A stumbling economy has claimed another victim on the Las Vegas Strip. The two-tower, 1,720-room Sahara Hotel & Casino will close on May 16 amid funding woes that have temporarily stalled redevelopment plans.
Los Angeles-based owner SBE Entertainment Group will shutter the 59-year-old resort on 17.5 acres because continued operation is �no longer economically viable,� a company statement said. The closure will likely affect the bankrupt 3.9-mile Las Vegas Monorail, which has a passenger station at the Sahara. SBE and San Francisco-based private equity firm Stockbridge Real Estate Group bought the 27-story hotel-casino for $331.8 million in March 2007, as the real estate boom concluded.
High unemployment, rising inflation and reduced discretionary spending have delayed plans to �reinvigorate� the rundown Moroccan-themed hotel-casino. During its heyday, the Sahara hosted the Beatles and provided the location for the 1960 movie �Ocean�s Eleven.� Built by Del Webb, the hotel was last renovated in 2003. Room additions in Las Vegas have pushed occupancy down to 79% in January, or 15% less than three years ago, says the city.
However, a �complete renovation and repositioning� could still be in cards for the �historic property,� said the company. SBE last summer reached a forbearance agreement with its primary lender, Royal Bank of Scotland Group. In January, Los Angeles-based Colony Capital LLC made a $35-million investment in the project. The Sahara joins six other halted casino-resort projects along the Strip.