Las Vegas Hotels – Then and Now

Las Vegas is all about illusion and transformation. While on the strip, and you’re walking past palm trees or through a lush tropical gardens, keep in mind that this is the result of some exceptionally creative landscaping. It wasn’t that long ago that this area was nothing but sand and cactus. The stark, barren desert provided the blank canvas for everyone from the first Spanish explorers, to Howard Hughes whose vision helped make Vegas what it is today.

Over the years, Las Vegas has seen a lot of change and most of these changes have been substantial. From the 22,500 acre Summerlin master planned community, to the mega-hotels on the Strip. When a Vegas developer begins a project, it often stakes a benchmark for future development, and each one is bigger and better than the next. This is particularly dramatic when new hotels are being constructed. Existing renovations are rare, and in most cases, the old must come down to replace the new.

The most common method of demolition is by implosion. Combine a few hundred pounds of dynamite, a small stage show and a few seconds later, no more hotel.

Here are some of the famous implosions featured on the Las Vegas strip over the years:

Oct. 27, 1993 – Dunes Hotel: Complete with an imposing 35 foot fibreglass sultan on its roof, the Dunes goes back to May 23, 1955. This desert-theme hotel was host to big name entertainers the likes of Frank Sinatra, and was the first club to offer the topless revue, Minsky’s Follies. After being purchased by a Japanese millionaire in 1987 for $155 million, Steve Wynn snagged it for a cool $75 million in 1993 and after imploding, used the property to develop what is known today as “Bellagio.”

Nov. 26, 1996 – Sands: Open on December 15, 1952, this was the site of the original Oceans 11 movie starring the rat pack. The Sands had many owners, but during the reign of Howard Hughes, the famous 500-room circular tower was added. The impressive Venetian Hotel has now replaced the Sands.

Dec. 31, 1996 – Hacienda: In spite of its proximity to the McCarran International Airport, the Hacienda had rough start and could never really compete with the larger resorts. It began as a modest 240 room hotel, and later expanded to 1,140 rooms, but remained closed for a couple years due to problems obtaining a gaming license. The Hacienda made a flashy exit on New Year’s Eve of 1997 and was replaced by the Mandalay Bay. Its famous neon horse and rider sign, lives on at the intersection of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard.

April 27, 1998 – Aladdin: Originating as the Tally-Ho, then the King’s Crown, the Aladdin was purchased and completely renovated for only $3 million dollars by Milton Prell. Probably its biggest claim to fame was hosting the wedding of Elvis & Priscilla Presley. After owner Prell suffered a stroke in 1972, he sold the hotel for $5 million. The new owners revamped the Aladdin, to the tune of $60 million, with the addition of a 19-story tower. After being imploded in 1998, a new and improved $1.4 billion Aladdin re-opened, but it too changed hands and is currently known as Planet Hollywood.

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