean that if you heard some of the rumors circulating, your mind would be blown. There’s much more to come.)

Details for the new resort at 18 Fremont haven’t been revealed yet, but Derek Stevens drops lots of hints in an early episode of our podcast. It could be 2019 before the new 18 Fremont resort opens its doors.

There’s been some buzz Stevens hired five architectural design firms to draw up plans for the new resort. Unlike most searches, however, the firms were paid for their work up front, so Stevens owns the intellectual property and could cherry pick the best ideas from each proposal. Which gives us warm, throbbing feelings about what’s in store.

It’s been amazing to watch as these acquisitions have unfolded, and we look forward to seeing what’s next with bated breath. Which, we fully acknowledge, is a weird thing for breath to be, but we defy you to find gum in a Las Vegas casino gift shop.

Full disclosure: Our day job is in marketing at Fremont Street Experience. The D, Golden Gate, Main Street Station, The Cal and Fremont are partner casinos of Fremont Street Experience. Our opinions are our own, like them or not.