The Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino, a $54 million casino complex, would replace the vacant Wal-Mart building on the south end of Carson City if Max Baer Jr. has his way.
Baer, who played the doltish Jethro in the popular 1960s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," expects to have the project up and running by June 2004.
He's partnering with California developer John King of King Ventures in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
"It's always been my intent to develop the Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino," he said. "First, I wanted to do it at Park Lane Mall (in Reno), but they said I couldn't raise the money. They had big plans. Well, we can see how that turned out.
"I'm real stubborn. I don't give up easily and I don't like to lose," he said.
Plans for the complex, still on the drawing board, include a 200-foot oil derrick, 30,000-square-foot casino with 800 slot machines and 16 game tables, a 240-room hotel and restaurants, all wrapped around a "Beverly Hillbillies" theme.
At Granny's Shot Gun Wedding Chapel, the groom would be hauled in wearing a ball and chains, while the pregnant bride waits at the altar. Whether renewing vows or gettin' hitched for the first time, the whole ceremony would be taped, edited and scored.
Plans include an arcade for kids and a nine- or 10-theater movie complex. For those who want an upscale eating experience, Drysdale's Fancy Eatins would be available. Baer said he'll be tending bar, waiting tables and driving the limo to the airport, hillbilly-style.
"Just because I'm driving the limo doesn't mean you don't have to tip," Baer joked. "I don't work for free."
The project is to be built in phases and, once completed, would employ between 500 and 600 people.
Plans include convention and meeting spaces.
Joe McCarthy, Carson City's economic development/redevelopment manager, called the project a nice mix that could be a benefit to the community.
But public response to a project of this scope will be important, he noted. The 200-foot oil derrick, for example, would have to be approved by the city's planning commission.
"He will have the opportunity to convince members of community, the planning commission and the Board of Supervisors on the merits of the structure. This is all new to us as far as the size is concerned," McCarthy said.
Shelley Aldean, a city supervisor and agent for Glenbrook Corp., the company which manages the Southgate shopping center, said building restrictions signed by Wal-Mart, JC Penney Co. and Glenbrook prohibit a theater, bowling alley, billiard parlor, night club or other place of recreation or amusement on the property.
"I think there are some concerns about introducing a highly thematic casino into a traditional shopping center," she said. "We were hoping for a more traditional use. It's a prime piece of commercial real estate, and it's my concern that we could lose JC Penney's."
A friend of Baer's for 40 years, King purchased the property last month for $4.3 million. His company has built time-share condominiums on Kingsbury Grade, in addition to numerous enterprises scattered throughout Central California.
"Max likes to keep close friends near and he's gathered a team of development specialists," he said. "I think this is going to be a very interesting project."
Carson City resident Fran Arbogast said she's all for a new casino, but she thinks the theme may be a little flamboyant.
"I was hoping for a new Carson City casino. We have a new casino (Casino Fandango) right across the street," she said. "The Ormsby House will be beautiful when it's finished, but it's taking forever."
"I said months ago, this is the perfect location for a new casino," said Sue Hall of Johnson Lane. "Enough people are going to Douglas County to spend their money. It's time for a little turnaround."
Baer said the feasibility study shows that gaming growth has been steady at 4.5 percent in the Carson City area, as opposed to bigger-name locations, such as Reno and Las Vegas. There's no interference with Indian gaming here and the company will be marketing to locals with good food and movie theaters.
"We believe we can dominate the market," he said.
The management team proposed by Baer and subject to approval by state casino regulators includes Angel Naves as general manager and Bill Fletcher as casino manager. Both have long histories as hotel-casino executives in the state. Joe Bienz, another longtime industry veteran, will be food, beverage and hotel manager.
Robert S. Miller, CEO of Beverly Hillbillies Brands, has the job of financing the project. Miller said he has been involved in numerous gambling ventures in several states.
ON THE NET
Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino:
Max Baer Jr.
Maximilian Adelbert Baer Jr. was born Dec. 4, 1937, in Oakland, Calif., to Mary Ellen and Max Baer, a boxer.
Education: Baer received his bachelor's degree from the University of Santa Clara in business administration with a minor in philosophy.
Family: In 1970 he married Joanna Hill; they divorced.
Home: Baer retired to his home above Marla Bay at Lake Tahoe in 1980.
Career: Baer drove a friend to Warner Brothers Studios for an audition and ended up auditioning himself. He was signed for a role in the TV series "The Beverly Hillbillies," playing the dim-witted Jethro Bodine from 1962 until 1971.
After the show ended, Baer made a fortune writing and producing low-budget films such as "Macon County Line" and "Ode to Billy Joe," which both grossed more than $25 million.
Since about 1985 he has worked on his dream of creating a Beverly Hillbillies-theme casino -- buying a license to use the name from CBS.
He was approved for a $175 million, 60,000-square-foot casino near Park Lane Mall by the Reno City council in 1999, but talks with the mall's owner, Macerich Co. of Santa Monica, Calif., broke down in 2000.
John King was born in March 1941 to Alberta and Gilbert King, a builder.
Education: King received a degree in mechanical engineering from the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
Family: King has a wife of 42 years and a grown son.
Home: San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Career: King is president and CEO of King Ventures, a San Luis Obispo-based developer. King owns several upscale resorts on California's Central Coast, including The Cliffs in Shell Beach, SeaVenture in Pismo Beach and Sycamore Hot Springs and Spa in Avila. He also develops commercial and residential projects.
Wal-Mart history at a glance
January 1986 - Raley's negotiates deal with property owner to prohibit grocery sales by others on all property between Carson Street and Silver Sage Drive, from Koontz Lane on the north to Clearview Drive on the south.
July 2, 1991 - Wal-Mart opens on 12 acres in Carson City
July 2002 - Wal-Mart closes its Carson City location
Aug. 6, 2002 - Wal-Mart Supercenter opens on 35 acres in Douglas County
July 2003 - John King of King Ventures buys former Wal-Mart property for $4.3 million
June 2004 - Max Baer Jr. plans to open Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino
2036 - Raley's grocery prohibition expires