|By Steve Green, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 11, 2011--The owner of the Sahara hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip today announced plans to close the property on May 16.
"We are working with our partners to assess a variety of options for the property, including a complete renovation and repositioning," said a statement from Sam Nazarian, CEO of SBE Entertainment Group, which owns and operates the Sahara. "While no final decisions have been made at this point," Nazarian said, "the continued operation of the aging Sahara was no longer economically viable."
The property, which opened in 1952, has 1,720 rooms. Its closure will add to the woes of the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Riviera hotel-casino's parent company is in bankruptcy and the Fontainebleau casino-resort project remains stalled.
"We see the northern end of the Strip as the future of Las Vegas," Nazarian said in the statement. "With Las Vegas showing early signs of recovery, we are confident that we ultimately will find a creative and comprehensive new solution for this historic property."
Officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment on how many employees would be affected by the closure.
The Sahara said it has been working with MGM Resorts International on possible solutions for both customers and employees.
"SBE is fortunate to have a strategic relationship with MGM Resorts International. As a result, we will work together to try to find jobs for Sahara employees in cases where there are open positions in MGM Resorts' properties," added Nazarian. "We will also work with MGM Resorts to accommodate Sahara hotel and group customers with reservations following our closure."
The Sahara's human resources department will be working with team members through this transition. The Sahara plans to offer sessions with Nevada Job Connect and provide career counseling.
"We sincerely appreciate the service and dedication shown by the many Sahara team members over the decades," Nazarian said. "They have been the heart and soul of this iconic property. We thank them for their longstanding service."
SBE purchased the Sahara hotel-casino in March 2007 for a price estimated between $300 and $400 million. The Navegante Management Group operates the casino while SBE manages the hotel and restaurants.
SBE recently announced plans to rebrand and redesign the Fontana Bar at the Bellagio as Hyde Nightclub. MGM Resorts International had announced a partnership with its new players club card, M Life, and SBE that would allow guests to use the SB Preferred program at MGM resorts.
SBE operates four other hotels, including the SLS Hotel in South Beach, the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, the Four Points by Sheraton at the Los Angeles International Airport and Redbury in Hollywood. It also operates several nightclubs and restaurants in the Los Angeles area.
Sun reporter Amanda Finnegan contributed to this report.
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Copyright (c) 2011, Las Vegas Sun
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