Old Wal-Mart still a site of contention

Despite an offer from Wal-Mart to re-purchase its old South Carson City location to develop a Sam's Club, Max Baer said Tuesday the building isn't for sale and the only thing he'll build there is a casino/hotel.

Rules for the Southgate Shopping Center, where the property is located, prohibit development of a recreational business, such as Baer's proposed Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino.

"There is a sign on the front of the store that says this store is owned by Max Baer Productions, and it's not for sale or lease," said Baer, who played Jethro Bodine in the popular 1960s sitcom, "The Beverly Hillbillies."

"My concept of putting a hotel/casino and movie theater there has not varied one iota. That's that. I intend to do it, or it's going to stay as is," he said.

And as it is, the old Wal-Mart at Southgate Shopping Center is an empty store front with no traffic, no tax revenue and about six surrounding vacancies.

A site consultant for Wal-Mart said Tuesday that the company offered to buy the property for "substantially in excess of what he (Baer) paid for it."

"Wal-Mart tendered an offer to the owner of their former store and the offer was respectfully rejected without a counter proposal," said consultant Doug Baker. "This was Wal-Mart's first attempt at re-acquiring the real estate for use as a Sam's Club location."

Wal-Mart vacated the South Carson City location in August 2002 and moved its supercenter to Douglas County. It has a Sam's Club bulk retailer in Reno.

Baer said he is not looking to sell for any price, and he's even honored that Wal-Mart inquired about the property, because, he said, that shows that he made a good investment.

"I have more money than I do time," the 67-year-old developer said. "It's more important for me to keep what I have and attempt to develop than it would be for me to sell it and move it someplace else."

Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira said he prefers to have a Sam's Club in that spot because of its benefits to the community, but he doesn't want to undermine Baer's right to develop his casino.

"If in fact he cannot build there, for him to sit there and do nothing is a penalty to this community," Teixeira said. "We have a Sam's Club that wants to locate in Carson City. These windows of opportunity don't come up often."

Baer said the only way this could be resolved is if J.C. Penney and the Glenbrook Co., which manages the shopping center, enter back into good-faith negotiations and amend the shopping center rules. But so far, neither company has relented. The shopping center's restrictive covenants were adopted in December 1992 and it would take an agreement between Baer, J.C. Penney and Glenbrook to amend it.

Mike Wiley, J.C. Penney store manager, said his corporation's attorneys have won in court against Baer concerning the covenants and they will not change them.

"J.C. Penney would be in favor of anything that's retail, and Sam's Club would be a nice fit for this mall and for the community," Wiley said.

Baer said it isn't good for the community that the building stays vacant, and it isn't good for business, but if J.C. Penney and Glenbrook cannot negotiate on the rules, then that's how it's going to stay.

"My attitude is this is the United States of America, and I get to do with my property what I want to do with it," he said. "It isn't up to someone who doesn't own the property as to what I do with it."

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

Casino history

Baer purchased the property for $4.3 million in August 2003 from King Ventures, which purchased it from Wal-Mart. His plans include a 200-foot flaming oil derrick, 30,000-square-foot casino with 800 slot machines and 16 gaming tables, a 14-screen theater, a 240-room hotel and restaurants with a "Beverly Hillbillies" theme.


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