Naysayers & optimists

On July 18, I joined fellow RN&R employees and other members of the media for a tour of the soon-to-open Siena Hotel Spa Casino. Owner Barney Ng was kind enough to lead the 90-minute tour of the $70 million property at Mill and Lake streets.

The most appropriate word that comes to mind regarding the Siena is “upscale.” It is one gorgeous property, meant to be themed after—but not a replication of—the Italian city. The casino includes space for art shows, à la some of the Las Vegas megaresorts. The Siena features two restaurants and a wine bar, where 200 different types of wine will be available by the glass. The resort also has a full spa, and all the rooms are quite posh.

The Siena will be more expensive than its Reno counterparts—a room will cost about two times the normal rate here in Reno, Ng said (although he was quick to add that the price will be about 60 percent of what similar-quality resorts in California cost).

At one point during the tour, Ng—without any prompting—mentioned that a number of “naysayers” are pessimistic about how the Siena will do, because of its upscale cost and because of Reno’s economic slump. Ng said he was optimistic despite all that talk.

On that same day, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., the owners of a big operation just down the street from the Siena, announced some results that weren’t pretty.

Second-quarter revenues at Harrah’s Reno were down 3.8 percent. Cash flow was down 15.5 percent. Gary Loveman, Harrah’s president and CEO, was sounding very much like a naysayer.

“If you look at all the collateral indices of economic activity in Northern Nevada, they’re all bad,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “That market is in trouble with respect to the level of activity from Sacramento, Modesto, San Francisco—those parts of California that normally drive this business. And of course there’s also some concern about the effect of Native American gaming as it begins to take place in those markets.”

The buzz around downtown is that numbers for the second quarter are going to be dismal pretty much across the board.

Meanwhile, also on that day, NASDAQ was giving Reno-based iGo Corp. the boot. This is because the stock, which was once trading at $22.25 per share, is down to about 50 cents per share.

This move came one day after the company gave 43 people their walking papers, meaning more than half the workforce has been trimmed since December. The company has yet to make a profit since it went public in 1999.

Obviously, the casinos aren’t the only businesses that are struggling.

So, where does this all leave Reno? That’s a good question that nobody knows the answer to.

Everyone is rooting for Siena to do well, as the property on the Truckee River is targeting business travelers, hoping to bring them downtown. Some observers are skeptical, though—they’re naysayers, as Ng would call them.

But ask the folks at Harrah’s and iGo. The economic climate is scary. And that’s giving people some good reasons to say nay.

On a different note: Thanks to everyone who entered our Fiction 101 contest. We are currently plowing through the enormous pile of stories, the best of which will appear in the RN&R next week.

Thanks also to the throng of people who politely pointed out that we had a misspelling in our Fiction 101 promo ad. Hey, recieve, receive … It’s that whole “I before E except after C” thing that confused us.

And thanks to the people who were also kind enough to point out the irony that this mistake occurred in last week’s issue, in which at least two RN&R employees ranted about spelling and punctuation problems.

Bummer. I guess this means we’re not perfect anymore.