Frank Sinatra’s old casino at Lake Tahoe was supposed to reopen next month, in time for what would have been the entertainer’s 99th birthday.
No such luck. The Cal Neva Resort & Casino, which has been closed since September 2013, will likely stay closed for approximately another year to complete a major renovation.
The new owners just finished lining up $49 million in financing to pay for the makeover of the fabled property, according to a Texas company that is participating in the financing.
“It took more time than they had expected,” said Mike Jaynes, president of Hall Structured Finance, a Texas investment company that approved a loan for the Cal Neva renovation.
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Criswell Radovan, a St. Helena investment firm, bought the old north shore property in April 2013 and closed it for renovations five months later. The firm’s principal, Robert Radovan, has said he wanted to reopen the Cal Neva in December 2014, when Sinatra would have turned 99. Sinatra died 15 years ago.
While preliminary work on the renovation is underway, “the meat of it has yet to begin,” Jaynes said.
Jaynes said his company loaned $29 million for the renovation, and Radovan lined up $20 million in equity, for a total financial package of $49 million.
Radovan couldn’t be reached for comment. He was quoted in a press statement released by Hall Structured Finance as saying, “We’re all excited to bring the Cal Neva back to its former glory as the icon of Lake Tahoe.” The property will undergo a complete overhaul, from casino floor to hotel tower. The number of guest rooms will be reduced to 191 from 219.
The Cal Neva, which straddles the California-Nevada border, has been one of the mainstays of the north shore but is years removed from its glory days. Its renovation is seen as a key component in efforts to rejuvenate Tahoe’s tourism economy, which has been staggered by the legalization of Indian casinos in California in 2000.
As the economy has recovered, investors are pouring dollars into Tahoe real estate again. On the south shore, the Horizon casino is being reborn as a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and the nearby Montbleu Resort is getting a $24 million facelift.
The Cal Neva, one of Nevada’s oldest casinos, opened in 1926. When Sinatra owned the Cal Neva, from 1960 to 1963, he used to spirit his celebrity pals into the hotel through a maze of underground tunnels built during Prohibition. Sinatra lost his gambling license after an FBI agent spotted mobster Sam Giancana roaming the property.
Since then the Cal Neva has gone through several ownership changes and a steady decline in business. The place closed for three years during the 1980s after investigators discovered that some of the slot machines were rigged.