SLS Las Vegas

SLS Las Vegas

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The SLS Hotel & Casino Las Vegas (formerly Sahara Hotel and Casino) is a hotel and casino located on the Las Vegas Strip in Winchester, Nevada. It is owned and operated by Alex Meruelo.

The hotel was formerly known as the Sahara Hotel and Casino. It was in operation under that name for 59 years from 1952 to 2011. The hotel had 1,720 guestrooms and suites with a casino covering more than 85,000 square feet (7,900 m2).

The hotel is the site of the SLS station, the northernmost stop for the Las Vegas Monorail. The SLS anchored the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip. The renovated property reopened on August 23, 2014, after a $415 million renovation as part of SBE’s chain of SLS hotels. It was sold to the Meruelo Group in 2017 and will be renamed Grand Sahara Resort in 2019, after a renovation.


Sahara (1952–2011)

The first casino built on the site was Club Bingo, which opened in 1947. Owner Milton Prell replaced the casino with a new casino hotel in 1952 called the Sahara Hotel. Located just outside the City of Las Vegas, it was the sixth resort to open on the Strip. The resort was built by Del Webb. The porte-cochere entrance, topped by an onion-dome minaret, was designed to set the resort’s warm Moroccan flavor and hospitality for arriving guests.

In late 1954, entertainment director Bill Miller 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. The hotel constructed the first high-rise tower on the Strip in 1959, the Tunis Tower, designed by Martin Stern.

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. The 24-story Alexandria Tower was added in 1963, which made the hotel the tallest building in Las Vegas.

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., Peter Lawford, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Lena Horne, Jack Benny, Tony Bennett, Paul Anka, George Carlin, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Wayne Newton, Bill Cosby, Ann-Margret, Louis Prima, Joey Bishop, Shelley Berman, Kiss, Buddy Hackett, The Drifters, Don Rickles, Bobby Darin, The Coasters, Sonny & Cher and many others. In 1964, The Beatles stayed at the Sahara and played two shows at the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center.

By 1978, the 27-story Tangiers Tower was added to the property.

Del Webb Corp ran into financial problems in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The company sold the Sahara to Paul Lowden’s Archon Corporation for $50 million in 1982.

Ownership changed in 1995, when Archon sold the property to Bill Bennett. An expansion to the 27-story Tangiers Tower was added in 1987, and a new porte-cochere was added near the relocated pool 10 years later, in 1997.

In 1999, further renovations added a roller coaster and a restaurant. The roller coaster, named “Speed – The Ride”, shot riders from the hotel outside along the Las Vegas Strip, where it looped through the grandiose Sahara sign in front of the hotel, went straight up a tower, stopped and then took a return trip backwards. Bergman Walls Associates were the 1999 architects.

Bennett died in December 2002. Rumors of the Sahara’s closure surfaced in the media in February 2006. By June, the Sahara site was reportedly up for sale.

In March 2007, Sam Nazarian and Stockbridge Real Estate Group agreed to purchase the Sahara from the Bennett family for an estimated $300 to $400 million.

Closing as the Sahara (2011)

The Sahara shut down on May 16, 2011. SBE chief executive Sam Nazarian stated that the hotel was not “economically viable”. Nazarian said that he would help the 1,600 hotel workers find new jobs. Its closure left only Riviera (closed in 2015), Tropicana, Flamingo, Caesars Palace, and Circus Circus remaining from the pre-1969 era.

On May 16, 2011, at 12:00 PM PDT, the last hotel guest checked out of the Sahara Hotel and Casino, and the hotel officially closed at 2:00 PM. This marked the end of a 59-year run on the Strip. According to the Sahara’s website, any previous reservations would be honored at the Circus Circus. NCL/National Content Liquidators began a liquidation sale on June 16, 2011, of all items inside the property; the sale continued until the property was completely empty. The final day of the sale was September 4, 2011.

The “Speed – The Ride”, which was located in front of the casino, was sold and removed. It will be relocated across from the Mandalay Bay in the new Akita Plaza.

SLS conversion (2013–present)

On February 14, 2013, Nazarian announced the groundbreaking for the $415 million conversion of the hotel into the SLS Las Vegas. The hotel opened on August 23, 2014. It contains 1,600 rooms, a casino, four nightclubs, the clothing store Fred Segal and various restaurants. The name “SLS” was chosen by Nazarian to denote style, luxury and service.

The guest rooms and restaurants were designed by Philippe Starck in collaboration with Gensler. Additionally, a handful of suites are designed by musician and actor Lenny Kravitz.

On September 6, 2014, Hilton Worldwide added the SLS to its specialty Curio brand. The facility offers 80,000 sq ft of event space, 9 dining establishments, an open air rooftop pool/nightclub, and the Ciel Spa.

On October 6, 2015, Sam Nazarian sold his interest in the SLS Las Vegas and made an agreement to franchise the hotel to Stockbridge Real Estate Group.

On November 9, 2015, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced that it would add SLS Las Vegas to its Tribute Portfolio, a chain of independent four-star hotels that would allow it to take advantage of Starwood’s reservation platform and member benefits. It also announced that the 289-room LUX Tower, one of the three towers onsite, would undergo a renovation and rebranding as W Las Vegas in September 2016. The W would have its own dedicated entrance, lobby, meeting space, pool and facilities and will be managed by Starwood while the remainder of the SLS would remain under its existing management. The conversion to the W was officially completed on December 1, 2016.

In May 2017, the Meruelo Group agreed to purchase the SLS Las Vegas. In 2018 the Meruelo Group announced plans for a $100 million renovation, and suggested they might return the property to the “Sahara” name. The resort ceased to be managed by Starwood’s successor company, Marriott, on August 17, 2018, and the W Hotel branding was removed, with that wing renamed the Grand Tower. The entire SLS resort will be renamed Grand Sahara Resort after a major renovation that will reposition it to serve the Hispanic market.

Film history

The 1960 version of Ocean’s 11 was filmed at the Sahara.

In 2011, the TV show Storage Wars filmed their special “Storage Wars Unlocked” at the hotel/casino.

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