1952: Milton Prell opens the Hotel Sahara with 240 rooms. The $5.5 million, Moroccan-themed resort is decorated with life-sized camels. Ray Bolger, the scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz,” headlines in the Congo Room until 1957.
1959: A 14-story tower is built, adding 200 rooms. A convention hall on the north side of the Sahara is added as well as a 127-foot sign. Comedian Don Rickles makes the first of many appearances in the Casbar lounge. George Burns also appears in the Casbar lounge.
1961: Del Webb acquires the Sahara through a stock transaction involving 1.5 million shares in the Del Webb Corp. valued at about $12 million. The Sahara adds a $5 million, 24-story skyscraper with 400 rooms, bringing its total to more than 800. A 44,000-square-foot convention facility is built at a cost of $3.5 million.
1969: Duke Ellington performs in the Casbar lounge.
1972: The Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon broadcasts from the Sahara. Charo headlines in the Congo Room.
1976: During the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, Frank Sinatra makes a surprise appearance to reunite Lewis with his former partner, Dean Martin.
1982: Paul Lowden buys the Sahara for $50 million.
1982 and 1983: Tina Turner performs in the Congo Room.
1988: A 26-story tower is added, bringing the room total to 1,500. Lowden expands the casino area and opens a new race and sports book.
1995: Bill Bennett buys the Sahara for $193 million, including 39 acres west of the Strip. Bennett begins a $100 million renovation, including bars, restaurants, rooms and swimming pools.
2000: Renovations completed. There are 1,720 hotel rooms. The casino is 50,000 square feet larger and a porte-cochère looks south toward the Wet ‘n Wild attraction. The NASCAR Cafe opens, featuring the Speed: The Ride roller coaster. The David Cassidy and Don Reo show, “The Rat Pack is Back,” opens in the Congo Room. It closes two years later.
2002: The Sahara turns 50. Charo opens her show “Bravo” in the Congo Room. Magician Steve Wyrick headlines in the Sahara Theater.
2007: SBE Entertainment and Stockbridge Real Estate buy the Sahara for between $300 million and $400 million.
2009: Illusionist Rick Thomas headlines for two years.