New Year, New Vegas
Exciting changes reenergize the north Strip.


Almost everyone has a story about Las Vegas’ iconic Sahara Hotel. Abbott and Costello appeared together for the very last time on Sahara’s lounge stage in 1956, and The Beatles stayed at the hotel in 1964 when they first performed in Las Vegas. Over the years, dozens of other performers and celebrities walked through the doors of the Sahara Hotel, so when its doors closed for good in May 2011, it really was the end of an era.

In the years leading up to the Sahara’s closing, attention had already shifted mid-Strip, where new properties were opened or renovated and foot traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard was heaviest, and the north end of The Strip was practically a ghost town.

With the Aug. 23, 2014, opening of SLS Las Vegas in the Sahara’s footprint and the May 2015 opening of the MGM Resorts Festival Grounds across the street, things seem to be changing, and the north Strip may be poised for a renaissance.


Those familiar with the Sahara will notice nods to the past when they walk into SLS Las Vegas, a resort by the hospitality brand sbe. The property’s nightclub, LiFE, is housed in the former showroom and the tiered seating and exposed catwalks have been left intact.

The elevated DJ stage is where the Rat Pack used to perform. Throughout SLS, the carpeting features scenes from the Vegas of years past. However, despite sitting in the Sahara footprint, the 1,620-room property is al- most completely new. With a $415-million renovation under its belt, SLS feels fresh with tasteful graffiti covering the walls and quirky design elements such as monkeys entwined in the logo, crocodile heads hanging on the walls, and chandeliers made out of antlers. The property’s unique design is the work of world-renowned French designer Philippe Starck.

Nightlife is the big draw, with three different venues. SLS introduced Sayer’s Club—a popular performance lounge in Los Angeles—to the Las Vegas market when Lenny Kravitz performed opening night. LiFE nightclub is trendy with aerialists who hang suspended above the dance floor and table seating, while Foxtail—a 10,000-square-foot lounge that opens to the pool—has an edgier vibe.

Award-winning chef José Andrés is the culinary director at SLS, leading the resort’s restaurants that rival anything else found on the Strip. Bazaar Meat is a high- end steakhouse, but there are also several mid-range options including Griddle Café—a breakfast favorite complete with scratch-and-sniff wallpaper. Umami Burger breaks tradition and serves as both a sports book and a beer garden, with out- door seating perfect for people watching.

French designer Philippe Starck is responsi- ble for the playful, evocative style of the SLS. Artistic photos liven up an elevator; French designs complete the property’s Lux tower rooms; and whimsical touches, like monkeys, are everywhere. “Everywhere you put your eyes, there will be a subtle surprise, some- thing that will open your mind, will open your eyes,” Starck recently said.


SLS Las Vegas

2535 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89109, 702-737-2111



The Umami Burger beer garden is practical- ly front-row seating for the concerts and events coming to MGM Resorts Festival Grounds. The 49-acre space opens with the City of Rock, an open-air concert infrastructure custom-made to host the inaugural Rock in Rio USA music festival. The massive music and entertainment venue will be equipped to receive about 80,000 people each day of the two-weekend event, which features rock musicians including headliners No Doubt, Metallica, and Linkin Park on May 8-9, and pop musicians such as Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Bruno Mars May 15-16.

The City of Rock will have five stages, including a main stage; and an electronic dance music stage; streetscapes representing the United States, Brazil, and the United Kingdom; and amusement park rides, all set against a backdrop of international food, music, and art.

While the City of Rock and Rock in Rio USA are opening the MGM Resorts Festival Grounds with full gusto, this is just the first of many events MGM Resorts International plans to host in this space. “Part of the reason we’re developing that site is to attract new events that will drive additional tourists and guests to Las Vegas,” says Chris Baldizan, senior vice president of entertainment at MGM Resorts International.

Las Vegas has become an increasingly popular destination for festivals, and with a goal of holding six to eight events on the grounds per year, this piece of property holds immense potential for the north end of The Strip. MGM Resorts International has owned this land for many years, and the timing of the construction is coincidental but well-suited to the bigger picture of development in the area in general.

“The more activity there is on the north end of The Strip, the more that site will benefit, and the more that we do on that site, other properties around the north end will benefit as well,” Baldi- zan says. “We really feel this is going to be a great addition to The Strip and to Las Vegas in general.”


SLS Las Vegas and MGM Resorts Festival Grounds may be the first to kick-start the north Strip renaissance, but other projects are expected to join them in the coming years.

  • Genting Group’s $4 billion Resorts World, located slightly south of SLS Las Vegas, is expected to begin construction in the fall and open in phases over the next two to three
  • Billionaire James Packer has acquired controlling interest of the former Frontier site and, in partnership with former Wynn presi- dent Andrew Pascal, plans to build a new resort in the space with construction beginning in 2015.
  • Cunningham Group has released details of its plan to build All Net Resort and Arena—a 44-story resort with a multi-purpose arena— which is scheduled to open in 2017.

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