With plans for an extreme sports park dead on the drawing board, its former project site in Las Vegas is now up for grabs.
The 130-acre spread south of the Strip that was supposed to be home to the Edge, a now-expired megaproject proposed by developer Josh Kearney, is on the market for $300 million. As seen on commercial-property listing site LoopNet, it’s the most expensive piece of real estate up for sale in Clark County.
Of course, as with any big listing in town, there’s no guarantee the property will trade hands. For years, selling land on or near the Strip was no easy task amid high asking prices and the expected cost of a major project — and that was before the coronavirus pandemic sunk Las Vegas’ tourism-heavy economy.
The site consists of 65 acres of vacant land, a 41.4-acre golf facility and a 23.6-acre sports center that includes a go-kart track, property records indicate. It’s at the southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sunset Road, across from retail-and-office complex Town Square Las Vegas in one direction and McCarran International Airport in another.
The seller, Ernie Lee, owner of the Eureka casino east of the Strip and whose family founded the Eureka resort in Mesquite, told me this week that he has around $30 million of debt on nearly 70 acres of land that he purchased last year. He said he wants to pay that off, adding he doesn’t typically carry any debt on his assets and he’d rather not owe anyone anything.
“I sleep better when everything’s free and clear,” he said.
He said a buyer can acquire the entire 130-acre spread if they want, though he’d prefer to sell its raw land and keep the rest. He also said that in some ways, he’d rather not sell the property at all.
Lee figures a typical real estate developer wouldn’t buy it now anyway amid the turmoil of the pandemic, though a few tech companies have expressed interest, he said.
The coronavirus outbreak has kept people home and away from crowds for fear of getting infected, devastating the tourism industry and sparking huge job losses in Las Vegas. But land sales near the Strip haven’t evaporated amid the chaos.
Local developer Michael Ochoa purchased 12 acres off Paradise Road for $12.5 million a few months ago, and the owners of a North Dakota tribal casino bought an 8.7-acre parcel off the south Strip for $12 million through a bankruptcy case.
Through that same case, a Seattle-area investor acquired nearly 20 acres across from Mandalay Bay, albeit with a $75 million credit bid.
The site included the failed SkyVue observation-wheel project, whose developer built little more than two giant concrete columns sticking out of the ground.
Kearney had pitched an extreme sports park concept in Las Vegas for years. He envisioned wakeboarding and surfing lakes at the Edge, as well as waterslides, dunk tank towers, an indoor mountain biking track, rock climbing, bungee jumping, zip lines and a 15-story hotel-casino, records show.
The Australia native told me in early 2017 that he didn’t need financing, that he intended to purchase the project site after previously planning to lease it, and that the development’s total price tag was probably $800 million.
Clark County commissioners approved project plans in September 2017. Kearney was also sued that year by a woman who, after they met through the dating and networking site Bumble.com, agreed to lend him $500,000 for the project and alleged the loan had “not been repaid as agreed.”
She further claimed that Kearney “repeatedly made misrepresentations” about the project and his education, experience, background and wealth.
A judge awarded her $650,000 in early 2018, and she had received $80,000 by spring 2019, court records show.
KGA Architecture also sued Kearney in late 2017, alleging he had agreed to pay the firm $1.5 million to work on the project but owed more than $881,000. A judge awarded KGA nearly $1.2 million in damages in the case last year.
County commissioners in September denied Kearney’s request for an extension of the approvals on his project, effectively rendering the plans dead.
Southern Nevada’s real estate market is nothing if not boring, and you can never rule out a major land purchase here, or an investor coming in with grandiose plans.
Still, given Las Vegas’ long history of fizzled real estate ideas, whether the developer builds anything is another question.