Monday, May 3, 1999 | 11:22 a.m.
Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson vowed this morning that his $1.5 billion hotel-casino will open to the public sometime tonight as planned.
But it was unclear this morning how much of the hotel-casino would be ready by tonight. Construction crews continued work today on the property's casino and restaurant areas, while Clark County fire and building inspectors continued examinations needed before occupancy permits could be issued.
More than 500 journalists from around the world were on hand for a morning ceremony that featured Academy Award-winning actress Sophia Loren christening a gondola in the resort's St. Mark's square.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted with what I saw this morning," Loren said.
"I was really very moved because you took it very seriously," she told Adelson, referring to the attention to detail of the resort's Venice-themed architecture and construction.
"I think it's absolutely miraculous. I think it's going to be a great, great success," Loren said.
Some 300 of the journalists on hand had planned to spend Sunday night at the Venetian, but were moved to other hotels when the property did not receive its occupancy permits on time. Venetian officials hoped to house them tonight.
Workers, in the meantime, were applying finishing coats of paint on some of the resort's columns, laying carpet and dismantling scaffolding scattered around the exterior and interior.
And as of late this morning, Clark County fire and building inspectors were working with the Venetian's construction manager to test life and fire safety computer systems.
A spokesman for the manager, Lehrer McGovern Bovis Inc., said, "We hope to have things resolved by tonight."
Clark County building inspector Ron Lynn said that as of late this morning, his division had not issued the paperwork that would allow the casino, the hotel tower or most of the shops to open.
The computer system that controls the smoke management system failed in a test, he said. The system is designed to activate during fires, triggering fans that suck smoke from the casino and into a designated area. Lynn said the fans were blowing smoke into the casino.
The same computer glitch was holding up permits for the hotel tower. Lynn said there are no problems with the rooms and the computer system was scheduled to be re-tested early this afternoon.
Lynn said many resorts announce their grand opening and then have trouble obtaining all their permits.
"The county ignores the day of opening to maintain our integrity," he said. "We want everything working. They can book all they want to, but we won't release anything until it's ready to be released."
Lynn said five inspectors from the Clark County Fire Department and eight members of the building staff were looking over the megaresort all weekend. As of this morning, his department has issued permits for one deli, one restaurant, one shop and a fitness center.
Also this morning, Adelson introduced his executive team including President William Weidner, whom he called "second to none worldwide in the hotel-casino industry."
Adelson declined extensive comment on his dispute with the Culinary Union, with which he has declined to sign a labor contract. Adelson is insisting workers vote in a secret ballot on whether they want the union.
"We just want to respect the rights of our workers," he said.
Separately, a memo with the Las Vegas police officer's union logo is being distributed to travel agents nationwide warning them of possible trouble stemming from union activity at the Venetian.
A spokesman for the Las Vegas Police Protective Association Metro Inc. declined comment on the flier.
Metro Police spokesman Lt. Rick Alba said Sheriff Jerry Keller was not happy with the memo.
"It was not well received," Alba said. "The police department, of course, remains neutral."
Sun reportersAdrienne Packer, Art Nadler and Jerry Fink contributed to this story.