The Strip, January 1976. Photo by Hank deLespinasse.
Vintage Las Vegas
This is reprint of an older post, from around May of this year, however I thought YOU may have missed the demise of the Sahara.
This is very important news, for Las Vegites. After all, this is like Las Vegas loosing an arm or a leg.
BY HOWARD STUTZ
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Posted: May 14, 2011 | 8:52 p.m.
Updated: May 15, 2011 | 1:10 p.m.
In it’s day, the Sahara was Las Vegas’ epicenter.
Peter Villalobos would know.
For almost 35 years, he manned the Strip hotel’s front desk.
He watched the parade of celebrities and the pseudocelebrities.
He supervised thousands of hotel check-ins for high rollers and want-to-be high rollers.
Villalobos will be at his front desk terminal Monday when the Sahara’s final guest checks out at around noon. The nearly 60-year-old Strip resort will cease operations two hours later, a victim of both the recession and of progress.
Sahara owners SBE Entertainment of Los Angeles and private equity firm Stockbridge Real Estate of San Francisco acquired the hotel-casino in 2007 from the family of the late casino pioneer William Bennett. The new owners had hopes of breathing new life into the resort. They have not announced plans for the 18-acre corner of the Strip and Sahara Avenue.
In March, SBE said it was “no longer economically viable” to operate the Sahara.
GOING OUT WITH DIGNITY
Last week, Arash Azarbarzin, president of SBE’s hotel division, who has overseen the Sahara since the company took control, said the goal was to close the Strip resort “quietly and with dignity.”
His thoughts have been with employees like Villalobos, who remained loyal to the property, even as the city’s two-decade building boom added megaresorts that dwarfed the aged, 1,720-room Sahara.
Villalobos gave Azarbarzin a firm handshake last week and thanked him for the four years that SBE kept the property operating. The year SBE took over, the company spent about $2 million to refurbish and make cosmetic changes to the Sahara’s public areas. SBE never operated the casino; that was done by Navegante Group read more…
Wilbur Clark’s Desert Inn Hotel History / The Swinging Sahara Hotel History – 1950s
The Swinging Sahara Hotel History – 1950s
Post-WWII Las Vegas must have looked very inviting. Men with vision were coming into town to build hotels to cater to Americans hungry to travel after the rationing and sacrifices of the War. In less than ten years, there were five hotels, the El Rancho Vegas, Hotel Last Frontier, the Fabulous Flamingo, the Thunderbird and Wilbur Clark’s Desert Inn built on the two-lane highway that led to Fremont Street.
Though some locals wondered where all the people would come from to fill the new resorts, the men with vision kept assuring everyone they would come.
Fred Schivo was a long-time gamer who had the idea for the Club Bingo, a 300-seat bingo parlor. He had to find investors that would be willing to take the financial plunge. He lucked out when he met Milton Prell from Butte, Montana. Prell had operated the “30 Club” in Butte but like many other gambling visionaries of the day he relocated to the friendly climes of Las Vegas in the 1940s. Though not as well known today as others such as Wilbur Clark and Del Webb, Prell nonetheless, made an impact on Las Vegas.
Club Bingo opened on a rainy day, July 24th, 1947. In addition to the bingo parlor there were a few other games of chance but the Club Bingo had a reputation for fine food in its Bonanza Room. There were no hotel rooms, the Club Bingo was just a club for gambling, fine dining and they had a small showroom that showcased the talented Dorothy Dandridge, comedian Stan Irwin and the Treniers.
Milton Prell soon realized that the future of the Las Vegas Strip was in having a resort hotel that catered to the tourists swarming in from Southern California. That meant financing the building of a major hotel
Located on the east side of the Highway and directly across from the El Rancho Vegas, the Club Bingo had a prime location. In the years ahead, Prell would also build the Lucky Strike and the Mint Hotel on Fremont Street but it was the construction of the Sahara that led to the creation of the Sahara-Nevada Corporation which he would ultimately sell to Del Webb.
Prell approached Dallas financial wizard A. Pollard Simon with plans for 276 two-story units. Simon agreed to go ahead with the Sahara project despite the fact he was also helping finance Wilbur Clark’s Desert Inn. Local air-conditioning contractor Al Wild introduced Prell to Del Webb. Webb had just finished working on the Fabulous Flamingo. Wild had known Webb since 1935. Ultimately, according to Wild, Webb, Prell and Simon agreed to a “cost plus” arrangement that included a percentage of stock (20% it was later learned) in the new hotel be given to Webb as partial payment for his services.
The architect was Max Maltzmann and the designer was Albert Parvin. Maltzmann had been working in Los Angeles since the 1920s. Architecturally, according to Alan Hess, “the Sahara followed the basic partner of the Desert Inn and the Thunderbird. It featured a tall brick pylon at the entry which anchored the low wings that spun outward from its center like a pinwheel.” The motif was similar to the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix by Frank Lloyd Wright. There the sculptural elements of the textile block provided ornament. At the Sahara, the signage became the ornament.
The theme was North Africa. Statues of plastic camels and Arabs dotted the facade. Inside there was the Congo Room (the showroom), the Casbah Lounge and the Caravan Room. All that seemed to be missing was the Cafe Americain from Casablanca. Life-size models of African warriors, spears held high, flanked the Congo Room entrance. A nomadic caravan including camels was placed out front on the lawn.
The Caravan Room looked out over the pool terrace. Like all the other hotels back then, the Sahara was basically a motel in form. It had a low main building with a lobby and a casino in the front and the rooms to the sides. The glassy restaurants such as the Caravan Room looked out not only on the pool area but the well manicured and landscaped lawns. Lucius Beebe gushed “its twenty acres of landscaped ground with rare blossoms and shrubs to make even Boston’s Public Gardens look to its tulips” read more, virtually all about it with note-links, photos and more.
Visit the main pages of LasVegasBuffetClub.Com/
Associated Press 07.13.10, 02:58 PM EDT
Apparently the Riviera, Black Hawk Casino in the Colorado (made over) gaming town of Black Hawk is filing for Chapter 11 backruptcy along with it’s older sibling, The Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Nevada. The parent company is Riviera Holdings.
Here’s a story from Associated Press 07.13.10, 02:58 PM EDT
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas and Colorado casino owner Riviera Holdings Corp. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
Company subsidiaries Riviera Operating Corp. and Riviera Black Hawk Inc. also filed Monday for reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Las Vegas. They own the 2,075-room Riviera hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip and the Riviera Black Hawk in Colorado.
The filings say the planned restructuring is supported by holders of more than two-thirds of nearly $248 million in debt under a June 2007 senior credit facility.
That could let Riviera Las Vegas and Riviera Black Hawk continue to operate during the bankruptcy process.
The company reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission late last year that it was trying to restructure debt to avoid filing for bankruptcy.
Yea, probably a Chapter 11 Bankruptsy for the RIV. (YAWN)
Casinos rise and fall, make a lot of money, go bankrupt then miraculously reappear, feeling all better now.
In the meantime the small investors loose all their money, the employees get screwed and the fat cats at the top meet at steak houses and smoke cigars after dinner. Nothing wrong with steak houses or cigars (other than the obligatory PC reasons, like this) it’s just in the way they do it.
The RIV ain’t going anywhere unless it’s just to roll the properties over for new construction, or a fatter cat buys them out.
That’s just my opinion.