Thursday will be the start of a new era in Las Vegas. Or the start of a new old era. Or the end of an era and the start an old one. I don’t know, none of this makes sense. What I am trying to say is that the SLS Las Vegas, which was originally the famed Sahara, will be officially re-naming itself back to the Sahara tomorrow.
“We’ll change the floors, the restaurants, bars, nightclubs, the theater the rooms… every detail whether it be small or large will change,” the property’s owner, Alex Meruelo, told Las Vegas’s 13 Action News in June.
The Sahara Hotel and Casino opened in October 1952, the sixth resort on the Las Vegas Strip. It was a stalwart of Las Vegas, a favorite casino of celebrities and the base for the “Rat Pack,” which included such legends as Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. The Sahara was the peak of class back in its heyday. When you envision mid-20th century Las Vegas, you think of the Sahara.
As the Strip became home to more and more sprawling, luxury mega casinos, the Sahara’s popularity waned. After changing hands multiple times, one of the turning points in the Sahara’s history was when it was purchased by William Bennett for $193 million in 1994. It was then that the property started to market itself more to mid-level gamblers and tourists who were looking for value.
The property was again sold in 2007 to Sam Nazarian and Stockbridge Real Estate Group. Things were already on a downward slope; it got so bad that the buffet and two hotel towers were closed in December 2009 because holiday demand just wasn’t there.
In March 2011, Nazarian announced that the Sahara would close in two months, saying that, “the continued operation of the aging Sahara was no longer economically viable.”
The casino and hotel closed on May 16, 2011.
A bit more than three years later, the property was re-opened after a $415 million renovation and renamed SLS Las Vegas. The name stands for “style, luxury, and service,” a massive attempt to try to be clever, if you ask me. The Meruelo Group acquired SLS in April of last year.
On June 27, Meruelo hosted a celebration to announce the rebranding back to Sahara; the property will be officially called Sahara Las Vegas starting tomorrow.
As part of the rebranding, a brief ceremony was held for the removal of the 32-foot “Sam by Starck” statue on Tuesday night. The statue was designed by Phillipe Starck as a tribute to Sam Nazarian. The new lounge has also been named Casbar Lounge as a throwback to the Sahara’s old music venue. The new Sahara will not go back to the former Moroccan theme, though. And while the old will become new again tomorrow, changes will continue to take place throughout next year.