Here’s a great idea – let’s buy a huge parcel of land in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Are you with me so far? Then we’ll dig a really, really big hole and fill it with water. Seriously, stay with me here. Next we’ll put in not one, but three super high-end golf courses. So who’s going to play there? Glad you asked! Along the giant hole filled with water we’re going to build unbelievably expensive homes and get mega-rich suckers people to buy them. To attract tourists we’ll sweet-talk some major chains, like the Hyatt and Ritz Carlton, to put in some ultra-expensive hotels. So what if it’s a long way from the Las Vegas Strip or anything else? To keep them happy we’ll throw in a little Casino. We’ll also get a bunch of other fools entrepreneurs to put in some little stores and such. After all this happens a bunch of real estate developers will surely want to put in a lot of overpriced homes in the area that isn’t along the mud puddle lake. Brilliant idea, right?
That’s exactly what happened at the Lake Las Vegas Resort in Henderson, Nevada. A concept first conceived long before the Las Vegas real estate boom, the idea was to provide a first-class destination far removed from the glitter of the Las Vegas Strip. The Hyatt and the Ritz did put their hotels in, the golf courses were built and Casino Monte Lago was born. The wealthy, including singer Celine Dion, purchased multi-million dollar waterfront homes along the 320 acre man-made lake and the builders put in luxury houses and condos in the 3600 acre community.
The real estate frenzy came along at exactly the right time. The area boomed and the people came. They gambled in the casino and patronized the shops. There were art shows and wine walks and even lakeside concerts by entertainers such as Andrea Bocelli. Wealthy tourists paid hundreds of dollars to play a round of golf. It was an oasis in the desert. What could go wrong?
The Cracks Appear
The economy soured and, like many projects, this one was overleveraged. Lake Las Vegas filed for bankruptcy protection and the cracks appeared – literally. In 2008 cracks in a drainpipe beneath the man-made lake threatened to break and drain the water out. Empty Crater Las Vegas Resort doesn’t have the same ring. Had that been allowed to happen the area would have been absolutely devastated. Fortunately the bankruptcy judge allowed the expenditure of $3 million for repairs (article). But wait, there’s more!
The Hyatt had become Loews and was being foreclosed by Wells Fargo in June of 2009 (article). Loews is struggling to survive and fighting the foreclosure. At least there is still the AAA Five Diamond, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, right? Not exactly, the Ritz Carlton recently announced that they would be closing the hotel in May of this year (article). Well at least you could still gamble, couldn’t you? Not so fast, the Casino Monte Lago announced that they would be closing in March (article). A round of golf, then? Perhaps, but two of the three golf courses have closed. If you hurry you may be able to buy something at one of the few remaining shops before they go out of business.
Here’s An Idea
Tourists really love old ghost towns, right? Trust me on this one! We’ll take this area outside of Las Vegas. It’ll have a couple of abandoned hotels, lot’s of empty houses and vacant stores and even a defunct casino. The centerpiece will be this huge hole in the ground that used to be a lake (well, it used to be a hole in the ground, then a lake, and now a hole in the ground again). We’ll make a fortune here! Maybe we can even get Celine Dion to sing a few songs at her lakefront dirt-front home.
There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? – Robert F. Kennedy