Elk Grove’s so-called “ghost mall” site has been sold to a Las Vegas firm.

Elk Grove’s so-called “ghost mall” site has been sold to a Las Vegas firm.

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Elk Grove’s abandoned “ghost mall” property is now in the hands of a Las Vegas gaming firm, city officials announced Monday, but a planned casino resort on the deserted site is still at least a year away.

Boyd Elk Grove LLC purchased the 64-acre site off Highway 99 and Kammerer Road on the southern fringe of the city from Texas-based Howard Hughes Development Corp. in a deal that effectively ended Hughes’ bid to turn the moribund mall project into reality.

Elk Grove officials did not disclose terms of the sale. Boyd spokesman David Strow would not say how much Boyd paid for the property.

Boyd, an arm of Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp., is working with the Wilton Rancheria tribe to develop the casino project, but neither plans for the land nor a development timeline are known, Elk Grove city officials said in a statement announcing the deal.

That didn’t stop Boyd president and chief executive officer Keith Smith from proclaiming that with Monday’s deal, Wilton Rancheria and Boyd “will have the most dynamic casino and hospitality development site in all of Northern California.”

Smith in late October told investment analysts that the project is expected to open in the second half of 2022.

“We are putting the final pieces in place to allow the tribe to secure financing in the next several months … and move ahead with the project construction,” Smith said at the time.

The planned $400 million casino resort off Grant Line Road in Elk Grove would be the closest such resort to Sacramento. A hotel, spa, restaurants and a convention center that developers say would stand as one of the region’s largest, are blueprinted for the site.

A Wilton Rancheria casino would add to an expanding list of tribal casinos in the greater Sacramento area, joining the recently opened Hard Rock Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain in Yuba County and established casinos in Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Yolo, Butte and Colusa counties.

Wilton Rancheria is the only federally recognized tribe in Sacramento County and has some 700 members. More than half are jobless, tribal officials told The Sacramento Bee in 2019, saying the gaming resort would be a welcome boost for the small, struggling tribe.

On Monday, tribal chairman Jesus Tarango said Boyd’s purchase “continues to show the commitment they made when we became partners to develop the Wilton Rancheria resort and casino.”

A 36-acre parcel next to the 64 acres purchased Monday is owned in federal trust for the Wilton Rancheria.

Wilton Rancheria bought the land in 2016. U.S. Department of Interior approved its gambling agreement with the state in January 2019.

Elk Grove city officials were eager to turn the page Monday, calling the purchase a “fresh start.”

The city’s plans for a high-end outlet mall that would stamp the newly incorporated city as a regional shopping and entertainment destination was undone by the Great Recession and slowly devolved into unfinished disrepair before the bulldozers finally arrived in 2019.

The project’s slow death, turning dream into eyesore, was a humiliating setback for Sacramento County’s second-largest city. By 2019, then-Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly called the enterprise a “failure.”

On Monday, Elk Grove city officials were eager to turn the page, calling the purchase a second chance to develop a regional destination in south Sacramento County.

“While we are disappointed that (Hughes Corp.) was unable to deliver on their mall project for our community, we are excited to work with Boyd Gaming to make the best use of the property in our city,” Jason Behrmann, Elk Grove city manager, said in a statement. “This sale offers a fresh start and a new opportunity to develop something with a group who shares the city’s vision for the site and its potential as a regional destination.”

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.

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