8 things about Las Vegas you’ll have to explain to the kids later

Considering how rapidly Las Vegas changes, there are some experiences in the city that many locals’ kids and grandchildren will never get to have. Here are some things about Las Vegas that a long-time local would have to explain to the kids one day:

Sitting “Gucci Row” at a UNLV Basketball game didn’t come from a Drake song

Long before the rapper known as Drake was ever born, sitting “Gucci Row” to watch the Runnin’ Rebels play was a reality.

According to a past Review-Journal article, during the coaching career of “Tark the Shark” — Jerry Tarkanian — at UNLV, tickets to attend UNLV’s basketball games were in such high demand that the front row, arguably the best seats in the house, earned the impressive (and expensive) nickname. 

After the passing of “Tark” earlier this year, it’s likely you will have to explain not only who Tark was, but what those seats mean.

The Strip used to have two theme parks

There was once a time when Las Vegas Boulevard was home to two theme parks: Wet ‘n’ Wild and the MGM Grand Adventure Theme Park.

Although Wet ‘n’ Wild was hugely popular — and recently reopened across town, MGM Grand Adventure Theme Park didn’t fair as well. As Theme Park Investigator notes, the movie-themed park had a steep admission price for the time — $25 — and had few rides.

Expansion of the hotel led to the park’s demise and condos now sit on the former site of the park, the blog said.

If you can’t figure out where they would fit among all the casinos and convenience stores lining the street now, look towards the SLS, Turnberry Towers, and The Residences at MGM, the RJ noted.

Wet ‘n’ Wild sat between the now-SLS (formerly Sahara), Turnberry Towers and the stalled Fontainebleau project.

Slot players used to carry around plastic buckets

When you walk through the floor of a casino, you’re almost guaranteed to see players sitting with a bungee-like cord that attaches them and their player’s card to the machine. However, that wasn’t always a common sight.

Before casinos became as tech-savvy as they are today, players would be seen toting around plastic buckets that were used to collect their winnings. When it came time to cash out, instead of just receiving a paper ticket that is redeemed via a bill-breaker machine, the machine would dispense winnings out the bottom of the slot machine.

Players would gather all of their winning coins from the dispenser and carry them around in the plastic buckets. Some older machines can be found dispensing tokens and coins, but if your kid sees it happening in an older movie, they’ll probably wonder what’s going on.

If you want to get a blast from the past, the RJ reported a few years ago that some casinos still offer retro games.

Treasure Island was once pirate-themed

You’d be hard-pressed to spot any pirate-related items inside the casino now, but when Treasure Island opened in 1993 it was like walking on the set of a pirate film. To top it off, the resort (for a long time) featured a nightly family-friendly pirate ship battle show, Buccaneer Bay. 

Once resorts on the Strip began to shift from away from designating themes to each casino, Buccaneer Bay was removed from Treasure Island.

Because they still had the space out front on Las Vegas Blvd., they replaced the show with a more mature “Sirens” show, the RJ reported, which ran until 2013 when it was announced it would be replaced by a shopping center.

Off-Strip casinos and malls aren’t an old idea 

As convenient as the Santa Fe, Red Rock, Aliante, Green Valley Ranch, Texas Station, Suncoast, Sunset Station and South Point are, locals didn’t always have the luxury of a casino close to home. 

When the Santa Fe came to the northwest valley in 1990, according to a past Review-Journal article, locals could start placing wagers, playing slot machines and eating at fancy restaurants all without traveling to the Strip.

As many can recall, when the first locally-focused casino movie theater opened at the Santa Fe, it wasn’t actually on the property. Although it was named the “Santa Fe Movie Theater,” the megaplex was actually down the street from the casino.

People used to dress to the nines when attending shows

During the days when Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack were the most sought-after shows on the Strip, rather than nightclub DJs, in most cases, people wore their “Sunday’s best” attire when they attended a show. 

Today, it’s not unusual for major acts to not require a dress code, and at Las Vegas shows you’ll find outfits rangin from black-tie to jeans.

Sports ventures aren’t a new topic in Las Vegas 

Although Las Vegas has never been home to a major league sports team, we still have a long history of sports in the valley.

Prior to the Las Vegas 51’s minor league baseball team (a AAA affiliate with the New York Mets), Las Vegas was home to the Las Vegas StarsBefore the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey team, the city was home to the Las Vegas Thunder, both minor league hockey teams.

Along with the Las Vegas Motor Speedway being home to numerous NASCAR events, long-time Las Vegans can recall Formula One racing at the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in the 1980s (described by F1 Fanatic as one of the worst courses in history).

The legacy of MGM-Bally’s

We can go down the Strip and name all the casinos that no longer exist or have changed names over the years — Riviera, Aladdin, the Sahara, just to name a few — including the transition from the first MGM to the now Bally’s. 

Most kids today aren’t aware that MGM hasn’t always been located at it’s current spot on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd. South and Tropicana Avenue.

Up until 35 years ago, when the original MGM Grand caught on fire — which the Clark County Fire Department noted, became as the second largest life-loss hotel fire in U.S. history — the casino was housed on the site of what would become Bally’s. 

The November 1980 fire, which investigators told the Review-Journal was started by an electrical ground fault, killed 85 people and left over 700 injured.

With the flames burning at a rate of approximately 15 to 19 feet per second, the fire had engulfed the entire casino floor area within six minutes of the time of discovery, CCFD reported.

According to UNLV’s Digital Library, the fire-stricken MGM Grand underwent a major remodel and became Bally’s in 1985. Eight years later in 1993, MGM Grand Las Vegas opened one block south of the original, where it still remains today.

Contact Caitlin Lilly at clilly@reviewjournal.com. Find her on Twitter: @caitiesmith

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