Olympia Gaming acquired its initial SPU in 2007 which then expired in 2009. In 2010 the company was granted its current SPU for the construction of the hotel and casino and the newly amended permit allows changes to the area's access roads and its connection to a new roundabout that will be constructed as part of Olympia’s project, according to city officials.
City of Sparks Senior Planner Tim Thompson said Tuesday, following a study session between the Sparks Planning Commission and Olympia Gaming, the amendment will ultimately allow for the developer to extend the life of the SPU before applying for financial assistance.
“The second (SPU) is still active right now because they have an active building permit so they are demonstrating that they are diligently pursuing the use,” Thompson said. “In order to get financing for projects the lending institutions would want to know that it is entitled.”
Thompson said Olympia Gaming’s next step would be to “submit a building permit and build.” Though the company had an expiration of an SPU, Thompson said the state of the local economy likely hindered getting the project going. He said confidence levels, to his knowledge, have returned.
“Based on what I know, I think the confidence level is a little higher in this case,” Thompson said. “We don’t get into that aspect all that much in planning. That is not what we do, but based on what I know and what I have heard, they have a hotel operator identified and that is a big deal.
“You don’t have to look much past the Casino Fandango in Carson City, which is their project. Basically what they have there is similar to what they want to do here. They have a hotel that is independent and operated by the hotel operator, but they still own the land and run the casino.”
Thompson added that the original plans for the resort hotel/casino have changed from tourism-centric mindset to a more local-friendly view of what the property has to offer.
“Basically what’s happened is the nature of the project has changed,” he said. “Though it will draw some tourists in, it will largely draw in local. I think that whether we like it or not this is probably not a bad move on their part. Hopefully, as the project gets going with the theaters, that synergy will really take off and we will get more retailers and it could potentially make a true casino as we think of it like those we have downtown. That is still possible here.”
City documents cite Olympia Gaming’s responsibility, under the amended SPU, to construct a permanent road that will connect to a roundabout at the intersection of Legends Bay and George Farris drives. The project, including the construction of two hotel buildings, a casino and the traffic updates, will also bring improvements to the Sparks Marina Park, bringing a boost to the area’s overall quality.
“One of the requirements is that we get some boardwalk improvements,” Thompson said. “People want the marina path back and so with this project we have required that those permanent boardwalk improvements be substantially complete, prior to us allowing them to open their business.
“We also required that southern hotel to be pushed up to the marina so there wasn’t any parking between the building and the marina to take advantage of that marina frontage. I believe their intent is the same, to do an amphitheater out at the marina down the road.”
Following the Sparks Planning Commission decision, Olympia Gaming has an appeal period of 11 days before the item can be brought before the Sparks City Council, provided that the City Council would like to hear the item. Thompson said after an April 8 council meeting, Olympia Gaming will be able to begin acquiring its building permits, but he added that these things “don’t happen overnight.”
“I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't happen this year,” he said. “I would suspect they're not really close. I would suspect that once they have their entitlement in hand they will have something to show the bank and they will be able to work with their hotel operator and get the financing ball rolling.”