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Aladdin to open at 10 a.m. today
David Strow and Lisa Snedeker
Friday, Aug. 18, 2000 | 10:37 a.m.
Aladdin officials scrambled to put the final touches on their $1.4 billion megaresort Thursday, but were unable to get county approval to open until Friday. The hotel announced it would open today at 10 a.m.
Fire inspectors were still running tests Thursday that hotel officials blamed for the delay in their scheduled opening of the hotel and casino. Desert Passage, a 130-store retail mall adjacent to the new Aladdin, opened on schedule at 7 p.m. Thursday
Hundreds of Aladdin guests were sent to neighboring Las Vegas Strip hotels Thursday night and the fireworks show that was scheduled to herald the opening at 10:30 p.m. was put on hold.
"It's utter pandemonium," said Paul Walton, an invited guest from San Diego. "They invited the public to come in too early."
But Michael Goebel of Seattle waited patiently in front of the new resort, confident the delay would be short.
"They'll make it happen. This is Las Vegas. They always do," he said.
Along with the delayed opening, more than 2,300 uninvited Culinary Union workers showed up to protest that the resort is a nonunion employer. Some shouted "Shame on you," during a parade of camels, belly dancers and street performers in front of the hotel and an appearance by actress Barbara Eden.
Eden, 1960s icon of "I Dream of Jeannie" fame, offered celebrants her famous blink to officially open the Aladdin - although it wasn't open yet.
Aladdin Gaming LLC officials had hoped all would go smoothly and union protests wouldn't spoil their opening.
"It's negative when people have to walk across picket lines," said Bill Thompson, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, professor and gambling expert. "It looks bad for the city because it's in a critical location."
Final tests of the Aladdin's fire and life safety systems were delayed Thursday morning at the property's request. Initially scheduled to begin at 5 a.m., the tests had been rescheduled twice. The Aladdin must pass these tests before it will be permitted to open to the public.
The testing didn't begin until 8 p.m., ultimately forcing officials to delay the opening.
"It's their schedule," said Ron Lynn, assistant director of the Clark County Building Department. "We're prepared to work through midnight."
Construction on the property was essentially complete Thursday. The two major jobs yet to be complete were construction on the high-end London Club at Aladdin gaming parlor and the Theater for Performing Arts. Holt said he expected the London Club to be ready by Thursday night, while the theater doesn't need to be complete until its first concert Saturday.
"The rest of the place is essentially ... cleaning up for the guests," Holt said.
While the Aladdin's opening was delayed, that is not the case for attached Desert Passage.
Desert Passage officials said Thursday they would open at 7 p.m., regardless of whether the Aladdin receives final approvals. Desert Passage did open its doors at 7 p.m. Visitors immediately began shopping in the more than 100 shops.
Opening night at Desert Passage featured a wide variety of entertainment in the mall,including performances by Moroccan acrobats and musicians, dancers from Morocco, Arabia and East India, yoga contortionists, costumed story tellers and 15-foot-high animal characters.
One of the mall's most unique features, a 155-foot freighter complete with fog machines, was christened at 8 p.m. Starting at 8 p.m. and throughout the night, artificial thunderstorms pealed every 20 minutes through Merchants Harbor, home of the freighter. The thunderstorms come complete with fog, thunder, artificial lightning, wind machines and rain spilling over the ship's bow into a wave-swept harbor.
"It is a phenomenal experience," said Paul Beirnes, director of marketing for Desert Passage.
About 100 stores and six restaurants were open Thursday. Ultimately, the mall will feature 130 stores and 14 restaurants.
The Aladdin is the final grand opening in a frenzied building blitz on the Strip that began with the October 1998 opening of the Bellagio. Since that opening, four additional hotels -- Mandalay Bay, the Venetian, Paris Las Vegas and the Aladdin -- opened their doors, adding more than 15,000 new hotel rooms to the Strip market.
Unlike the black-tie event that christened the original Aladdin in April 1966, there are no plans for a invitation-only pre-grand opening party. Instead, Aladdin officials hope to simply open their doors and let the public walk in.
"Those huge blow-outs are for a tiny number of people, and we wanted to gear this to our customers and fellow citizens who might want to come down and see the proceedings," Holt said.
The group of invited guests were to stay in 600 of the hotel's 2,567 rooms the first night. The remaining rooms are expected to be made available in phases during the next two weeks to allow hotel workers a chance to get acclimated.
Because construction was marked by overruns and infighting among Aladdin's owners - the Sommer Family Trust and high-end casino operator London Clubs International - questions surfaced whether the project had enough money and time to open on schedule.
Within the resort, PF Chang's China Bistro, a health spa and a 1,200-seat showroom are scheduled to open later this year.
The completely remodeled Center for the Performing Arts - the only portion of the original property that wasn't razed - will host Enrique Iglesias for its reopening Saturday.
Aladdin, like the Venetian, likely to overcome initial problems
Monday, Aug. 21, 2000 | 11:19 a.m.
It was a scene the Las Vegas Strip had seen just 15 months before -- the newest hotel-casino opening hours behind schedule as last-minute fire and safety tests held up its scheduled soft opening.
Though the Aladdin was far later in its opening than the Venetian -- 16 hours late, compared to the Venetian's three -- Aladdin officials and Wall Street observers expect the Aladdin to overcome its opening night stumble as the Venetian has done over the last 18 months.
"The Venetian proved to us that a difficult start out of the gate doesn't necessarily effect the long-term performance of a property," said Andrew Zarnett, gaming analyst with Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown. "These glitches can be overcome.
"The hurdle the Aladdin faces is not necessarily a fire-testing delay, but the ability to compete on the Strip against such heavyweights as MGM MIRAGE and Caesars Palace."
"Why would it have an impact?" said Eric Matejevich, who attended the Thursday night opening. "It was a few hours' delay. I certainly understand a few people would be upset, but ultimately, given new visitation to Las Vegas and the number of folks who don't go to openings ... ultimately the (Aladdin) will do great.
"Every property has some kinks in it when it first opens, and the Aladdin's no exception."
Though later in opening, the Aladdin is in some respects further ahead of the curve than the Venetian was in May 1999. When the Venetian opened, just 320 of its 3,000 rooms were available to the public. Construction and leasing of the Venetian's palatial Grand Canal Shoppes continued for months.
Despite that halting start -- and a subsequent torrent of bad press across the country as a result -- the Venetian regained its footing, recording its first profitable quarter this year, and posting Las Vegas records for average daily room rates.
In contrast to the Venetian's early days, Aladdin officials say they've received approvals for all but 27 suites on the top two floors of the new property. Demand was heavy for these rooms this weekend -- 1,600 of the resort's 2,567 rooms were booked on Friday night. By Saturday and Sunday, this rose to 2,200 booked rooms, 200 more than Aladdin officials initially planned for.
An estimated 30,000 people went through the casino on both Saturday and Sunday. And the Aladdin's 7,000-seat Center for the Performing Arts opened on schedule Saturday, hosting a sold-out concert by Enrique Iglesias.
"Few people realized we have effectively opened in the last 24 hours the equivalent of Caesars (Palace) and Forum (Shops) all at once," said Bill Timmins, the Aladdin's president and chief operating officer.
The 27 high-rollers' suites should come on-line by Labor Day. Restaurant P.F. Chang's is scheduled to open Oct. 16, while the hotel's 1,200-seat showroom should open by year's end. The final element of the Aladdin to open will be the spa, which is planned for completion in early 2001.
Though officials say they warned its opening night guests that some delays could be possible -- and had taken out reservations at nearby hotels, just in case -- they moved to do some damage control with guests. Some guests were able to get into their rooms after midnight Thursday, while the hotel-
casino sent out limousines Friday to pick up guests at other properties.
Timmins said the situation on Thursday night was worsened by the difficulty of communicating with the thousands of people that were waiting to get into the Aladdin.
"I think people will forgive us," Timmins said. "We've worked to make it a very safe building. We've tested each system three times over."
Timmins said the Aladdin will make a strong push for invited guests at an official grand opening weekend in mid-October.
Richard Goeglein, chief executive of the Aladdin, said employees were as eager to open as anyone.
"When we told them we would open at 10 a.m. (Friday), they cheered like kids at a football game," Goeglein said. "I've never seen a group of people any more (excited) about what we're doing."
One part of the Aladdin that stood to be hurt the most by angry high-rollers was the London Club, a high-end European gaming salon within the hotel-casino. Alan Goodenough, executive chairman of London Clubs International, said the company had "a number of our good players in town" for the opening -- but said most arrived on Friday, after the property opened.
"We have a long-standing, very personal relationship with these people," Goodenough said. "We've had to make sure our service skills have been brought to bear."
Though confident neither the London Club nor the Aladdin would be hurt by the late opening, Goodenough acknowledged there was some frustration among executives.
"In an ideal world, you want everything to run like clockwork, but life isn't like that, is it?" Goodenough said. "We'd tested these systems up and down ad nauseum ... and for this to happen and give us problems at the last minute was very frustrating and unexpected."
Ironically, that battery of testing continued to cause delays, even after its completion Friday morning. The rescheduled opening at 10 a.m. Friday was delayed yet another hour after an electrical box shorted after repeated testing, Chief Financial Tom Lettero said. This knocked out power to some parts of the casino, including surveillance coverage of part of the casino floor. Without this coverage, the property couldn't open.
Still, several opening day players got an early jump at the property, playing slots at the resort 45 minutes before the 11 a.m. opening. These players were waiting at the hotel lobby entrance to the casino, and had been accidentally let in at 10 a.m., spokesman Fred Lewis said.
Several players played slot machines for a few minutes before being asked to stop, but Lewis said surveillance cameras in the area they were playing were still working.
"Nobody wanted to throw them out, so we let them stay. We just asked them to stop playing," Lewis said.
Aladdin utility company files for Chap. 11
Monday, April 8, 2002 | 11:13 a.m.
The majority owner of a heating and cooling plant at the Aladdin resort on the Las Vegas Strip has filed for bankruptcy, a move it says is necessary to prevent possible foreclosure.
ETT Nevada Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, owns 75 percent of Northwind Aladdin LLC, which owns and operates an on-site plant that provides the Aladdin with hot and cold water, as well as backup electricity service. ETT Nevada is a subsidiary of Chicago-based energy giant Exelon Corp.; its partner is a subsidiary of Sierra Pacific Resources, the parent company of Nevada Power.
To build the $40 million plant, Northwind obtained $23 million in financing, and secured this investment with ETT's equity in Northwind. When the Aladdin declared bankruptcy last September, this financing went into default. Most of the financing was provided by affiliates of John Hancock Financial Services Inc. of Boston.
"This filing was necessary to protect ETT Nevada's $9.3 million equity investment in Northwind Aladdin from the risk of loss due to a possible lender foreclosure and to avoid disruption to Northwind Aladdin's business and operations," Exelon said in a Friday statement.
Northwind Aladdin will continue to provide water and energy services to the Aladdin, Exelon said, and an Aladdin official said the bankruptcy "will not affect us at all."
Northwind and the Aladdin are currently tangled in a dispute in bankruptcy court. In an early March filing, Northwind claimed the Aladdin had failed to make payments totaling $3.05 million since the bankruptcy filing. These payments included return on equity payments, payments to service Northwind's debt and operational charges, Northwind said. Northwind has demanded payment of these claims in a lawsuit filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Northwind's claim for damages came after the Aladdin asked for a ruling to determine how much it owes Northwind under a service agreement, and the priority of Northwind's claim relative to other creditors.
In a hearing last week, bankruptcy Judge Robert Jones ordered both sides to come to a settlement as quickly as possible. A source familiar with the case said both sides are now close to settlement.
Worker killed in Aladdin accident
Ed Koch and Jace Radke
Monday, April 12, 1999 | 11:12 a.m.
Stephen Abernethy grew up in a large family of union ironworkers and followed the family trade even though he also excelled at being a rodeo cowboy.
But none of the broncos he busted or bulls he rode in amateur and professional competitions in Utah could prepare the journeyman ironworker for the horrific ride he took Sunday, crashing through several upper stories at the Aladdin Hotel tower construction site to his death.
The Clark County Coroner's office said today that the man killed at the Aladdin construction site was Stephen Abernacke, 39.
Friends identified him as Steve Abernethy, and his brother as Dennis Abernethy, business manager of Ironworkers local 27 in Salt Lake City.
Dennis, along with Stephen's two young daughters were in Salt Lake City today making funeral arrangements at the McDougal Funeral Home, where services will be held.
Abernethy had come to Las Vegas with his fiancee to work on the Aladdin project and decided to relocate here permanently, friends said. He was in the process of changing his union membership to Ironworkers Local 433 in Las Vegas. The couple had planned to marry in about three weeks, friends said.
Co-workers in both Las Vegas and in Salt Lake City, where Abernethy worked for the past 15 years, remembered Abernethy as a competent worker.
"He was an excellent ironworker who was well liked, and I never heard him have a cross word for anybody," said Mike McDonald, president of Ironworkers Local 27 in Salt Lake City, for whom Abernethy worked as an apprentice.
McDonald said Abernethy was a true-life cowboy who took up the sport in high school in Murray and competed both in amateur and small pro events in Utah.
A co-worker on the job site, who asked that his name not be printed, called Abernethy "a good, safe worker."
"The crane didn't hit the building or drop a panel as they are saying on TV" in news reports, the co-worker said. "The floor collapsed under him."
The worker said he heard a "boom, boom, boom" and Abernethy, on the 23rd floor, fell with the rubble that eventually stopped at the 16th floor. Fire officials said Abernethy was on the 18th floor at the time of the accident.
"I know the crane didn't drop the plank, because it was still holding the panel when it was pulled back," the worker said
Abernethy was killed in the late-morning accident when five huge pieces of concrete flooring crashed through several stories of the south hotel tower.
Clark County Fire Department spokesman Steve La-Sky said that Abernethy went into cardiac arrest as a result of the massive trauma he suffered during the collapse of the structure and subsequent fall.
The 12-by-20 foot blocks of concrete flooring weighing 50,000 pounds were being set into position on the 23rd floor by a crane when something went wrong and they came crashing through the skeleton of the under-construction building, he said.
"They just came tumbling down and it created a pancake effect as the slabs smashed through each floor," La-Sky said.
The department's heavy rescue team responded to the site and pulled Abernethy from the debris on the 16th floor.
About 50 workers were at the site when the accident occurred. They were all sent home for the day after investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration closed the work site.
Jimmy Garrett, district supervisor of OSHA, said early today there are no preliminary findings to release and that the investigation is continuing. OSHA has six months to investigate such accidents.
Richard Goeglein, president of the Aladdin, offered his "deepest sympathy to the family," but said he had not received an assessment of the damage and could not comment on it.
Goeglein said, however, that he does not suspect that the damage caused to the structure will delay the opening of the rebuilt Strip resort scheduled for the second quarter of next year.
Fluor Corp., parent company of the project's general contractor, Fluor Daniel, said Abernethy was an employee of SMI Owen, a design/build subcontractor for the hotel tower.