Staying Afloat

Lake Las Vegas attempts to overcome financial setbacks

Strolling through The Village Lake Las Vegas on a breezy May evening, it didn’t seem as if any of the wine-walk attendees sampling libations or the jazz fans sprawled on the grass by the lake were contemplating the master-planned community’s bankruptcy.

But it’s been a trying time for the 3,592-acre Henderson resort area recently, first with the February announcement that the Ritz-Carlton was closing its doors in May, followed by Casino MonteLago saying it was shutting down in March.

Those were just the latest setbacks in what has been a long, unsettled existence for Lake Las Vegas, which has roots dating to 1967, when actor J. Carlton Adair obtained the land and water rights for the proposed Lake Adair. Adair filed for bankruptcy in 1972, and Transcontinental Properties eventually acquired the land in 1990.

Located 17 miles from the Strip, Lake Las Vegas developed into a secluded luxury community nestled around a 320-acre, man-made lake. When the housing market crashed, Lake Las Vegas was hit with a wave of foreclosures and a decline in home prices. Owner Lake at Las Vegas Joint Venture filed for bankruptcy two years ago.

Marianne Freeman, owner of Tesoro Lake Las Vegas, which sells home accessories and furnishings imported from Mexico, says news reports of the community’s bankruptcy and subsequent closures of some of its largest attractions have led outsiders to believe Lake Las Vegas is a ghost town. Nothing, she says, could be further from the truth.

“The perception locally is that Lake Las Vegas is just nonexistent, that it’s dead,” Freeman says. “I ran across a lady the other day, and she said to me, ‘I used to come out for the music, but I don’t come out anymore because the whole thing has just lost its luster.’ And it’s because of what she’s read; she hasn’t been out. Nothing has really changed. The events are still the same, and of course it’s beautiful—that hasn’t changed. But people think there’s nothing happening anymore, and so they don’t come.”

But even though those associated with Lake Las Vegas say it’s business as usual at the resort, the dormant Casino MonteLago sitting adjacent to the Village is a grim reminder of the financial problems associated with the area.

The community is striving to counter its bad press with a slate of summer events and specials to draw locals and tourists, as well as a radio advertising campaign to spread awareness of the community’s existing amenities, which include the Loews Lake Las Vegas hotel and the MonteLago Village Resort. The MonteLago was purchased in April by Roseville, Calif.-based Pacific Capital, which brought in Aston Hotel & Resorts to operate the property.

The Village, which acts as the community’s marketplace, hosts a family movie night on the lawn every Thursday from June through August, as well as the Friday Night Live concert series, Jazz on the Lake each Saturday, and monthly wine walks. The renamed Aston MonteLago Village Resort is currently offering summer getaway packages for nights at its two hotel-condominium venues, Viera and Luna di Lusso, to attract business.

Lake Las Vegas was forced to rethink its marketing strategies after the Ritz-Carlton’s closure last month. Residents and business owners relied on the hotel to attract tourists with discretionary dollars to spend.

“The Ritz is the entity that brought high-end tourists, tourists who had disposable income, and they brought them directly here,” Freeman says. “They were dependent upon the Village. That has affected us more than anything.”

Maurice Talley, commercial manager of the Village, says despite the community’s bankruptcy, the recession and the closures, only three of the Village’s 33 storefronts and restaurants are unoccupied. The Village’s tenants report their revenues to Talley, who says that earnings have declined in recent years, but remain steady overall.

Lake Las Vegas has submitted a reorganization plan and is expected to emerge from bankruptcy this year. Homeowners and business owners are optimistic that the community will be buoyed by the company’s recovery.

“The announcement of their bankruptcy helped slow things, so I actually believe the announcement that they are out of bankruptcy will help things to ramp up again,” Talley says. “I really do.”