Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of Las Vegas’ newest hotel and casino, the luxurious SLS Las Vegas. The event attracted a guest list of who’s who in Nevada and beyond, including appearances from international celebrities, professional athletes and elected officials, from Cindy Crawford to Jermaine Jones to Emilio Estefan to Congresswoman Dina Titus.
The diverse and distinguished crowd was fortunate enough to witness the mark of several important developments: Not only did they attend the SLS Las Vegas’s long-awaited debut and experience the rebirth of one of Las Vegas’s most storied properties – they also joined in celebrating a landmark that has kicked off several projects ushering a desperately needed economic boost to an area of the Strip long left neglected.
SLS Las Vegas is the product of a $415 million renovation of the legendary Sahara Hotel and Casino, once a favorite of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the like. But like its luminaries, in the decades that followed the Sahara struggled to stay afloat. In 2006, Sam Nazarian, chairman, founder and CEO of SBE, bought the property and spent years investing in its success, to little avail. Yet instead of tearing the historic casino down for good when its doors closed in 2011, he chose to revamp it and build SLS.
Now open, SLS Las Vegas includes 1,620 guest rooms and suites, 80,000 square feet of meeting and convention space and various restaurants and nightclubs. At a time when local unemployment has hovered around 9 percent for years, this project created 8,600 new jobs, according to SLS President and COO Rob Oseland. Even with construction ending, 3,400 of those jobs will continue – as full-time, permanent employment, a boon for our state’s job seekers.
The transformation of SLS Las Vegas has also triggered much-needed economic growth in the northern end of the Strip, which has for years been left abandoned in disrepair. Across the street of the northern side of SLS, a large Walgreens store is under construction. To its west, on 33 now-vacant acres, MGM Resorts plans to erect an open-air, year-round concert venue. South along the Strip, Malaysia-based Genting Berhad will soon begin construction on the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas. Just recently, Australian billionaire James Packer bought majority ownership in the old Frontier site, with plans to build a new hotel-casino there. Behind SLS, the former Las Vegas Hilton and LVH has been purchased and given new life by Westgate Resorts. Next door to the south, in the old Wet n’ Wild water park, a sports arena has been proposed.
And it all started with the grand opening of SLS Las Vegas – a breath fresh air that has helped kick-start a development boom. The opening of SLS Las Vegas and the overhaul of its surrounding area promises to boost the local and state economy, create thousands of well-paying jobs and give locals more options for food, gambling and entertainment – and keep Las Vegas the #1 tourist destination in the world.