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Old Posted Dec 8, 2006, 3:42 PM
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The site of the defunct Wet 'n Wild water theme park on the Las Vegas Strip could soon become home of a $4 billion casino resort. Las Vegas-based Archon Corp., which has held control of the site for several years, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week that it had agreed to sell the property for $450 million.

The buyer-LVTI-is a limited liability company based in Delaware. Chris Milam, an Austin, Texas-based developer who owns LVTI, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the company would use private equity investors to fund the resort. While details of the resort are not finalized, it would include 4,500 suites, a sizeable casino and a retail component.

Construction wouldn't begin for 15 to 16 months, taking about three and a half years to complete, Milam said. One advantage is that the site is already vacant.

"The Wet 'n Wild site was like a gift," Milam said. "There's nothing on it that needs to be torn down, and you get frontage on Las Vegas Boulevard and Paradise Road. Five years ago the north Strip was the lonely child, but now it's where everything is happening."

Milam said LVTI would operate the resort for two years, and then sell it to an established gaming operator. Milam said the company has not been involved in any previous gaming projects. Milam, however, has been tied to a condominium project at the Hard Rock Las Vegas that never came to fruition before the property's recent sale to Morgans Hotel Group.

Milam is president of Austin-based IDM Properties, which Hard Rock owner Peter Morton had tapped in October to build the $1.25 billion condominium project adjacent to the resort.

LVTI has provided Archon with a $5 million refundable deposit. Should the deal clear a due diligence period ending July 24, a second deposit of $40 million will be due. Thirteen months after that deposit, LVTI would have to begin making payments of over $2.19 million per month.

Archon, through its Sahara Las Vegas Corp. subsidiary, has controlled the Wet 'n Wild site since 1995. In 2004 the water park's operators-Palace Entertainment-were asked to vacate the site. Archon had planned to build a 3,250-room megaresort of its own on the site, but development never got off the ground.

-Andy Holtmann