Replacing a Legend

The Stardust to be demolished to make way for a new resort complex

By: Kathy Espin

Years ago, a hotel executive joked that Las Vegas resort owners held a lottery each year to see which hotel would be imploded as part of the New Year’s Eve celebration.

This year, it looks like the Stardust “won” the draw.

In December, executives with Boyd Gaming Corp. announced that the 50-year-old resort would close by the end of 2006 to make room for a $4 billion development project anchored by the Echelon Resort, a 3,300-room hotel and entertainment complex.

The Echelon will take up only part of the 63 acres now occupied by the Stardust and the company’s headquarters. The entire project will include four hotels with a total of 5,300 rooms.

Boyd Gaming will own and operate the Echelon’s 2,600-room Resort Tower and a 700-room Suite Tower. Each tower will have its own spa. Public areas will include 140,000-square-foot casino, 25 restaurants and bars, landscaped pool and garden areas and business and meeting facilities. Echelon will include a 4,000-seat theater with a large stage and stadium seating for concerts and shows. In addition, a 1,500-seat theater will house smaller shows and touring acts.

Upon completion in 2010, the resort is expected to cost $2.9 billion, slightly more than the Wynn Las Vegas, billed as the most expensive hotel in the world.

Boyd Gaming executives also announced a management agreement with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts to include a Shangri-La Hotel in the project. Shangri-La is a brand well-known in Asia for luxurious accommodations. The Shangri-La Hotel Las Vegas, will be owned by Boyd Gaming and operated by Shangri-La. The resort will include 400 guestrooms and suites, a 20,000-square-foot CHI spa, meeting space and two restaurants.

Boyd Gaming has also entered into a joint venture with the Morgans Hotel Group to develop two signature hotels in Echelon Place, the Delano and Mondrian. The cost of the two projects will be approximately $700 million.

The Delano will be a franchise of the South Beach Miami hotel and will include 600 rooms and suites, a nightclub, restaurant and spa. The Mondrian will be a branch of the hotel of the same name in Hollywood. It will include 1,000 guestrooms and other facilities including conference space.

Each of the hotels will have its own entrance and porte-cochere.

Echelon Place will also include the Las Vegas ExpoCenter with 650,000 square feet of exhibition space and 175,000 square feet of meeting and conference space. Plans also call for more than 350,000 square feet of retail space and parking for more than 8,000 cars.

Boyd Gaming has recalled Bob Boughner from the Borgata in Atlantic City, the company’s joint project with MGM Mirage. Boughner will lead the development of Echelon Place as president and chief executive officer.

In less than a year, Boyd Gaming has gone from a competitor in the locals’ market with a small foot-hold on the Las Vegas Strip to the third largest player in Las Vegas. In February last year, the company joined forces with Coast Casinos to become the owner and operator of 19 properties in Nevada, New Jersey, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana and Louisiana. They recently opened South Coast Hotel and Casino located on the extreme south end of Las Vegas Boulevard. The merger gave the company an additional presence on the Strip with the acquisition of the Barbary Coast.

The Stardust will stay open and operating for most of 2006 with demolition planned for early 2007.