Business & Real Estate

Sinatra’s old Tahoe casino eyes May 2016 reopening

The front entrance of the Cal Neva Resort & Casino in March 2009. The property is set to reopen next May.
The front entrance of the Cal Neva Resort & Casino in March 2009. The property is set to reopen next May. Sacramento Bee file photo

Frank Sinatra’s fans celebrated his 100th birthday earlier this month, but there was something missing from the festivities: the Cal Neva Resort & Casino, the Lake Tahoe hotel once owned by the legendary entertainer.

The Cal Neva, closed for renovations since September 2013, was scheduled to reopen on the late singer’s 100th birthday, Dec. 12.

But construction has taken longer than expected, and now the venerable north shore property is set to reopen next May 26 with an international hotel operator in charge.

“There were unexpected construction problems, with a lot of asbestos,” said Kristina Hill, a consultant to project developer Criswell Radovan LLC. “A lot of the utilities had to be replaced. It’s an old building.”

The Cal Neva opened in 1926 and has struggled in recent years, in part because the Tahoe gambling industry has lost business to Northern California Indian casinos. Criswell Radovan, a St. Helena developer, bought the Cal Neva in April 2013 and closed it five months later to embark on a thorough makeover.

The developer originally said the property would reopen in December 2014, in time for Sinatra’s 99th birthday. But Criswell Radovan wasn’t able to get financing for the renovation until November 2014, pushing the project back a year. The lender, a company from Texas, said the renovation would cost $49 million.

When it does reopen, the resort will be operated by international hospitality chain Starwood Hotels, as part of its “luxury collection” of boutique hotels, according to Starwood’s website. Officials with Starwood couldn’t be reached for comment.

The 10-story, 191-room hotel tower “will pay homage to the Sinatra era” when it reopens, according to a Criswell Radovan press release from a year ago.

“It’s going to be vital again,” Hill said.

Sinatra owned the Cal Neva from 1960 to 1963 and made it a kind of an unofficial mountain retreat for his Rat Pack entertainment pals. He lost his gambling license in 1963 after an FBI agent spotted Chicago mobster Sam Giancana on the premises. Sinatra died in 1998.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler