Saturday, May 17, 2008 | 2 a.m.
For years Henderson officials had wondered how to get rid of vacant Alystra Casino, a shuttered eyesore that recently had been attractive only to the homeless.
They don’t have to wonder about that any longer.
The Victorian-looking building at Boulder Highway and Sunset Road burned to the ground Tuesday, leaving behind a legacy of abandonment and vandalism.
At one time the casino had what some locals recall as a decent buffet and a nice lounge band. But that was at least a decade ago.
Since then it has been closed to everyone except the homeless people who broke through the plywood covering the windows to use the old casino as a place to stay warm. Luckily, no one was inside when the building was destroyed.
The fire’s cause has not been determined.
Smooth Swing Inc., an Illinois-based business run by tennis great Jimmy Connors, has owned the building since 2000. It has been closed the entire time Connors has owned it.
Last year the Henderson City Council approved an ordinance requiring future gaming to be 5,000 feet from homes, schools and churches. That effectively killed a deal to sell the property to investors who had plans to open a casino at the site.
City leaders would like to see office buildings and retail developed on the property, the first major intersection in the city along Boulder Highway coming south from Las Vegas and part of a larger redevelopment plan.
Henderson, a city known for its miles of walking trials, will be getting more.
The city has gained $16 million in federal Bureau of Land Management funding to buy land along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to build a trail cutting through the city.
The trail is expected to run 11 miles from Interstate 215 to Pecos Road.
Some of the area is frequented by mountain bikers who have created a trail system running along the tracks and into the Las Vegas Wash.
The city Parks and Recreation Department plans to hold public meetings to get resident input on plans for the trail and small parks it will link. Because the railroad line is active, designing a barrier will be a major part of the planning process.
Prevention magazine last year named Henderson one of the best places to walk.
For the past five years one of the most controversial and oft-discussed issues in Boulder City has been the city-run Boulder Creek Golf Course.
But nobody showed up to talk about it at this week’s City Council meeting, at which the council voted to begin repaying the $8.7 million it borrowed from the utility fund to build the course in 2002. At the time the city shifted the money, no plan was in place for returning it to the utility fund.
Payments will be made twice a year until the full amount is repaid in 20 years. Council members Travis Chandler and Linda Strickland voted against the agreement, saying they wanted different terms.
To date this year, the course’s revenue has been $2.3 million, with expenses of $2.1 million. City officials hope the busy spring and summer season could help the course turn its first profit for the city.
But year to year the course’s greens always have been in the red, causing nonstop debate in the city. Hardly a day goes by without the merits of the course being discussed on message boards or in one of the local publications.