weather icon Partly Cloudy

SLS to officially make change to Sahara Las Vegas on Thursday

Updated August 28, 2019 - 4:59 pm

The SLS Las Vegas is returning to the hotel-casino’s roots. After operating under the name SLS for five years, the property is circling back to the iconic Sahara name, starting Thursday.

The 1,720-room property on the corner of the Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue is undergoing a major rebranding effort that includes the name change to Sahara Las Vegas and $150 million in renovations. According to experts, this transformation could be a major boon to the property.

“The Sahara brand meant something a while back,” said Michael Green, UNLV associate professor of history. “(It could) mean something again.”

History of the property

The property has a storied history in Las Vegas, Green said.

The Moroccan-themed hotel-casino originally opened with only 240 rooms in 1952, costing $5.5 million.

“The Sahara had a little extra appeal for Las Vegans at the time,” Green said. “It was the beginning of the Strip. … It tried to be thematic in its approach, which was a little different at the time.”

The property became a Las Vegas icon as it continued to grow, hosting major talent such as the Rat Pack, Tina Turner and The Beatles.

But the good times didn’t last forever. Things slowed down on the north end of the Strip in the mid-1990s as megaresorts continued to sprout farther south, Green said.

“The entire north end of the Strip, and this is not limited to the Sahara, couldn’t — or didn’t — keep up,” Green said. “It’s a reminder that … the newer properties have to be here for the Strip to succeed. The older properties are not what people always want to see.”

In 2011, three years after it was bought by SBE Entertainment and Stockbridge Real Estate, the property closed for renovations. The next time its doors would open in 2014, the property went by a new name: SLS Las Vegas.

Ownership switched hands once again in 2018 when the Meruelo Group agreed to purchase the property for an undisclosed price.

Rebranding impact

Sahara spokesman Christopher Abraham said the SLS brand never resonated with the Las Vegas audience.

“Our guests weren’t certain what it stood for or the type of experience they would have once they got here,” he said via email. “SAHARA is an iconic Las Vegas brand that is already known worldwide, and the name will allow us to significantly expand our market reach to engage multiple demographics that will appreciate the intimate, unexpected experience SAHARA Las Vegas offers.”

Green said the name change could boost the property’s business, especially if it’s trying to attract a younger audience.

“There is a lot of nostalgia for the older Las Vegas,” Green said. “Younger demographics like the idea of the old Las Vegas with new amenities.”

This comes as the hotel-casino faces more competition, with more properties emerging on the north side of the Strip.

Less than a mile north on Las Vegas Boulevard, the STRAT is close to completing $140 million in renovations. Also nearby are Resorts World and Drew Las Vegas, set to open in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

“My guess is (the Sahara is) going to capitalize on a classic name ahead of a wave of new development coming their way,” said Brent Pirosch, director of gaming consulting services for CBRE’s Global Gaming Group. “We tend to tear things down and build new in Las Vegas. A classic name might get people to come and visit and see what’s going on.”

Abraham said while the new name pays homage to the property’s history, the renovations will add a new spin.

“We are creating an entirely new resort,” he said. “Anyone walking into SAHARA Las Vegas will find a completely modern, boutique resort experience.”

The property is updating its casino floor, rooms, hotel lobby and more. It has also introduced a new Casbar Lounge, named after a historic live-music venue that hosted stars such as comedian Don Rickles and entertainer Duke Ellington.

“All properties are engaging in some form of refreshment or renovation to stay competitive,” Pirosch said. “Renovations … are all a part of the cost of doing business here.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
North Las Vegas company prepares for Mars - VIDEO
Robert Bigelow and his Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility played host to eight NASA astronauts and 60 engineers this week getting to know the company’s B330 autonomous, expandable space station. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas developer talks about a new apartment complex called “the yoU”
Frank Marretti lll, founder of G2 Capital Development, talks about his new apartment complex called “the yoU” near UNLV. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Steel cables will hoist roof at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Stainless steel cables are being put into place at Allegiant Stadium to begin the process of putting the roof on the 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas. Stadium Chief Operating Officer Don Webb explains how the cables will be used to get the roof put on the future home of the Raiders and UNLV football. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The last remaining Sigma Derby game in Las Vegas
Derek Stevens, owner of the D Las Vegas, talks about the last remaining Sigma Derby horse racing game in Las Vegas inside his casino floor. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich Review
Janine Blake of Las Vegas gives her review of the new Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich at the restaurant’s location on west Bonanza Road on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019,
SuperZoo 2019 takes over Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas
SuperZoo 2019 show for pet retailers brought pet products of all description to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Favorite products from SuperZoo 2019
Some of the fun and interesting pet products on display at the SuperZoo in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Convention Day 3
The fashion trade show MAGIC, held Monday through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Las Vegas - Day One
The biannual MAGIC convention show opened Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant celebrates naming deal with tailgate party
Allegiant Air employees celebrate with a tailgate party after the company’s naming deal with the Raiders for the new Las Vegas stadium.
Nevada's sportsbook operators welcome competition
Sportsbook operators from near and far are looking to get into in the established Nevada market, experts say. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
There's a new place to play board games in Las Vegas
Matt Smiciklas, co-owner of Boarding School Games, talks about the new Las Vegas business that he co-owns with Emily Labejof. Dedicated tabletop gamers can choose from more than 500 games to play for free in-store. The doors open to the public Saturday, July 20, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Renovations at the STRAT
Analysts say the $140 million renovation project at The STRAT, formerly the known as the Stratosphere, could help the hotel-casino compete with the evolving north side of the Las Vegas Strip. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
SLS Las Vegas will become Sahara Las Vegas
Owner Alex Meruelo announced during a special event at the SLS Las Vegas that the hotel-casino will become Sahara Las Vegas in its next iteration. Meruelo said $150 million dollars will be spent to renovate the current property. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Aircraft hinge maker moves to "business friendly" Nevada
Doug Silva, president of Aircraft Hinge, Inc. in Las Vegas, makes every type of hinge for every type of airplane. Silva talks about his company and why he moved it to Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Daytime fireworks mark the opening of Encore Boston Harbor
The opening of the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Mass. included a three-minute fireworks show launched by Fireworks by Grucci Sunday, June 23, 2019. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @RickVelotta
Elaine Wynn talks about the opening of Encore Boston Harbor
Elaine Wynn, co-founder and largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts, talked during opening festivities of the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Mass. Sunday, June 23, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
People line hours ahead of opening for Encore Boston Harbor
Guests arrive as much as 17 hours early for the 10 a.m. opening of the $2.6 billion, 671-room resort in Everett, Mass. Sunday, June 23, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @reviewjournal.com
Allegiant Discusses Investments In Golf Course Software And Game Rooms - Video
Allegiant Discusses Investments In Golf Course Software And Game Rooms.
Crews working 24/7 to complete Circa downtown - VIDEO
Owner Derek Stevens goal is to open the doors to the 1.25 million-square-foot project by December 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Jersey casinos woo bettors with new sportsbooks

Now in its second year of allowing sports betting, the state has seen sports wagering surpass expectations, and Atlantic City casinos are upping their game with new sportsbooks.