George Anthony is a betting man. He came up a winner 16 years ago when he plunked down $2.8 million to build the El Dorado Card Club in Gardena. He still can be found there almost every morning, counting poker chips in his wood-paneled office or strolling among the green felt tables.
Now he is trying to buy into a different kind of action. By the end of 1986, Anthony plans to open a $22-million luxury hotel at his card club, hoping to tap the market created by one of Southern California's most rapidly expanding office and high-technology centers.
Less than two miles away, near the junction of the Harbor and San Diego freeways, the big corporations have been moving in--Nissan, TRW, Toyota, Pacific Bell, Mitsubishi Electronics, Texas Instruments, Bridgestone Tire and American Honda, among others. Across an expanse of nearly three square miles, the sprawling glass-and-steel skyline is being touted by some city officials as the next Century City.
Anthony has spent six years and, by his own account, more than $700,000 planning for his hotel, which would cater largely to corporate business travelers. At the same time, however, other hotel builders are also striving for a stake in the corporate market--and the resulting competition may create as many losers as winners, according to some hotel-marketing analysts.
Too Many Rooms?
Within a two-mile radius of the freeway interchange, six new hotels are being planned to serve the burgeoning corporate complex, where not a single hotel currently exists. The projects, totaling $114 million in expected construction costs, would result in at least 1,400 hotel rooms by late 1986, in an area that some analysts say will support fewer than half that number.
"The likelihood of all six being built is probably very, very low," said Jim Burba, a Los Angeles manager for Pannell Kerr Forster, an international accounting firm that specializes in hotel marketing studies. Burba predicted that the market will support no more than two or three of the projects--a level of demand that may make it impossible for all of the projects to acquire financing.
Other marketing specialists are not so sure. Teri Eve, for example, a consultant with the rival international accounting firm of Laventhol and Horwath, said there are a "million factors" that may determine whether all the hotels can succeed, including the ultimate size of the expanding office park and the growth of the business and hotel markets throughout the South Bay.
"The area can support hotel development," she said. "How many, and which ones, who knows?"
Hilton, Holiday Inn
Projects planned for the area:
A 253-room, $22-million hotel that Anthony would develop at Vermont Avenue and Redondo Beach Boulevard in Gardena.
A 248-room, $22-million Hilton Hotel in Carson, which is scheduled for reconsideration by the City Council on Monday after more than two years of financing delays.
A 341-room, $28-million Holiday Inn in Los Angeles near the heart of the growing corporate complex.
A 260-room, $20-million to $25-million hotel to be developed by Ferrante-Walder Co. at the northeast corner of the corporate complex in Los Angeles.
A 250- to 300-room, $20-million to $30-million Cadillac Fairview hotel in Los Angeles at the center of the complex on 190th Street, less than a mile from the Holiday Inn and Ferrante-Walder projects.
A 102-room, $3-million hotel in Torrance, to be built by an independent developer just across the Los Angeles city boundary at the edge of the corporate complex.
Like most of the would-be builders, Anthony is gambling on his belief in a rapidly growing, rapidly changing area. He, like others, expresses confidence that his own project will be one of those that succeeds. Corporate growth, the lure of Gardena clubs and restaurants and the accessibility of freeways will help assure his success, he said.
A Business 'Empire'
Anthony points to the 22 banks that line nearby Redondo Beach Boulevard as evidence of the big money that has moved to the area--money he believes can be tapped. "Those (banks) show the foundation of the (business) empire here. We're in a hub, like the spokes of a wheel here, with the Harbor Freeway, the Artesia Freeway, the San Diego Freeway."
The area is less than a 20-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, the harbor and Los Angeles International Airport, he said.
At the same time, he acknowledges the risks. "I could lose," he said. "I don't think so . . . but it could happen."
Indeed, the seeds of concern are already well planted in Gardena and, in particular, in Carson, where the hotels are regarded as important new sources of revenue and civic pride. In each case, projects have been delayed for more than two years, enabling the three newer proposals in Los Angeles to gain an inside track in the race for the market.