Amid so much gloomy economic news for New Mexico, it’s encouraging to hear that the sale of La Castañeda Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M., has been finalized.
The classic 1898 hotel, once home to a Teddy Roosevelt Roughrider reunion, former Harvey House and location of movies from Red Dawn to Speechless, deserves preservation. Buyer Allan Affeldt and his wife, Tina Mion, closed the deal last week. Congratulations to all who helped put the complicated deal together.
Townspeople are hoping that Affeldt does to the Castañeda what he did in Winslow, Ariz., at La Posada there. That hotel, also a former Harvey House, has been named one of the best in the Southwest by Condé Nast Traveler readers. Recently, in a marriage of old and new, Affeldt installed Tesla superchargers at his La Posada property. The electric cars can charge in just an hour.
Remodeling the Castañeda won’t be easy — the place has been vacant for decades. Sitting alongside the tracks, it was a welcome stop to train travelers headed West as part of the Santa Fe Railway’s efforts to bring tourists out to the wide-open spaces. Along with El Alvarado in Albuquerque and El Tovar on the rim of the Grand Canyon, La Castañeda was considered one of three anchor Harvey House hotels.
Affeldt’s remodel will make it a destination again, perhaps for drivers rather than train travelers (he told The New Mexican in March that 95 percent of his visitors in Winslow come by car). However, a vibrant La Castañeda is yet another reason to save the Southwest Chief Amtrak route.
Drawing traffic to Las Vegas should help the entire city. It won’t hurt, either, that Affeldt also is trying to purchase the still-open Plaza Hotel in Old Town Las Vegas. That would give him properties on both sides of the Gallinas River, the traditional divide between old and new towns.
Las Vegas, like so many small towns in the West, is no longer thriving. It perhaps stays relevant more than most, considering it has New Mexico Highlands University, the United World College and the state hospital to provide jobs and opportunity. Still, comfortable hotels that draw tourists from both in and out of state can only boost downtown Vegas. Visitors will shop, eat out and enjoy the great outdoors. Who knows? Visiting a town also can attract retirees, boosting gross receipts taxes in other ways than just through tourism.
Judging from Affeldt’s success in Arizona, he doesn’t just remodel a hotel. He has ideas to spur growth and transformation, not just for hotel properties, but ones that can spill over to the cities around them. Las Vegas, which at one time was one of the bigger cities West of the Mississippi, deserves this shot in the arm.