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Investors suffer from in-Siena-ty
by Christine Whitmarsh
Nov 22, 2010 | 1298 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Woodrow
By Woodrow
Einstein’s well-known definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Earlier this year, the financially struggling Siena Hotel Spa Casino was put out of its misery after drawn out bankruptcy proceedings. Now, a group of investors, including a technology mogul who won a $158 million judgment against Microsoft, have put their names on the deed and announced their big plans for the rebirth of the Siena.

And the new big plans are … drum roll please … to do the exact same things that conceivably led to the “high end” resort’s demise in the first place! The reason? It’s the economy, stupid. That’s the major reason the Siena failed. Now the economy is awesome. So let’s do it again!

My first thought when I heard this was that a certain president’s failed grand plans for change have completely terrified the rest of the country into making ANY kind of change at all. Meet the news guys and their caviar dreams. The sales pitch then, and now, continues to be: Come to the Siena, a five-star, expensive, world class, high-end resort and spa that will undoubtedly attract the crème de la crème of hotel guest royalty from around the world. It also just happens to have some slot machines in the lobby for us lowly locals. When Reno is described this way by “outsiders” I often wonder if their multi-million dollar decisions are based on the brochure, or did they actually take the tour first?

Sure, the front of the Shangri La nestled on the banks of the scenic Truckee River makes for a pretty picture. I’m sure that images of golden rays of sunshine bouncing off the diamonds of all the five-star resort guests sipping their champagne on the terrace put dollar signs in the investors’ eyes.

But for those of us who live here, who didn’t get that brochure, the Truckee River has a slightly different reputation than “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” The Donner Party camped next to it at one point (at a higher elevation) and apparently we’ve been looking for the bodies ever since. Most news headlines I’ve seen about the Truckee River are related to something floating down it that automatically is presumed to be a dead body (as the diamond princess on the Siena terrace gasps in horror!). There was the recent sleeping bag, a mannequin at one point and I’m pretty sure at this point that no floating mass of leaves is above suspicion. Does Reno have that many dead bodies regularly parading down the river past the five-star Siena steakhouse that everything must be a dead body?

However, that’s only the front, brochure-worthy side of the resort. Don’t look out back through any of the state-of-the-art designer windows or you might catch a glimpse of the not-quite-five-star motel across the parking lot below.

And don’t hold your breath as you sit in the lounge sipping your fancy wine, waiting for the other Silicon Valley billionaires and Hollywood celebrities to join you (unless you prefer divas who charge by the hour). I don’t see a Trump hotel springing up in downtown Reno anytime soon.

Am I being too cynical about our fair city? Some of you will undoubtedly say that I am. It’s a lovely thought — making a black-and-white choice, early in life, between being a chronically cheery optimist or a grumpy grouch with nothing in between. I happen to live in the gray area: I love Disney World, but I’ve also spent many decades absolutely convinced that my beloved Red Sox would break my heart forever and hating them for it. As far as the big plans for the Siena that seem nearly identical to the old plans, I’m closer to the Red Sox end of the cynicism spectrum.

I was chatting with one of my neighbors about the “new” Siena and he said that if that’s how the new investors want to waste their money, it’s their problem. This is a gambling town after all. If the new geniuses didn’t pick up anything else from the brochure, at least they got that much. And who knows? With some delusional optimism, some talent and blind luck, the Red Sox broke their curse. Maybe Reno will eventually break its curse, too.

Christine Whitmarsh is the owner of local writing firm Christine, Ink. She can be reached at
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