August 14, 2016
From the outside, the Ormsby House hotel doesn't look much different than it did a decade ago, prompting numerous locals to ask what if anything has been done to get the place back in business.
But looks can be deceiving. A lot of work has been done inside the building since the casino shut down in 2000.
Now, the owners are putting it up for sale.
"All the major work has been done," said Don Lehr, who owns the Ormsby House along with business partner Al Fiegehen. "We had to put in everything."
During a tour of the building Thursday, Lehr repeated his earlier comments knowing what he knows now, he would have razed the building and built a new one 16 years ago.
"I learned that if you start something like this before you have all the design complete you're a raving idiot," Lehr said. "You're looking at a raving idiot.
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"But that's all behind us."
Lehr said he hasn't added up how much they spent on the Ormsby House over the years.
"If you said $20 million, I'd say that's a safe number," he said. "Everything needed work."
Asked about reports he wants $8 million, Lehr said he hasn't really set an asking price.
Neither Lehr or his assistant Craig Furr believe the eventual buyer will be interested in reopening as a casino.
"They're more interested in the business side," said Furr.
So Lehr plans to shut down the Ormsby Club — the bar in the parking garage that has served to keep the hotel's grandfathered non-restricted gaming license alive. It will close at the end of the month, canceling the gaming license.
He said the potential buyers he's talking to "would not go into the casino business," so the license is no longer that important.
The work has taken years, according to Lehr, because "the building's made of concrete. It's not an easy thing to change."
The first thing they had to do after the hotel/casino closed was extensive demolition, literally gutting the building. When they started that work, they discovered the building wasn't even insulated. Spray foam has since been added to all exterior walls.
He said it took six months or more to fix all the cracks in the concrete floors of the building.
Workers have since converted the roughly 200 rooms in the original hotel into 104 suites — or one-bedroom apartments or even office space depending on what the eventual buyers want.
The suites in the hotel have been framed and sheetrock has been installed. The rest of the building has also been framed with stacks of sheetrock sitting nearby ready to install.
Lehr said he's looking at putting up the rest of the sheetrock in the ballroom and meeting areas to show potential buyers the building is closer to done than it might look.
Furr said the electrical system, all the plumbing, fire systems, VAC and air handlers have been replaced throughout along with all the duct work. Sprinklers have been added throughout along with cabling for TV and WiFi.
"The way things are now, you could use this building for just about anything," said Furr.
He said that includes senior housing or small apartments in the hotel aimed at younger tenants — Millennials.
"Go after young people," Lehr said adding those people aren't nearly as interested in casino gambling as their parents. "Carson City needs to rejuvenate the young crowd."
Below the hotel floors, there's the huge ballroom they said could accommodate up to 1,000 people — more than double the size of any other meeting hall in Carson City with space behind for its own kitchen and support facilities.
Furr said that would make a great convention center for the city, a home for trade shows and other meetings. Across the hall from the ballroom are four meeting rooms capable of handling upward of 50 attendees apiece, also awaiting sheetrock and finishing.
On what used to be the casino floor, Furr said there's ample room for retail stores, bars, restaurants and more meeting rooms to handle "just about anything this town has to offer."
"The potential is only limited by your imagination," said Fiegehen's daughter-in-law Kim.