VIDEO VAULT | Tiny property on Strip prompts a David vs. Goliath saga against the Mirage
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
The modern "Mega-resort" era on the Las Vegas Strip began in 1989 with then-owner Steve Wynn's Mirage Hotel and Casino. When he expanded his empire with the Treasure Island in 1993, it resulted in a David-versus-Goliath saga that seems to have been a draw.
"It's the key to this corner," said Mike Flores of a small parcel entirely surrounded by land owned by Wynn. "Without this property, they cannot develop the corner."
The parcel had been owned by the Flores family since the mid-60s, and was home to a modest two-story apartment complex called "Villa de Flores."
Flores started out as an 85-percent investor, with other partners including Ralph Englestad, owner of the Imperial Palace. Flores claimed he had no interest in continuing to run the motel. He just wanted what he said was a fair price.
"I feel like [General George] Custer, I've been here so long," Flores told News 3. "I just wanted to retire and fade into the sunset. I'm still here. So please, Steve Wynn, buy the place, or Ralph, exercise your option. Please. I'm desperate."
Flores also accused the Mirage of intimidating his residents by scheduling roadwork in a manner that completely cut off access to Villa de Flores.
"Come on. Give me a break," said angry resident Kevin Hayes. “[Wynn]'s got no consideration for anybody. No consideration for anybody.”
All a simple misunderstanding, according to Mirage Spokesman Alan Feldman.
"Unfortunately, one department didn't speak to the other and we weren't able to let Mr. Flores and the residents know about what those arrangements were. But the arrangements were made and it was all corrected very quickly."
"However, even before the asphalt sets, another battle looms," observed News 3 Reporter Scott Andrus. "Propane tanks are being buried just across the street from Villa de Flores".
The propane tanks were used to power the pyrotechnics for a mock pirate battle staged nightly in front of Treasure Island. More on those in a moment.
First, Flores tried a new tactic: an auction which he hoped would drive the property of to the $6 million he was hoping for.
"How many dollars are you gonna give," rattled off an auctioneer to a packed house that included Flores, Englestad, and lawyers for Wynn. "Let's go. One time. Five million, give me five million?"
No one bit and the auctioneer lowered the asking price, with Flores himself one of the only responders, in an effort to drive up the price.
"2.5 is the bid. Now 2.6. Would you go 2-6? Three million's in," came the staccato delivery.
In the end, Flores succeeded only in buying out his partners and becoming sole owner of the property.
"Sold. 3.5 million. Thank you very much for coming out today,” said the auctioneer.
Flores' next step was to announce plans to build his own nine-story condo tower right next to Wynn's Mirage and Treasure Island.
Steve Wynn was having none of it and brought out his legal team.
"He sued me, he sued my parents, he sued my architect, he sued the county commissioners," said Flores. "I think he sued my cat and my mother-in-law."
The stalemate continued. Wynn built his megaresorts and parking lots around the diminutive Villa de Flores. Then, on July 1, 1999, it became an explosive issue in the literal sense.
"The next thing I knew, the ground started to rumble and shake," Villa de Flores resident Joey Delman told News 3. "I ran out of my apartment. I thought it was fireworks or something. The first tank exploded and knocked me down."
One of the propane tanks had caught fire and there was an explosion. Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt and none of the other tanks exploded. But Gail Flores was livid.
"My husband and I fought with them when they first put these tanks in however many years ago it was," she said in the aftermath. "And they kept assuring us nothing like this could happen. They were 100-percent safe and they'll never blow up and they've never had a situation like this anywhere.”
New safety measures were implemented, but it is a moot point today, as the pirate show was modified and then eventually discontinued. The propane tanks were removed.
Steve Wynn's interest in the property is long gone. His hotel group was purchased by MGM in 2000 and he went on to build the Wynn Hotel and the Encore. MGM has shown no interest thus far in purchasing the Casa De Flores.
County Assessor records show that Mike Flores finally sold the property in 2004 for $3.8 million. The current owner has not returned phone calls.