Sahara 1952-2011

The Sahara Hotel and Casino is a closed hotel casino with 1,720 guestrooms and suites and a casino covering more than 85,000 sq ft (7,900 m2), and sits on 55 acres (22 ha) including the empty adjoining land. The hotel is the northernmost stop for the Las Vegas Monorail. The Sahara ranks as the last remaining vintage “Rat Pack” casino-hotel, and today anchors the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip. The porte-cochere entrance, topped by an onion-dome minaret, is designed to set the resort’s warm Moroccan flavor and hospitality for arriving guests.

Address
2535 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Sahara
Opening date
October 7, 1952
Theme
Moroccan
No. of rooms
1,720
Total gaming space
7,900 m²
Costs
5.5 million USD (opened with 276 rooms)
Casino type
Land-Resort
Owner
Stockbridge/SBE Holdings, LLC
Previous hotels
Club Bingo
Years renovated
1960, 1963, 1996, 2003
Website
www.saharavegas.com

 

Previous Hotel Links:
Club Bingo

History

The hotel was opened in 1952 by Milton Prell just outside of the City of Las Vegas, and was the sixth resort to open on the Strip. The resort was built by Del Webb.

In late 1954, the hotel hired jazz musician Louis Prima to be their late night lounge act, one of the earliest ones on the Las Vegas Strip. Along with his then wife Keely Smith and sax player Sam Butera, they created one of the hottest late night attractions on the Strip. In 1956 Abbott and Costello appeared together for the last time on the Sahara stage before their permanent breakup.

In 1961, the hotel was purchased by Del Webb. In 1962, a Don the Beachcomber restaurant opened in the hotel, becoming a top attraction to not only hotel guests but a variety of celebrities as well. A 24-story tower was added in 1963.

The resort was the site of the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for many years, mostly in the 1970s, and for a brief time in the 1990s.

Performers at the resort over the years have included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Paul Anka, George Carlin, Liza Minnelli, Violetta Villas, Shirley Bassey, Imogene Coca, Connie Francis, Bill Cosby, Jeanette MacDonald, Ann-Margret, Joey Bishop, Don Rickles, Bobby Darin, and many others.

Del Webb ran into financial problems in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it sold the Sahara to Paul Lowden (Archon Corporation) for $50 million in 1982.

Ownership changed in 1995 when Archon Corporation sold the property to Bill Bennett. Bill Bennett owned the hotel until his death on December 22, 2002. The property was sold by the Bill Bennett Family Trust to SBE Entertainment Group in 2007.

The 27-story tower addition was added in 1987 and a new porte-cochere was added by the relocated pool in 1997.

In 1999 further renovations added a roller coaster and the NASCAR restaurant. The roller coaster, called Speed-The Ride, shoots riders from the hotel outside along the Las Vegas Strip, where it loops through the grandiose Sahara sign in front of the hotel, goes straight up a tower, stops and then takes a return trip backwards. Bergman Walls Associates were the 1999 architects.

sahara_show

Rumors of the Sahara’s closure surfaced in the media in February 2006. In a news article on June 30, 2006, it was reported that the Sahara site, as well as a defunct adjacent Wet ‘n Wild property, were for sale.

On March 2, 2007, Sam Nazarian and Stockbridge Real Estate Group signed an agreement to purchase the Sahara from the Bennett family. The transaction is said to be valued between $300 and $400 million for just the hotel/casino and its 17.45-acre (7.06 ha) lot. The deal does not include the 26-acre (11 ha) lot across the Strip from the Sahara and 11-acre (4.5 ha) lot east of the Sahara on Paradise Road. Nazarian’s current plans are for Navegante Management Group, current operators of the downtown casinos The Plaza, The Western, The Vegas Club, and The Gold Spike, to run the Sahara’s casino while Nazarian’s SBE Hotel Group will manage the hotel and Nazarian’s SBE Restaurant and Nightlife Group manages its food and beverage operations.

On March 11, 2011 SBE Holdings announced that the property would cease operations and close on May 16, 2011. No further plans for the Sahara site were revealed

Closing

The owner of the hotel, Sam Nazarian stated that the hotel will be closed on May 16. The hotel is believed to no longer be “economically viable;” however, there is great controversy regarding its closing. The hotel has history dating back to 1952 and if it is closed only the Flamingo and the Riviera will remain from that time period. Sam Nazarian, chief executive of SBE Entertainment Group, which owns and operates the Sahara, said the hotel will shut its doors May 16. Nazarian left open the possibility of reopening the property at a later date and said he would help the Sahara’s employees seek new jobs.

saharavegasexterior

 

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “Sahara Hotel and Casino”, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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