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ATLANTIC CITY-Pinnacle Entertainment officials still aren’t sure when they will actually start construction for their proposed $2-billion hotel/casino project here, but they’ve at least rolled out general plans for the resort’s theme. The theme will apparently be “the beach,” company officials told gaming analysts during a conference call.

While a construction date hasn’t been set yet, analysts were given the news that more detailed plans are in the works, with designs currently being “tweaked,” according to Dan Lee, chairman of the Las Vegas-based Pinnacle. The sticking point right now, according to Lee, is the global credit mess.

“As a practical matter, in these current markets, we can’t finance this thing today,” Lee told analysts. “I don’t think anyone can, if they’re trying to build a big project. We’re in a bit of a holding pattern while we spend small amounts of money on legal fees and things like that as we move forward toward a project we can build when the capital markets recover.”

Much of the boardwalk site for the proposed resort was once occupied by the Sands Hotel/Casino, which Pinnacle bought from affiliates of Carl Icahn for a reported $270 million in 2006. The 600-room Sands was closed down for good a year later, and imploded this past October. Initial plans called for the start of construction this year, with completion by late 2011. But in February, Pinnacle announced it was putting the project on hold, citing the credit markets. Construction now is unlikely to start before 2010, Lee told analysts.

To date, the former Sands site has been prepped for construction, as have 18 adjoining acres acquired from the Icahn affiliates as part of that transaction. Pinnacle has also been assembling adjoining parcels, spending another $75 million to date for that purpose, and currently controls nearly 25 acres. Agreements are said to be close for additional parcels along the boardwalk and the adjoining Pacific Ave. “You never really get the full footprint you want,” Lee told analysts. “You just have to work around things.”

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