Can the W Hotel Revitalize the North End of the Strip?


Photo by Jon Estrada

While it could be said that the area has struggled since July 17, 1960, when the Western-themed El Rancho Vegas disappeared in a spectacular inferno, I never lost faith in the so-called North Strip. Sure, the fire left the lot dark for decades—until MGM converted the site for Rock in Rio, first held in May. Yes, the recession-halted Fountainebleau remains incomplete. And the Sahara, which closed and remained dark for four years until Sam Nazarian found the money to remodel and reopen it as the SLS, continues to show poor numbers.

But given the rebounding fortunes of Downtown (one of the fastest-growing gambling markets in the U.S.), Steve Wynn’s center-Strip investments, the renovations at the Fashion Show and the strategic property acquisitions of MGM, the North Strip appears poised to recover, if not boom. The recent announcement that Starwood is bringing the luxe W Hotel brand to the SLS is further evidence of that. When the W opens in September 2016, it will hum with exactly the kind of travelers the SLS has courted from Day 1. Now all they have to do is refine the SLS itself so that it captures the W demographic.

Bonanza Gift Shop: Before and After

Last week’s question about The World’s Largest Gift Shop spurred additional comments and queries from readers. One thought Bonanza was on that corner before 1980, but no. It was preceded by Honest John’s casino (the southwest portion) and (in the corner) the Big Wheel Casino (hence the big round sign) and later, the Jolley Trolley (featuring tasty burgers and titillating shadow dancers, the perfect place for a two-martini lunch). Bonanza’s lease recently changed hands, and new operators are making changes that ruffle some locals, like removing the kitschy “If it’s in stock, we have it” marquee, and replacing the adult department (think The Hangover) with Kidzworld (think of the spectacular success of the MGM theme park …).

Another change? According the Clark County Assessor, the land below Bonanza had been held by various legal incarnations of the W.S. and Marjorie L. Robinson family from before 1972. On October 1, 2015, however, a new owner was recorded: PRE Sahara Square LLC. It would appear someone is positioning themselves to take advantage of the increasingly likely rebirth of the North Strip. As I said last week: It’s best to dig into (the changing landscape of) Bonanza Gifts today, for tomorrow it may be a drugstore. Or a high-rise. Or a kiddie park.