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These 2 Strip resorts, marking anniversaries, were affected by tragedies

Updated February 29, 2024 - 6:56 pm

Two Strip resort properties with connections to Las Vegas tragedies are observing significant anniversaries Saturday, but corporate owners aren’t planning any special events to mark them.

Representatives of Caesars Entertainment Inc. said nothing special is planned at The Cromwell, which will mark 45 years of operation on the northeast corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Farther south, MGM Resorts International has no celebrations planned for the 25th anniversary of the opening of Mandalay Bay.

A Caesars representative said a bigger observance may be in store at The Cromwell later in the spring when the 188-room property marks 10 years as a Caesars property on April 21.

Marketed as the Strip’s first boutique hotel, The Cromwell opened its doors March 2, 1979, as the Barbary Coast, built by Michael Gaughan on the site of what once was home of the Desert Villa motel, later Empey’s Desert Villa and the Times Square Motel.

Gaughan had to battle Caesars Palace, the Dunes, the Flamingo Hilton and the MGM Grand (which occupied the building now known as the Horseshoe), which complained that Gaughan’s project would create too much extra traffic for the area.

Gaughan convinced the Clark County Commission to issue a variance allowing him to build, and once the Barbary Coast opened March 2, 1979, it was a success that enabled Gaughan to form Coast Casinos.

The Barbary Coast held a place in history when Gaughan closed the property so it could be used as a relief center for survivors of the MGM Grand fire on Nov. 21, 1980.

Boyd Gaming Corp. acquired Coast Casinos and the Barbary Coast from Gaughan in 2004. Boyd eventually traded it to Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. for land near the Stardust for the eventual construction of Echelon Place — a project that never materialized.

Harrah’s, which became Caesars Entertainment, in 2007 renamed the property Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon in honor of company founder Bill Harrah.

As Caesars expanded, it opted to renovate Bill’s and in 2014, it was renamed The Cromwell.

Mandalay Bay’s history

Mandalay Bay, opened March 2, 1999, was the second of three luxury resorts opened within a one-year period, sandwiched between Bellagio, in October 1998, and The Venetian, in May 1999.

It was built on land formerly occupied by the Hacienda, which was imploded on New Year’s Eve 1996.

The 43-story, 3,200-room megaresort was built by Circus Circus Enterprises and was the third built by that company just south of Tropicana Avenue — Excalibur, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay.

Circus Circus Enterprises eventually was absorbed by MGM Mirage and finally MGM Resorts International.

It was one of the last big resorts built for under $1 billion. It also was one of the first to dedicate floors to another hotel company — the Four Seasons Hotel is on five floors in one of Mandalay’s towers.

With a South Seas tropical theme, Mandalay Bay’s swimming area includes a white-sand beach which also serves as a concert venue. Its Shark Reef aquarium is a popular tourist attraction.

The 12,000-seat Mandalay Events Center, opened in April 1999, was renamed the Michelob Ultra Arena in 2021 and is home to the Las Vegas Aces WNBA basketball team and the Las Vegas Desert Dogs lacrosse team.

The property expanded in 2003 with a new hotel tower — originally named THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, but later renamed Delano Las Vegas — and a convention center.

Also added that year was Mandalay Place, a retail outlet that connected the resort to Luxor.

Mandalay Bay was the scene of one of Las Vegas’ worst tragedies, the fatal shooting of 60 people from the 32nd floor of the hotel on Oct. 1, 2017.

Mandalay Bay’s proximity to Allegiant Stadium has made it a pre-game and post-game destination for Las Vegas Raiders games and was the closest resort venue to Super Bowl 58.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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