Winchester Club getting ready to fire up

Workers are racing to open the Winchester Club the first week in May. Situated in the southeast corner of the Ormsby House parking garage, the 5,000-square-foot gaming area is the first part of the Ormsby to reopen.

A large, U-shaped, cherrywood bar is on the east side of the room. The maple laminate floor is installed and the alabaster light fixtures hung, but tape marks the bays for slot machines and the carpet has yet to be laid.

"Eventually, we're going to have special cabinets to display our Winchester gun collection," said Larry Tiller, project general manager. "We want to get something open and get some business back into this community. I think this is something Carson City needs. The community is waiting to see a nice facility here."

The Ormsby House has been closed since October 2000 for renovation. Every square inch of the building has been affected, except the elaborate staircase in the center.

The Winchester Club, according to Tiller, is just the beginning.

"Our personal goal is completion of the whole project in about a year," he said.

The new Ormsby House will include a steakhouse, coffee shop, buffet and expanded facilities for banquets and conventions. A small bar resembling the Ormsby's Old Corner Bar will be relocated to the southeast corner of the building, and the hotel's 200 rooms will be transformed into 130 suites.

"There will be a huge lobby right here," Tiller said, indicating the south side of the first floor. "People won't have to wade through slot machines to get to the hotel desk."

A huge portecochere will stand over the main entrance on the south side, and escalators will extend from the second-floor garage walkway over Curry Street to the main floor.

Tiller said a user-friendly garage is critical to the success of the project. To that end, the six-story garage will be completely renovated.

Originally designed for 600 cars, that number will be pared to create wider parking spaces, Tiller said.

"The garage will be painted, lit, and fitted with surveillance cameras," he said. "We'll also have security patrols. There are many other aspects of a successful operation, but one of the major factors will be tying the garage into the whole operation."

A part of the casino industry since 1972, Tiller worked with Reno Mayor Bob Cashell at Boomtown for 25 years and on similar projects in Las Vegas and Laughlin.

Ormsby owners Al Fiegehen and Don Lehr expected to do the renovation without closing, but after knocking down walls, they found successive nightmares.

Fiegehen and Lehr estimate it will cost $10- to $13 million to convert the hotel into a five-star establishment.

Built in 1972 by the Laxalt family, the Ormsby House has had troubled times, except for the 10 years it was owned by Woody Loftin, who died in 1986.

Bankruptcy closed the hotel from January 1993 to February 1995, with a second bankruptcy in February 1997.

Fiegehen and Lehr, owners of the local Cubix Corp., bought the troubled property in September 1997.


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