Fazio unveiling high-profile Rainbow Canyon in Lake Las Vegas

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

HENDERSON, Nev. - Tom Fazio is finally ready to join Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf. On Lake Las Vegas that is. The long-anticipated, much-discussed Fazio golf addition to developer R.F. Boeddeker's $4.4-billion, 2,242-acre exclusive vacation/resort community is set.

The official unveiling of Fazio's design vision for his 18-hole Rainbow Canyon will take place on ABC this weekend during the telecast of the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge, but details of the plan are already trickling out.

Fazio's track will run across 10 miles of undeveloped shoreline and span the canyon leading to the Rainbow Garden Geological Preserve. It will incorporate some of water elements of Nicklaus' neighboring Reflection Bay and some of the drastic elevation changes that make Weiskopf's on-the-site The Falls stand out. In other words, Fazio will choose from the best of both worlds in his attempt to create what he often calls postcard design, giving him the chance to trump the courses of the other superstar architects already at Lake Las Vegas.

"Fazio's really going for the gusto here," said one official who's seen the final routing plans.

Fazio's insistence on the particulars of his vision is one of things that has delayed a project that's been talked about in the Vegas area for years. Back in 2002, there were projections that Rainbow Canyon would open in 2004. Now, late 2006 or early 2007 is the optimistic target date. They hope to break ground on the course within a few months of this weekend's announcement.

"We're excited about it," said Dan Romstead, the head pro at Reflection Bay. "We've been excited about it for a while. And with the president of our company ready to announce the official unveiling of Rainbow Canyon, it will bring even more publicity to golf in Lake Las Vegas.

"If you just look at it from a consumer standpoint, we're going to have a Fazio, a Nicklaus and a Weiskopf all in the same area, a few minutes drive from each other. That's hard to beat."

It is a parlay that is sure to generate tremendous word-of-mouth buzz in the Vegas valley. While the local newspapers have not had a word on the impending unveiling of Fazio's plans, a few golfers playing The Falls and Reflection Bay this week were already talking about it.

"I already can't wait to play what Fazio comes up with out here," said Randy Shuck, a Tampa golfer who makes three to four pilgrimages to Vegas' high-end courses every year. "We're playing (Fazio's higher-roller paradise) Shadow Creek tomorrow and to think he has something else on the way so close to Vegas.That's the kind of thing that keeps you coming back again and again to Vegas."

It is the kind of thing Lake Las Vegas depends on to survive in The Strip's shadow. Though it is only a half hour drive from the constant commotion, it can seem rather isolated, with the Lake Las Vegas resort appearing out of the dark on a long road with nothing more glamorous than a Wal-Mart on it. Which is perhaps not the best sell when you are trying to draw guests into a complex that includes pampering Hyatt Regency and Ritz Carlton hotels/spas and a manufactured quaint alpine-modeled village of upscale shops.

Rather quickly and boldly though, Lake Las Vegas has emerged as a major player in the high end golf scene. First, Nicklaus came in with his first "signature design" in Nevada, which Romstead boasts "means that Jack was actually here, saying move that dirt there." Nicklaus also designed the on site SouthShore Golf Club, a private facility open to residents of the development, which include singer Celine Dion. Weiskopf's The Falls opened in September 2002, wowing with its back nine elevated tee shots into deep canyons. Though Weiskopf groused to the press on more than one occasion that he wasn't given the best piece of land to work with for The Falls. Which brings us to Rainbow Canyon.

No one's doubting the quality of Fazio's canvas. Many feel that by waiting and driving a hard bargain, Fazio secured the most desirable track of golf real estate at Lake Las Vegas.

"It's a virtually undeveloped wonderland," Romstead said. "It's a spectacular piece of land."

With Fazio set to turn that wonderland into holes that require dealing with both up-and-down canyon terrain and the lake, Lake Las Vegas officials are banking on the fact that it can attract even more pro tournaments and attention. The development already has a stranglehold on the 3 Tour Challenge (the silly season event has been held at a Lake Las Vegas course seven of the last eight years) and Rainbow Canyon could bring more tournament options.

"The first time the Wendy's 3 Tour came out here and everyone got to see the town and everything that goes with Lake Las Vegas, it helped us all," said Eileen Crawford, Travel Industry Sales Manager at the Hyatt Regency, which heavily promotes the golf options. "And then just to the following year, you could see the course had come so far. Everything's changing so much around here."

Tom Fazio is now officially ready to put his stamp on that change.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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