Owners get funding to reopen Sahara on Vegas Strip

AP News
Posted: May 01, 2012 3:51 PM
Owners get funding to reopen Sahara on Vegas Strip

The owners of the shuttered Sahara casino on an aging stretch of the Las Vegas Strip say they've secured $300 million in funding to redevelop the iconic resort that once hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

Developer SBE and real estate firm Stockbridge Capital Group LLC said Tuesday they plan to open the property in 2014 under the name SLS Las Vegas.

"We see the northern end of the Strip as the future of Las Vegas, and we're pleased to be positioned at the forefront of that growth," said SBE CEO Sam Nazarian.

Owners say the resort will bring restaurants, nightlife and 1,600 guestrooms and suites to the Strip's north end, which includes the famed Stratosphere but has seen far less of the glitzy development that's re-energized the south end in the past decade.

The corridor went even darker in May 2011, when owners closed the Sahara after saying it wasn't economically viable. The casino featured a signature roller coaster and had operated for nearly 59 years.

Furniture and memorabilia inside were sold at a fire sale, and the Sahara sign was donated to a museum. Some speculated the building would be imploded before the owners presented redevelopment plans to the Clark County Commission in the fall.

The SLS Las Vegas will include three existing hotel towers, but two will be "stripped down to their skeletons," Nazarian told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. A low-rise hotel structure will come down, while a 2,500-space parking garage will remain.

Nazarian said construction could begin by the end of the summer.

SBE, a Los Angeles-based hospitality company that owns luxury SLS Hotels in Beverly Hills and is opening another in Miami, said it will incorporate some of the restaurant and nightclub brands it already operates in Southern California.

"With Los Angeles being Vegas' No. 1 feeder market, we're anticipating SLS Las Vegas will resonate powerfully with a clientele already familiar with our brand," Nazarian said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said the plans were good news for Nevada, which still has the nation's highest unemployment rate after the recession brought explosive growth to a crawl.

"Today's news will make an immediate and positive impact in Las Vegas, infusing hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy and creating thousands of jobs," he said in a statement. "I commend Sam and his partners for their confidence in our state."