Timing key element in Legends development

The Legends at Sparks Marina is the development that almost wasn't. Work on the $1.2 billion project started just before the housing bubble burst and the economy soured. Legends General Manager Dennis McGovern says if the project had been started just six months later, it might not ever have gotten out of the ground.

As an example of stalled plans, McGovern points to the area across Mount Rose Highway from Summit Sierra, where a casino and Bass Pro Shops had been planned but still are bare dirt.

"I don't see any of it," he says. "We are happening, and they are not, and I think that is an attribute of the commitment of RED Development and the council and mayor of the City of Sparks it certainly is not easy to vote for tax-incremental financing or STAR bonds. It takes a lot of courage todo so."

The first phase of the three-phase project celebrated its grand opening on June 18, while many other retailers are expected to open throughout the following six weeks. McGovern says without STAR bonds or tax-increment funding, the development wouldn't have been built. Public financing accounts for 18 percent of the billion-dollar price tag.

"That is the single-most misunderstood element of this project," he says. "It has created the most questions about is this the right thing to do. There is a certain percentage of the population that believes STAR bonds funded this project. We are spending dollars that wouldn't have happened without it."

The first phase includes 760,000 square feet of retail space with Scheels and the new Target and Best Buy stores. The second phase, another 200,000 square feet, includes a Dickinson movie theater with IMAX, as well as restaurants that line the marina, is expected to open in early summer of 2010. Funding for the movie theater will be a joint venture between RED Development and Dickinson Theaters of Overland Park, Kan.

Although construction contracts for Phase 2 have not been signed, McGovern expects RED Development will select many of the contractors that built the first phase and the neighboring big box stores. Q&D Construction of Sparks is the general contractor for the project.

"We are very happy with the general contractor we have," McGovern says. "We have worked very hard with Q&D to make this project pencil out in these economic times. We would like to do as much work with Q&D as we are able, but as of now we haven't picked the general for Phase 2."

The third phase will include any remaining pieces of the development, such as the hotel-casino venture planned by Olympia Gaming. In addition, RED Development plans to construct a 6,500-seat amphitheater, but it currently lacks funding for the project.

"We are certainly anxious for funding for an arena," McGovern says. "We believe an arena is a significantly important part of this project. "It could be the funding for an arena comes along, and we believe we are shovel ready for an arena," McGovern says. "If the financing comes it could be with Phase 2 in a very short order."

The timeline on the hotel-casino also depends on thawing in the commercialcredit markets, says Olympia Gaming Chief Marketing and Development Officer DCGraham. "The project is directly linked to the loosening of the credit markets," Graham says.

Olympia Gaming is the gaming development division of the

Olympia Group of Las Vegas. Itslatest project in northern Nevada is Casino Fandangoin Carson City.


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