12/07/2001 1:00AM

New Stations sports book has race-fan comfort in mind


On the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 18, the next evolution of the locals casino will open in Las Vegas. Actually, it opens in Henderson, Nev., a sprawling suburb adjacent to Las Vegas.

Executives of the Green Valley Ranch Station believe they have raised the bar on locals casino properties with the newest addition to the Las Vegas-area casino market. They ought to know. Stations Casinos, Inc., which owns the resort in a joint venture with GCR Gaming, is the major area casino company in Las Vegas. Stations owns, operates or holds interests in 11 casinos in Nevada. Its Stations brand is carried by the Palace, Boulder, Texas, Sunset and Sante Fe properties, in addition to the Fiesta, Wild Wild West, and The Reserve locales. The company also holds a minority interest in the recently opened Palms hotel-casino.

The Green Valley project is the second Stations venture with partner GCR Gaming. The two first went into partnership with Stations in the Barley's Brew Pub Casino in Green Valley. That popular casino and watering hole was the warm-up act for their newest project. The Green Valley Ranch Station sits on a sprawling 40-acre knoll that overlooks the Las Vegas valley with a panoramic view of the Las Vegas Strip. Situated just seven miles from the airport, in the second largest city in Nevada, the resort features a blend of the Mediterranean and the California architecture found in Santa Barbara, laced by a three-acre vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

The $300 million resort is lined with restaurants, featuring the Italian Ill Fornaio, Gustav Mauler's Bullshrimp seafood and oyster bar, the Boarder Grill for Southwestern cuisine, and Trophy's.

The Whiskey Sky Bar, an offshoot of a popular Boston nightclub, is framed by a wide view of the city lights. Also on the property is a 10-screen movie theater.

Of course, there will be gaming. The 80,000-square-foot casino will feature a well-appointed race and sports book. Kelly Downey, who has worked at Bally's, Fiesta, and the Imperial Palace, is the race and sports book manager for the newest horse place in town.

The 170-seat race and sports book has convenient parking just outside the entrance. It features 19 big-screen televisions along the room's walls, as well as giant projector screens in three corners.

Although Downey knows that sports dominate the weekends at this time of year, the race book will be the primary focus of the Green Valley Ranch Station outlet. And the seating ratio bears out this philosophy. At least 100 of the seats will service the race book, with a special VIP section that sits between the backside bar and the main seating area.

Located right next to the book is Trophy's restaurant, The California-based drinking and dining establishment is lined with trophies from a wide variety of sports and sports personalities. Among the extensive display of hardware are many awards from horse racing. Sitting in the glassed-enclosed case near the reservation desk is the 1986 Eclipse Award for outstanding owner presented to Eugene V. Klein the year his Lady's Secret won Horse of the Year.

The starting gate springs open at the knoll on Dec. 19.