In Carson: Ormsby House slated for '09 opening

Al Fiegehen points at the mountains and down to the Capitol from the top floor of the gutted Ormsby House casino-hotel.

He smiles when he describes the completed "classy" hotel, but sounds exhausted when he explains why the building has been under reconstruction since 2001.

He said he never thought the construction, delayed by fights with the city and unexpected building challenges, would take this long. He said he can't wait for the grand opening party next year.

"It's cost a fortune for this delay," said Don Lehr, who co-owns the 36-year-old building with Fiegehen. "We just want it finished. That's all we want."

The owners will give the city plans for the interior Monday, they say exterior work is almost done.

When finished, the building will hold a casino, ballrooms, restaurants, a fourth-story pool and about 135 hotel rooms. It will connect to the parking garage with a sky bridge, which is already done, crossing Curry Street. The remodel of the building at 600 S. Carson St. will cost more than $25 million.

Fiegehen said the inside will have a "lodge" style but won't be "fragile and fancy."

"The Ormsby House's old slogan was the 'mild wild west,' and that really is it," he said.

Lehr said Carson City residents need a place where they can be comfortable.

"You can't make it to downtown Geneva, Switzerland," he said.

But as important as the style and size of the tallest building in the city is the casino's place in city history. Fiegehen said the building was a "crown jewel" when it was opened in 1972 by former Gov. Paul Laxalt.

"Everybody that has lived in Carson City for a long time has had their prom here, their Bar Mitzvah, their baptismal parities, whatever, weddings," he said. "Everybody has some story to tell about the Ormsby House. There's no doubt about that."

The building was iconic in its first years, according state Archivist Guy Rocha who said it had a "mystique" and size that was "Carson City's answer to the big-time casino."

The original Ormsby House was built in 1859 at the corner of Second and Carson streets. The building was demolished in 1931.

Many residents, however, know the building only as a "white elephant" at the corner of Fifth and South Carson streets that's been closed since 2000, Rocha said.

But Mayor Marv Teixeira said he appreciates the work that shows businesses are willing to make major investments in Carson.

"I know they want to open it as much as we do," he said.

Lehr and Fiegehen bought the Ormsby House in 1999 for $3.75 million, according to Appeal records. The building had gone through bankruptcy and closures in the 1990s.

But, Fiegehen said, "We shall overcome."


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