08/30/2001 11:00PM

Wynn aims high with new resort

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The magic is returning to the Las Vegas Strip. The Magic Man, that is.

Steve Wynn unveiled plans for his newest project during an Aug. 23 Clark County Planning Commission hearing, and it had some Wall Street observers believing his new megaresort will kick off another Strip building boom.

Wynn has done it before - twice.

In 1989, the hotel mogul opened the Mirage when most in the industry thought that such an expensive, and expansive, project would drown in operational debt. It, of course, didn't, and instead triggered a wave of megaresorts.

In 1998, Wynn built the Bellagio, his masterpiece, when the economy suggested there would be substantial risk in undertaking a $1.6 billion project. Again, the Magic Man delivered a new standard of opulence to Las Vegas and raised the bar for resorts that followed.

Now, Wynn embarks on another magical mystery ride, but he has kept most of the details of his new megaresort secret. He didn't even appear at the commission hearing and has not talked to the press about his planned resort.

But some facts about Wynn's latest project were revealed at the commission meeting. The unnamed property will occupy the site where the Desert Inn has stood for 51 years. Wynn bought the Desert Inn for $270 million in June 2000, and the main tower is scheduled to be imploded in October.

The resort will be water-dominated: It will feature a four-acre lake that will be fronted by a 44-foot fountain at the corner of Sands Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. Plans call for several parks on the property, where customers can relax away from the gaming action.

The main hotel tower, which will overlook the lake, will be 45 stories high and have 2,455 suites. The resort will have a 120,000-square-foot casino, 130,000-square-foot convention center, and 1,366-space parking garage. A plaza area will feature 70,000-square-feet of retail shops and the complex will house two showrooms, one with seating for 2,000 and the other with room for 1,500. The resort also will have a three-acre swimming pool and spa, and 15 restaurants.

One of the concerns when Wynn purchased the Desert Inn was the fate of the resort's championship golf course. The last golf course left on the Strip, it initially was to be plowed under. But according to the plans turned into the commission, the golf course will remain as part of the new resort.

Villas will border the golf course and they will be linked to a private gaming salon.

Wynn is scheduled to speak at the World Gaming Congress and Expo on Oct. 19, but even then won't have much more to say about his latest project. "At this point he believes he's got some very unique concepts that he doesn't want to share with his competition," Wynn spokesman Billy Vassiliadis said.

In keeping with his past projects, Wynn is aiming high with this new resort. "This resort will redefine, once again, the luxurious megaresort of Las Vegas," wrote DeRuyter Butler of Butler Ashworth Architects in its presentation to the commission.

And, as in the past, Wynn is certain to deviate from his original plans and budget. In fact, Wynn's representatives didn't even reveal a timetable or price tag for the project at the commission hearing.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.