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SAHARA Las Vegas makes official return to Strip

30 August 2019

By Gary Trask
The iconic Sahara name is back on the Las Vegas Strip.

The iconic Sahara name is back on the Las Vegas Strip. (photo by SAHARA Las Vegas)

The iconic Sahara name is back on the Las Vegas Strip, but in the minds of many, it never actually left.

“We got a lot of feedback from a lot of people who told us they never stopped calling it Sahara,” Rachel Hunt, VP of marketing of the newly revealed SAHARA Las Vegas, told Casino City with a laugh. “A lot of our research indicated that the Sahara name had so much equity, in many ways almost more than when it did before it disappeared for a while.

“It’s safe to say people are more than excited to see the name officially return.”

For nearly six decades, the hotel-casino with the camel-themed signage and domed roof was a staple of the Strip. Three years after the quintessential Las Vegas property closed in 2011, SLS Las Vegas opened in its place on the same space at the north end of the Strip, with an all-new look and feel.

In April 2018, the Meruelo Group purchased SLS and immediately started making plans for a $150 million renovation and refresh. Just a few months ago, it was announced with great fanfare that the property would be rebranded to SAHARA Las Vegas , and on Thursday, less than 48 hours after the 32-foot-tall Sam by Starck statue at the SLS entrance was destroyed and removed, it became official.


“There aren’t many properties left on the Strip where you have this kind of history,” said Hunt, who came on board just as Meruelo Group took over. “As the city continues to grow and we have all of these mega-resorts, I think people still like to be nostalgic and romanticize about how things used to be. For people who have been in this town for a long time, they feel like this is one of the brands they grew up with. And even people who never saw or visited the original Sahara, they still connect that name and that brand with vintage Las Vegas.”

The changes over the last 10 months have been dramatic, and are far from completed. The 60,000-square-foot casino floor has a more welcoming design, with a finished ceiling featuring upgraded lighting and new carpeting. With a nod to the original Sahara's renowned live music venue, the 24-hour CASBAR lounge opened in May, with elevated seating areas right off the casino floor.

“It’s very modern and more in style with the kind of lounge area you used to see in casinos all over Las Vegas, but are really hard to find these days,” Hunt added. “There’s no cover charge. We have live entertainment Thursday through Saturday. Just a great place to have a drink, meet up with friends and watch the world go by.”

Also this week, a new high-limit lounge called Infinity was unveiled, boasting a variety of high-limit table games including baccarat, roulette, six-deck shoe and double deck blackjack; five bartop poker machines; and 40 premium gaming machines. The design is elegant, with custom spiral-patterned glass mosaic walls accentuated with “rich ruby, plum and violet shades offset with champagne and gold,” according to a press release. The imported elephant-textured, gold glass panels and gold backlit weaved metal accent walls provide “a complex interplay of concentric circles in precious colors and subtle shade changes.”

A new poker room, located off the main casino floor, is expected to open later next year, along with a refreshed hotel lobby with a state-of-the-art hotel registration system and a lounge. The design includes floor inlays inspired by lamps from the original Sahara, and a Starbucks will also open near registration.

“The property was renovated recently (before it opened in 2014) but that project was done with a very specific taste and look and it didn’t necessarily work well for the prior ownership,” Hunt said. “We wanted to make our own mark and really brighten up the place. When you come into the casino now you notice a huge difference in terms of warmth and brightness. We removed the industrial feel and dark nightclub look.

"Our owners believe in the night club concept, but it belongs in the night club, not the casino floor.”

The Blanca and Marra hotel towers feature fully remodeled rooms, updated elevator lobbies and room corridors. The Alexandria Tower also offers a private valet entrance and dedicated hotel check-in.

Once pool season ends, the entire pool deck will undergo a yearlong project that will include the addition of a two-story, 18,500-square-foot combination nightclub, lounge and theatrical space.

In July, Derek Tadashi Morishita joined the team as the new director of restaurants, overseeing operations for the resort’s dining establishments, including the award-winning Bazaar Meat by José Andrés and Uno Más, a casual, authentic Mexican venue.

“Even under prior ownership, we had such a great reputation for food and beverage,” said Hunt. “We want to continue to invest in that and be known for having a wide variety of quality offerings.

“The property has such amazing bones to it. The future is really about having everything under one roof and provide all of the things that a mega resort offers, but with a boutique property feel. You won’t feel overwhelmed when you walk in, you’ll feel welcomed.”

Owner Alex Meruelo echoed Hunt’s remarks in a statement, saying, “At SAHARA Las Vegas, guests will be greeted with a warm, customized experience set within a fully modern, dynamic resort. We know guests come to Las Vegas to create memories, and we plan to help them do just that in a beautifully curated, intimate resort experience with personalized services that make everyone feel special.”
 

Top 10 reasons to visit The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod

19 August 2019
The iconic Stratosphere Las Vegas has rebranded and is now called The STRAT Hotel, Casino and SkyPod. (photo by Gary Trask)LAS VEGAS -- For more than two decades, the main draw at the far north end of the Las Vegas Strip has been the 1,149-foot structure with the iconic 148-foot “needle” at the top. ... (read more)
 

Top 10 Mississippi Gulf Coast casino updates, openings and expansions

5 August 2019
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North Carolina legalizes sports betting

29 July 2019
Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 154 into law on Friday. (photo by NCDOTcommunications)Sports betting became legal at two tribal casinos in North Carolina owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians after Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 154 into law on Friday. North Carolina becomes the 19th U.S. ... (read more)

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Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT