North Strip Businesses Bank on SLS Las Vegas' Arrival

LAS VEGAS - Big projects planned for the north end of the Las Vegas Strip came to a screeching halt when the recession hit. Now, some north Strip businesses hope the opening of SLS Las Vegas, formerly the Sahara, will bring new business to the oldest part of Las Vegas Boulevard.

El Rancho Vegas was the first hotel on the Strip in 1941. It's now an empty lot. Across the street, a demolition has been underway since Ivana Trump's proposed high-rise condo failed to get off the ground. The land was also the longtime home to Foxy's Firehouse and later the Holy Cow!

The Sahara, which sits across the street from the former Holy Cow! site is now dark, but if all goes as planned, the north Strip could be back in the game.

Visitors to Las Vegas say they're glad to see an iconic property like the Sahara get a major facelift and new identity. The property once hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra, the Beatles and Elvis Presley. When it reopens as SLS Las Vegas, businesses hope more tourists will flood the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

"So much action down there. Downtown's a lot of fun too. We've been walking between the two, so I could see things being successful along here," said Canadian tourist Matt Bayley.

Open for 31 years, Bonanza Gifts says the redevelopment of the Sahara is definitely welcome news at the "World's Largest Gift Shop".

"I think it's a great thing. We've been the only kid on the corner here for a year, and it would be nice to have neighbors and have somebody come back. It revitalizes everybody," said Bonanza Gifts manager Angie Hurt.

Hurt says business at Bonanza Gifts did not drop off when the Sahara closed. As the only free-standing gift shop on the Strip, it's a destination people visit. The more tourists venture up to this area, however, the better for our overall economy.

While SLS Las Vegas' opening would bring in more business, the north end of the Strip is still a long way from prosperity. The Fontainebleau and Echelon remain unfinished reminders of a time when Las Vegas seemed recession-proof.


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