A proposal by Max Baer Jr. to build Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino in the old Wal-Mart building at Carson City's Southgate Mall is getting mixed reviews from neighboring businesses.
J.C. Penney, the largest store at the mall since Wal-Mart moved to North Douglas County, has held numerous meetings with Baer concerning the project in recent months, but they haven't seen any detailed plans, said company spokeswoman Christi Smith.
"We're going into this with an open mind," Smith said. "But we're not expecting any definite plans for a couple of months and that affects our decision-making process."
Mike Childers, owner and manager of General Nutrition Centers a few doors south of the proposed complex, said he likes the idea.
"I'd rather have a business there than an empty building," he said. "It'll create more foot traffic."
Payless Shoe Source manager Autumn Smith said she was not speaking for her company when she gave her opinion.
"I think the casino is a bad idea," she said. "Casinos don't help retail areas and this town doesn't need another casino. We need a fun center or water park, somewhere to take the kids."
California developer John King purchased the building for $4.3 million in late July and Baer is proposing a 30,000-square-foot casino, 240 hotel rooms, a nine to 10-theater cinema complex, kids arcade and a 200-foot tall oil derrick at the site.
Wrapped around a Beverly Hillbillies theme, the project is expected to cost about $54 million. Baer wants to open the doors in June 2004. He calls it a theme destination similar to the Ponderosa Ranch near Incline Village, with attractions to draw both locals and tourists.
"Locals will provide the financial base," he said. "They will make us successful, but our real profit will come from the tourists."
Plans are being drawn for the layout of the casino, restaurants and movie theaters and should be out in a week or two, Baer said.
He called the new complex an attraction that will benefit other businesses. The traffic brought into the area by the casino will encourage other businesses to the area, much like Wal-Mart attracted businesses to North Douglas County.
"That's my goal," he said. "When you've got someone to take the first shot, the rest is easy."
Community Development Director Walt Sullivan said the property is zoned general commercial, the least restrictive commercial zoning district in Carson City. The designation allows unlimited gaming. Baer will have to acquire business and liquor licenses from the city in addition to a gaming license from the state.
"He might have to apply for a special-use permit for the oil derrick, depending on when he applies," Sullivan said.
The height of any Carson City structure is restricted to 45 feet, but that provision is being scrutinized by Carson City officials and could be amended to allow taller structures within the next few months, according to Sullivan.
One of the major obstacles to be overcome is a set of restrictions signed by J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart and complex manager Glenbrook Co.
The agreement prohibits the establishment of a theater, bowling alley, billiard parlor, night club or other place of recreation or amusement on the property. Despite Wal-Mart's move to Douglas County, the agreement stands, according to Shelley Aldean, president of Glenbrook.