Horizon to undergo multi-million dollar renovation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Horizon to undergo multi-million dollar renovation

Neva One LLC, owner of the Horizon Casino Resort at Stateline, has announced it will shutter the hotel on April 1 to begin a multi-million-dollar renovation. The Park family in October of 2013 announced a split with its Edgewood companies that ceded ownership of the Horizon and prime ranchland in the Carson Valley to part of the family, while Edgewood, owned by other family members, retained ownership of its namesake golf course and the land leases for Montbleu Resort and Harvey's Lake Tahoe parking garage. Jon Park of Neva One LLC said last October that once Neva One assumed ownership of the property the plan was to change the casino's operator and reinvest in the property to bring the 539-room hotel and casino, built in 1965, up to current standards. Columbia Sussex Corporation of Crestview Hills, Kent., formerly operated the casino. Neva One plans to retain Warner Gaming group to manage operations once the property reopens pending Warner's approval by Nevada casino regulators. Warner already is licensed at a Las Vegas resort. "Our family's plans for the Horizon are proceeding on schedule," Park said. Warner Gaming and its affiliated companies manage nine gaming and non-gaming properties throughout the United States, though the Horizon is the company's first foray into the northern Nevada market. "I could not be more excited to be joining forces with the Park family, and helping to usher in the next chapter of this property's history," says Bill Warner, president of Warner Gaming. Jon and brother David Park, managers of Neva One, say they will announce additional plans for the property and a timeline regarding its renovation in coming weeks. Employees at the property will be able to meet with Nevada JobConnect regarding other employment opportunities in the Lake Tahoe area, the Parks say.

Property battle on the Horizon: Casino, land owner swap lawsuits

Citing health and safety issues, the owner of land underneath the Horizon Casino Resort in Stateline filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday asking for an eviction. The suit was in response to a pre-emptive lawsuit filed earlier this month by Horizon owner Wimar Tahoe Corp. That challenge, filed Nov. 8, alleges the property owner, Park Cattle Co., harassed the casino owners by demanding unnecessary repairs relative to their shared lease. In papers filed Tuesday, Park countered with a legal challenge of its own, saying the casino owners breached their lease because of what it called faulty maintenance at the 539-room resort located next to Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. The latest cross complaint is 70 pages long, and details alleged deficiencies from water damage and mold growth to inadequate emergency lighting and a deteriorated roof. Using 26 claims of relief, Park Cattle Co. attorney Steve Meyer said the Stateline-based property holder seeks at least $20 million to repair the premises. Park, which homesteaded land in the Carson Valley in 1871, also holds leases with Harveys Resort Casino and Caesars Tahoe, which is owned by Columbia Sussex. Wimar Tahoe Corp. is an affiliate of Columbia Sussex. The Horizon-Park Cattle’s 90-year lease dates back to 1962, when Horizon operated as Sahara-Tahoe. Wimar’s lease began in 1990 with an agreement it would maintain the hotel. “We’re not saying the building is going down, but the problems (with the property) go to the bones of the building,” Meyer said, adding the Park company fears liability issues. The company conducted an inspection last March in which “severe cracks” were found in the structure, Meyer said. Joe Yung, a company executive and son of Columbia Sussex chairman William Yung, said the counter suit has “absolutely zero” basis of merit against his affiliate Wimar. But his company’s complaint was filed “to bring to a conclusion with Park Cattle Co. allegations that we’re not bringing the building up to standard.” Yung declined to comment further except to point to the Park family’s own turbulent relationship with its former president, Bruce Park. In his Oct. 5 complaint, Park claims he was wrongfully ousted and wants to place the company into receivership and liquidate its assets. The complaint filed by Wimar Nov. 8 seeks a restraining order to prevent Park from terminating a 1990 lease agreement. The Columbia Sussex company received a dozen letters between March and August claiming the physical condition of the building constituted default of the lease. One letter suggested that it would be better to demolish the casino and garage rather than allow them to continue. Tahoe Douglas Fire Marshall Rick Nicholson said he conducted his own inspection of the property in March and concluded he found “run-of-the-mill stuff – but nothing that would make the building unsafe.” Nicholson pointed to sloppy spray painting over sprinkler heads, outdated stove hoods in the kitchen and too much debris in storage areas. The Nevada Gaming Control Board performs inspections of casino surveillance systems but not structural evaluations. This challenge appears to not have any effect on the Columbia Sussex buyout of Caesars Tahoe in June, as regulatory agencies required Park Cattle Company’s approval before the transaction took place. – Record-Courier editor Kurt Hildebrand contributed to this report.

Battle over eviction of Horizon casino is back in district court

The Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition asking it to intervene in the battle between South Shore’s Horizon Casino Resort and its landlord, Park Cattle Co. The order says a writ of mandamus is only proper when a petitioner “has no plain, speedy and adequate legal remedy.” An appeal in district court, the order states, is an adequate legal remedy. Wimar Tahoe Corp., which owns the Horizon, wanted the Supreme Court to order District Judge Dave Gamble to interpret the lease in the case and dismiss claims its lawyers argue were filed after the statute of limitations expired. Park Cattle, which owns the physical property, is trying to evict the Horizon’s owners, claiming they are violating lease requirements that require maintenance of the hotel, furniture and equipment. Court documents claim there is extensive water damage to the ceilings and walls of most rooms, mold and other biological contamination, stagnant water in places beneath the showroom stage, and problems with the roofing and exteriors of the building. Park Cattle lawyer Steve Meyer told reporters when the company sued, it would cost at least $20 million to fix the problems. Wimar Tahoe countersued, claiming Park Cattle is trying to force them off the property and hinted that Park Cattle has an ulterior motive, but without stating what that motive is. The high court said Wimar hasn’t demonstrated its intervention is warranted. “As stated in the district court’s orders, there appear to remain disputed material factual issues in this case, and this court is not an appropriate forum in which to resolve them,” stated the order by justices Bill Maupin, Michael Cherry and Nancy Saitta. The court pointed out Wimar Tahoe has an adequate and speedy legal remedy available since the district court trial is scheduled to begin in the near future. If they lose there, the order states, Wimar could appeal that district court judgment. Finally, the order says granting the petition wouldn’t resolve the case anyway, since that would only eliminate five of the 18 issues in the case.

Tahoe Casino Dispute: Filing reveals details of Park-Horizon settlement

A $40 million wire transfer ended the battle between the owners of the Horizon Hotel and Casino at Lake Tahoe and Park Cattle Co., according to a federal filing that came to light today. In an April 8 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Tropicana Entertainment reported entering a stipulation to settle a civil lawsuit being adjudicated in Douglas County District Court on April 2. Park Cattle Co. owns the property occupied by the Horizon and the MontBleu. The agreement requires the owners of the Horizon and MontBleu to make cash payments totaling $165 million over the next three years. The first payment was made before the Minden jury was dismissed last week. Under the agreement, both sides agreed to dismiss their claims with the condition that the payments be made. In addition to the cash, Park Cattle receives certain protections in any future bankruptcy cases including any of the Horizon’s owners, quarterly and annual financial statements, and the maintenance of permits and licenses held by the Horizon and MontBleu. Should Tropicana fail to comply, Park Cattle has the right to seek a judgment of $290 million, which would be reduced by any payments already made. Under the settlement, the Horizon’s lease will end on March 31, 2011. If Tropicana can’t renew the lease by April 2, 2011, Park could terminate the lease and take over the Horizon and operate it using its equipment for two years. The MontBleu lease could be terminated Jan. 1, 2018, 10 years before its current lease, if Park paid Tahoe Horizon $15 million. If Tropicana can’t get consent of its lenders in the MontBleu Casino lease by Nov. 30, 2008, then Columbia Properties Tahoe has to pay Park $15 million. The deadline can be extended to May 31, 2009, by paying Park $1 million. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 8, 2005, by Wimar Tahoe in response to a series of letters threatening eviction from the Park property. Park expressed concerns about the upkeep of the property and Wimar sued to prevent any proceedings that would remove them. Park countersued Wimar.

Park, Horizon trial is under way

Attorneys were in the majority on both sides of the courtroom, and file boxes filled with legal records lined the walls as Wimar Tahoe Corp., owner of Horizon Casino Resort in South Lake Tahoe, faced Park Cattle Co. in Ninth District Court for the first time Wednesday. Park Cattle Co. is seeking to dissolve a lease with Horizon owner William Yung, charging he has put profits before a promise to Park Cattle to maintain a first-class and competitive casino. Yung heads Wimar Tahoe as well as its parent company, Columbia Sussex. Attorneys for Yung say the casino has fallen on hard times primarily because of the sagging gaming market, not managerial neglect. Park Cattle owns the land, and Yung owns the Horizon. The primary debate revolved around the contract Yung signed with Park Cattle in 1990 and the meaning of “first class” and “competitive,” terms used by Park Cattle in the lease with respect to the Horizon and how it was to be maintained. “Consider the leases only with respect to the meaning of those terms,” Judge David Gamble told jurors Wednesday. “Not the overall intention, nor extraneous promises.” The meaning of those words lack definition in the lease, according to attorney Kirk Lenhard of the Las Vegas firm Jones Vargas, which is representing Yung. The litigation is protracted, a string of charges and counter-charges. Lenhard called Wimar Tahoe the “nominal plaintiff” in this case. “Park Cattle says they’re unhappy with the condition of the casino, but the only communication between their board and my client was when they filed suit,” he said. The casino was at the top of its game in the 1960s and ’70s when it was owned by Del Webb, but construction of Harrah’s and Harveys brought more competition. Webb had some success when he rebranded the hotel to a country-western theme, calling it High Sierra, but eventually got out of the business and sold the property to Yung in 1990. “Park was dissatisfied with the change. They thought it was a step down, but it was a step for survival,” Lenhard said. Webb eventually got out of the business, selling the hotel to Yung in 1990, but his efforts to bring back the high-roller crowd lost with the theme change failed, Lenhard said. “In 1990, when Yung acquired the lease, the gaming market at Lake Tahoe started dropping and never recovered,” Lenhard said. “My client hit the crest at the wrong time.” Yung went to Park in an effort to renegotiate another lease and possibly put some money back into the property, but the money gained in that transaction had to be repaid to Park with interest, Lenhard said. “The property struggled, and Park will tell you, they aren’t satisfied with the condition of the property,” he said. Sacramento attorney William Warne, representing Park Cattle Co., said deficiencies at the Horizon were made clear by his clients in the summer of 2005, but Yung did nothing. This case isn’t just about something that went awry in South Lake Tahoe, but the byproduct of Yung’s business practices here and elsewhere. “We believe the losses we sustained and damages with respect to problems with the building were not accidental but intentional,” he said. “Yung chose profits over promises and people. The repairs will be expensive, and we’re asking for close to $300 million for maintenance, plus punitive damages.” Warne had numerous photos showing the hotel’s sagging infrastructure, showing everything from friable, asbestos-laden insulation that has fallen off to black mold, faulty electric outlets and leaking roofs fixed with a bucket. “We asked for more staff, but Columbia Sussex didn’t want that,” said Jeff Stockton, a maintenance employee from 1990 to 1997. “They just wanted people to unplug toilets and change light bulbs.” One-time casino operations manager Leonard Sniegowski said the organization was past trimming off the fat and had resorted to whacking at the bone. The casino is not performing. This quarter, the Horizon engaged 12 percent of the South Lake Tahoe casino employees but is paying just 9 percent of the wages and 5 percent of the benefits, Warne said. “They did not hire the best employees, and they cut staff. The casino’s position in the market is a consequence of the choices he (Yung) has made,” Warne said. The case is expected to take another six to eight weeks.

Sealed settlement ends trial between Tahoe’s Horizon owners, Park Cattle

An undisclosed settlement between Horizon owner Wimar Tahoe Corp. and Park Cattle Co. ended a eight-week civil trial today. The settlement between the owners of the land the Horizon occupies and the owners of the hotel casino was sealed by District Judge Dave Gamble. Gamble told attorneys the nine-week case was the longest he’d had in his 21 years on the bench and 31 years of legal practice. “This has been a long trial, but good one,” Gamble said. Gamble told the nine jurors that both parties in the lawsuit over upkeep of the Horizon and the lease agreement between the casino and Park Cattle Co. had tried to reach a conclusion before the trial. “If you had not been the way your are, if you had not been paying attention the way you did, this case would not be settled,” Gamble said. “I want to say how much I appreciate your service.” Both Park attorney William R. Warne and Wimar Tahoe attorney Kirk Lenhard thanked the jury and spoke to them after they were dismissed. “You all have been incredibly attentive,” Lenhard said. Park Cattle Chairman of the Board Craig F. Sullivan greeted jurors as they left the courtroom. He said the company is pleased with the outcome of the trial. “We are particularly pleased for the employees and guests of the Horizon and for the community of South Lake Tahoe,” he said. “Park Cattle will be taking a far more active role in the community. This is just the end of the beginning.” After the jury was dismissed, Lenhard of the Las Vegas law firm of Jones Vargas said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the outcome. Warne said he and Park Cattle appreciated the work of the jury, the court and its staff. “Park Cattle is pleased with the settlement,” he said. “We believe the trial ended on terms that were just and fair.” The jury was seated Feb. 11 and the trial was anticipated to last seven weeks. The defense was still presenting its case when a breakthrough resulted in a settlement on Tuesday night. Gamble determined that sealing the settlement would not adversely affect public safety. He ruled that the seal would protect the proprietary interests of the two parties. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 8, 2005, by Wimar Tahoe in response to a series of letters threatening eviction from the Park property. Park expressed concerns about the upkeep of the property and Wimar sued to prevent any proceedings that would remove them. Park countersued Wimar.

Official: Hotel proposal won’t cause early closure of Horizon

Although the Horizon Casino Resort might cease to exist after its lease expires in March 2011, a proposal for a hotel next door at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course won’t cause the Horizon’s doors to close before then, a casino official said Thursday. The proposed hotel would be on the golf course property, and doesn’t require the land that the Horizon sits on. But demolition of the Horizon has been proposed as a way to provide Tourist Accommodation Units for the Edgewood proposal. Tourist Accommodation Units, or TAUs, are the rights to build hotel rooms or other tourist accommodations under Tahoe Regional Planning Agency regulations. The proposed hotel is in the early stages of the TRPA approval process. The proposed construction schedule for the Edgewood hotel ensures operation of the Horizon Casino Resort until at least the date set in a civil suit settled this year, casino representatives said Thursday. “No one wants to see this place go away sooner than absolutely necessary,” said Horizon General Manager Steven Loyd. A timeline presented in a TRPA permit application indicated construction of the Edgewood project could begin as soon as spring 2010. The application also indicated that the owner of the land Horizon sits on – Park Cattle Company – may demolish the Horizon in order to obtain the TAUs needed for the hotel at Edgewood. The timeline caused alarm among some of approximately 450 employees at the resort because it appeared to signal an end to the Horizon sooner than spelled out in the settlement between Wimar Tahoe Corp. and Park Cattle Co. earlier this year, Loyd said. Wimar Tahoe Corp. owns the Horizon, and Park Cattle Co. owns the property occupied by the hotel casino. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 8, 2005, by Wimar Tahoe in response to a series of letters threatening eviction from the Park property. Park expressed concerns about the upkeep of the property and Wimar sued to prevent any proceedings that would remove them. Park countersued Wimar. Under a settlement reached in April, the Horizon’s lease will end on March 31, 2011. If Tropicana Entertainment, the parent company for Horizon and MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa, can’t renew the lease by April 2, 2011, Park could terminate the lease and take over the Horizon and operate it using its equipment for two years, according to the settlement. The construction, which could begin in Spring 2010, would only entail infrastructure improvements. TAUs from the Horizon would only need to be transferred during the final phase of construction, said Lew Feldman, an attorney for Park Cattle Company. The final phase would take place after March 2011, Feldman said. “When the project moves forward, it will have no impact on the Horizon,” Feldman said. And, while Feldman said he hopes for a speedy approval process, there is no guarantee the project will gain approval as submitted in the timeframe which is laid out in the application, Feldman said. “Right now we haven’t formulated any after-life plans for the Horizon,” Feldman said.

Official: Hotel proposal won’t cause early closure of Horizon

Although the Horizon Casino Resort might cease to exist after its lease expires in March 2011, a proposal for a hotel next door at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course won’t cause the Horizon’s doors to close before then, a casino official said Thursday. The proposed hotel would be on the golf course property, and doesn’t require the land that the Horizon sits on. But demolition of the Horizon has been proposed as a way to provide Tourist Accommodation Units for the Edgewood proposal. Tourist Accommodation Units, or TAUs, are the rights to build hotel rooms or other tourist accommodations under Tahoe Regional Planning Agency regulations. The proposed hotel is in the early stages of the TRPA approval process. The proposed construction schedule for the Edgewood hotel ensures operation of the Horizon Casino Resort until at least the date set in a civil suit settled this year, casino representatives said Thursday. “No one wants to see this place go away sooner than absolutely necessary,” said Horizon General Manager Steven Loyd. A timeline presented in a TRPA permit application indicated construction of the Edgewood project could begin as soon as spring 2010. The application also indicated that the owner of the land Horizon sits on – Park Cattle Company – may demolish the Horizon in order to obtain the TAUs needed for the hotel at Edgewood. The timeline caused alarm among some of approximately 450 employees at the resort because it appeared to signal an end to the Horizon sooner than spelled out in the settlement between Wimar Tahoe Corp. and Park Cattle Co. earlier this year, Loyd said. Wimar Tahoe Corp. owns the Horizon, and Park Cattle Co. owns the property occupied by the hotel casino. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 8, 2005, by Wimar Tahoe in response to a series of letters threatening eviction from the Park property. Park expressed concerns about the upkeep of the property and Wimar sued to prevent any proceedings that would remove them. Park countersued Wimar. Under a settlement reached in April, the Horizon’s lease will end on March 31, 2011. If Tropicana Entertainment, the parent company for Horizon and MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa, can’t renew the lease by April 2, 2011, Park could terminate the lease and take over the Horizon and operate it using its equipment for two years, according to the settlement. The construction, which could begin in Spring 2010, would only entail infrastructure improvements. TAUs from the Horizon would only need to be transferred during the final phase of construction, said Lew Feldman, an attorney for Park Cattle Company. The final phase would take place after March 2011, Feldman said. “When the project moves forward, it will have no impact on the Horizon,” Feldman said. And, while Feldman said he hopes for a speedy approval process, there is no guarantee the project will gain approval as submitted in the timeframe which is laid out in the application, Feldman said. “Right now we haven’t formulated any after-life plans for the Horizon,” Feldman said.

Details of settlement in Horizon lawsuit revealed

A $40 million payment on April 2 ended the battle between the owners of Horizon Casino Resort and Park Cattle Co., according to a federal filing that came to light Thursday. In an April 8 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tropicana Entertainment reported entering a stipulation to settle a civil lawsuit adjudicated April 2 in Douglas County District Court. Tropicana Casinos & Resorts owns Columbia Sussex Corporation, which owns and operates Horizon as well as MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa. Park Cattle Co. owns the land occupied by Horizon and MontBleu. The agreement requires the owners of the casinos to make cash payments totaling $165 million over the next three years. The first payment was made before the Minden jury was dismissed last week. Under the agreement, both sides agreed to dismiss their claims with the condition that the payments be made. In addition to the cash, Park Cattle receives certain protections in any future bankruptcy cases including any of Horizon’s owners, quarterly and annual financial statements, and maintenance of permits and licenses held by Horizon and MontBleu. Should Tropicana fail to comply, Park Cattle has the right to seek a judgment of $290 million, which would be reduced by any payments already made. Under the settlement, Horizon’s ground lease will end March 31, 2011. If Tropicana can’t renew the lease by April 2, 2011, Park Cattle could file lease-termination judgments with the Nevada state court that could terminate the Horizon lease. Park Cattle also could operate Horizon using the resort’s equipment for two years, beginning April 1, 2011. The MontBleu lease could be terminated Jan. 1, 2018, 10 years before termination of its current lease, if Park Cattle paid Horizon $15 million. If Tropicana can’t get consent of its lenders in the MontBleu lease by Nov. 30 of this year, Columbia Properties Tahoe must pay Park Cattle $15 million. The deadline can be extended to May 31, 2009, by paying Park Cattle $1 million. Park Cattle has the right of first refusal if MontBleu becomes available for sale and would receive a credit of $15 million against the purchase price. The lawsuit was filed Nov. 8, 2005, by Wimar Tahoe Corp., an affiliate of Columbia Sussex, in response to a series of letters threatening eviction from the Park Cattle property. Park Cattle expressed concerns about the upkeep of the property, and Wimar sued to prevent any proceedings that would remove them. Park Cattle countersued Wimar.

Parks terminate Hard Rock managers at Stateline casino

A hearing in a $9.6-million lawsuit seeking payment for the renovation of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Stateline is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26 in Minden, Nev. On Thursday, Oct. 15, defendants Jon and David Park sued the property management company in Washoe County, claiming they approved change orders that nearly doubled the cost of the casino's renovation and mismanaged the hotel once it was done. The Parks, managers of Neva One LLC, terminated their management agreement with W-G Stateline and Warner Hospitality of Las Vegas before filing the lawsuit in Washoe County District Court. "We are taking all actions that we consider appropriate to strengthen the property," David Park said. "We believe the changes at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe will help us be in a better position to resolve issues that came about during the renovation project." The relationship between the Parks and Warner Hospitalities' Bill Warner began before work started to convert the Horizon Hotel and Casino into the Hard Rock, according to latest court filing. Warner's companies agreed to do a market analysis, manage the renovation, conduct the opening and oversee training on the property once it opened. The Parks claim that any change orders of more than $10,000 or totaling more than $200,000 were supposed to be approved by them. Shortly before the casino closed in spring 2014, Warner Gaming presented a plan to brand the Horizon as the Hard Rock, saying it would be superior to the originally planned Park Tahoe brand. The Parks raised $60 million in financing to renovate the property, and after closing the hotel, entered an agreement with SMC Construction Co. to do the casino renovation for a maximum price of $9.6 million. They entered another contract for renovation of the towers. The casino opened in January 2015 to fanfair, but by May SMC had filed a lien seeking $18.9 million from the Parks for work they'd done. Floors of the hotel towers remained incomplete. "Warner has failed to manage the property properly, resulting in customer dissatisfaction, bad publicity, employee turnover and revenue well below Warner's projections," according to the Washoe County lawsuit. In a statement issued on Thursday, Oct. 15, the Parks said they will be more closely involved in the operations of the Hard Rock, emphasizing better training, support for employees, local control and decision making, and improved customer service. "Opening a property is a very labor intensive proposition and one which we couldn't have accomplished without the hard work and dedication of our valuable employees," said co-owner Jon Park. "We expect our customer service to be at the highest level. As such, we are committed to being personally involved in providing our employees with proper training and the support necessary to meet that expectation." Long-time Northern Nevada gaming consultants Rick Stevens and Jim Roets have taken over the property as interim management consultants. "We are fortunate to be working with two seasoned gaming experts in Jim Roets and Rick Stevens during this transition," said co-owner David Park. "Their extensive and successful backgrounds in on-property management and gaming operations will guide us as we look to the future of the property." Following a hearing in Douglas County District Court in June, the Parks and SMC agreed to the court's order that the parties work towards a mutual resolution of the case. Although a settlement has not been reached, a continued hearing is scheduled for Monday, and the parties are in communication. "We are eager to move forward in a positive direction for the property, our valuable employees and the community," said David Park.