Siena In Talks to Go Back to Its Roots

by Mike Van Houten / May 1, 2015

Only the most hardcore Reno natives would know that the Siena, back when it was the Holiday Hotel, actually opened up in 1958 WITHOUT a casino. It was a non-gaming hotel on the river, and the casino was only added later. Hotels like Harrah's downtown are casinos with a hotel added on, but the Holiday was a hotel first, with a casino added on. The first two photos show the Holiday without a casino, and in the second photo, the casino was added along with new signage.

Alicia Barber from the Nevada Historical Society writes, "In 1953, developer Norman Biltz laid out design plans for the Holiday Hotel. Perhaps most surprising was his insistence that unlike the neighboring Mapes and Riverside Hotels, the Holiday would offer no gambling. Instead, its investors planned to promote the area as a sportsman’s paradise, an aspect Blitz thought had been all but obliterated by the city’s reputation for gambling and divorce. “For every tencrapshooters,” he said, “There are a hundred who wouldrather shoot birds.” The hotel had its own game reserve, located 4-1/2 mileseast of Dayton, where guests could hunt on 1,000 acres with no license required. A sportsman's paradise...imagine that, long before the 'America's Adventure Place' campaign came along.

New additions to the tower during Siena's initial build-out.

It survived casino-less only until 1957, when it was bought by Newton Crumbly and Associates, and a casino was immediately added.

Since 1999, the casino has not made a dime of money. I don't need a 'source' to tell me this, it's painfully obvious when you visit the Siena on a Friday or Saturday night. By 2010, the hotel/casino was carrying a massive $100 million in debt. It was an orphan casino, with no other casinos or hotels nearby, the facility was small in comparison to the standard at the time for casinos, the design inconsistencies were more than noticed and spelled out in negative reviews, and the owner had zero experience running a hotel/casino. All of this eventually led to its closure, when it underwent a $5 million renovation to align design elements and freshen the casino, and it reopened soon after, but never fully recovered from its dismal history as the Siena.

The hotel portion of the venue seems to be doing well. During the weekends, especially in the summer, the hotel portion often comes close to selling out.

Based on the cricket sounds you could hear coming from the casino on any weekend night, it wasn't necessarily shocking when I learned from an unnamed source that Fernando Leal, developer of the Montage and CommRow (now Whitney Peak Hotel) has bought the Siena. In fact this wasn't Fernando's first interest in the Siena. Right before the Siena closed and remodeled, Fernando had a brief interest in purchasing the turnkey-hotel back then.

Nationally speaking in the hotel industry right now, the trend of building large 1000-room hotels in Chicago, New York etc, is waning, and a new trend of buying smaller, easier-to-manage-but-still-luxurious existing properties and remodeling them has emerged.

Just as there is interest in Reno on the tech-front, there is also suddenly interest in Reno from national hotel management companies. Hotel management companies are often the unseen link between running the hotel and the person that owns the hotel.

So when the Siena came up for sale again recently, after word got out, sources tell me the amount of interest in the hotel from national hotel management companies was almost overwhelming.

Think about have a hotel that would cost at least $75 million to build from scratch today with all the matched amenities, and it's right on the river, and the building is in beautiful, almost turn-key condition. To hotel management companies, a turnkey hotel on a river, with a pool, world-class spa, recently renovated rooms, and easy parking, is 'gold.'

So it's no surprise  that three of the top national hotel management companies in the world competed to land the Siena once it was sold.

An unnamed source has told me that Urgo Hotels, out of Bethasda, MD, has been chosen to manage the 'new' Siena, and whatever brand it may become. Their portfolio is impressive, and they are one of the largest and most respected hotel management companies in the country.

Employees in the casino have reported to me that Marriott representatives have been lurking around the property, and another source told me the Siena is indeed in advanced discussions to become a Marriott Renaissance, the most luxurious, high-end brand that Marriott offers. However this is not a done deal, and other brands are in the mix still as well.

What is known however, with almost certainty, is that casino operations, the one portion of the Siena that hasn't made a profit since it opened, will close on June 30th.

So there you have it. Leal owns the Siena, it will become a new full-service hotel luxury brand, most likely without a casino, and it will happen soon.

Post your comments
  • May 1, 2015 - 11:03:29 AM

    Who is backing Leal and providing the funds for the purchase?

  • May 1, 2015 - 11:11:59 AM

    cool. I hope they keep the Sportsbook in there. And they could build a nice Sports theater like Red Rocks in Las Vegas. Or the Atlantis here.

  • May 1, 2015 - 11:17:18 AM

    Any idea how much it went for? If I recall, it sold for around 4 million back in 2010 out of bankruptcy to an out of state investor group?

  • May 1, 2015 - 2:13:15 PM

    Nice historical summary, Mike, thank you for this article. When Mr. Crumley added the casino, there was a grand re-opening, with violin players serenading guests in the casino. I was there. It was a very nice place, the food was good, rooms were nice for that era, and everything in the rooms was in working order. I hope the old quality approach is brought back, there is a beautiful bar and lounge overlooking the river, but it has limited hours. I would like to see it open earlier. The burger place could be deleted, as far as I'm concerned. I like a good burger, but not there; try for a broader-menu, 24 hour coffee shop. I have often thought that during its current mode or presentation, promotions using special music events with acts that would draw in special interest followings, would have helped this property. Even if table games are deleted by the new management, I hope they will keep an alcove or two of slots. That way when a guest gets an "itch" to spin the reels, the hotel won't lose that person to a walk down the block to the casinos. Were I the decision-maker, I would not include "Pet Friendly" arrangements. It is a handsome property in a location poised for growth. I wish Mr. Leal success.

  • May 3, 2015 - 6:59:26 AM

    Good news. I am old enough to remember the glory days of downtown Reno. It breaks my heart to see it as it is today. The downtown area is our first impression of Reno and most do not come away with a good one. There is much more to this great little city but few see past the shattered casinos and shabby storefronts . Revitalizing downtown should be Reno's top priority.

  • May 3, 2015 - 5:59:12 PM

    Have stayed many a time, great beds and staff. Never gambled, but loved sitting on the river with drink in hand. This will be a great change for the property in my view.

  • May 4, 2015 - 8:15:40 PM

    Stayed there often but like many gambled at the Cal Neva. Please, Please, Please......Hyatt or SPG Hotel. Ps. Love the posting.

  • May 28, 2015 - 8:26:20 PM

    Just received my final monthly mailer from the Siena. The closure of the casino portion of the Siena was confirmed, with the lights going dark at 12 Noon, Tuesday June 30. This casino became my overall favorite place for gaming, so I'll miss it once it's gone.

  • June 15, 2015 - 11:30:06 AM

    Your assumptions are spot on. This will create the luxury product companies coming to Reno as well as the high end legal community has been asking for. Until now, there has not been a high end product to stay at. Whitney Peak is a decent mid-tier product that led the sea change towards non-gaming hotels. With MM coming on line, there will now be a place for execs and clients to stay in the downtown area. I see the potential for 2 additional monoliths being repurposed in the near future. Change Happens...this time for the better!