Carson getting first escalator, sky bridge

Carson City is well is on its way to getting its first escalator and its first sky bridge, but nearby residents had to put up with a little loud banging as the work was done.

A 13,000-pound piston on a 100-foot crane sunk the last of the piles for the pedestrian bridge across Curry Street from the Ormsby House Casino to its parking structure, where the new Winchester Club is being built.

The sky bridge will cross Curry from the Winchester Club, then turn north and head toward the main Ormsby Casino building. From there, gamblers may visit retail shops on the second floor or take an escalator down to the gaming and dining areas.

"We've been very lucky this week," said Ormsby House co-owner Don Lehr as the pile driver pounded away Thursday. "The weather has been great."

The remodeling of the Ormsby House, which has been closed since October 2000, has faced several delays, but Lehr maintains a positive attitude.

"You always wish it would be faster," he said with a laugh.

He said remodeling is always slower and more complicated than expected and that starting from scratch would have been easier. "If we blew it down it would be quicker," he said.

Construction crews and owners see the schedule a bit differently, according to construction superintendent Wayne "Duke" Fennell with Metcalf Builders Inc., the contractors handling the project.

"We would hope to be out of here by the middle of the year. It's gonna take every bit of that," said Fennell. "The owners would like to see us out of here earlier than that, obviously."

He said the city has been cooperative in issuing permits for the project to expedite it. "Especially when it comes to working on the Ormsby House," he said. "Everybody wants to see this thing get finished."

Meanwhile, the driving of the 12-inch steel, point-bearing piles is an important part of the project. Buildings like the Ormsby House have hundreds of piles holding them up, according to Russ Fiddyment, Metcalf senior project manager.

"If you could look underneath there, all you'd see was a bunch of sticks," he said. Twelve more piles will be driven in the lot on the south end of the building to support the rest of the pedestrian walkway. That lot and the stretch of Seventh Street between Carson and Curry streets, which was bought by the Ormsby House, will become a valet parking area.

Along with the removal of the original portecochere from the east side of the Ormsby House building in late November, the progress on the sky bridge has excited contractors. But concerns such as avoiding damage to utility lines under Curry Street keep them focused. An old, 12-inch water line is just feet way from the piles driven on the west side of Curry Street.

"Our concern was that the vibration of the pile driver would crack the old pipe," Fiddyment said. "But we know where the valves are in case we have to shut them down."

After the penultimate 45-foot-long pile was driven safely into the ground, Fennell was glad.

"I don't see any water coming out of that hole," he said.

"Don't say that yet, Duke," said Lehr with a laugh.

The Winchester Club will be a 5,000-square-foot area on the south side of the parking garage with a bar and space for 125 slot machines. It is scheduled to open by Feb. 14. A collection of Winchester rifles will be displayed throughout the lounge, with plaques containing historical information.

The Ormsby House Hotel Casino was built in 1972 by former governor and U.S. senator Paul Laxalt. The facility has had a number of owners during the past 20 years including Woody Loftin, then his son, Truett, after Loftin died; and Barry Silverton, a Las Vegas developer.


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