Say it Isn't So – Is the Riviera Getting Poised for a Swan Song?

There is a scary to think that riding up and down the strip that the Riviera is getting ready to close her doors for good. It true, that means the last of the old school hotels, and the first “high rise” to tower over Vegas will become just another chapter in Vegas history.

The Riviera has been sitting on the same block since 1955, when it first opened its doors to a much different Vegas. But there was big buzz before ground even broke for the new hotel-casino. Partially owned by two of the Marx brothers, the plan was to break free from the two story motel jobs that everyone else was doing, and build a real hotel tower that jetted up towards the sky.

This idea was so outlandish, that some suggested that the sand of the desert would not support a 10 story building with 291 rooms. Imagine that. But the 10 million was spent (that’s over 87 mil by today’s standards, chump change for the SLS Hotel guys who spent 415 million to build their resort last year) and the “mega” hotel was born.

And talk about old school, for the opening, the hotel hired Joan Crawford to meet and greet the first round of guests, and Liberace was the headliner along with his brothers. That’s a far stray from the music of Calvin Harris, who is headlining the Omnia nightclub when it opens for the first time on March 12th.

Getting By With the Help of Friends

Despite the high expectations, the Riviera struggled to stay in the black, prompting some big “bosses” in Chicago to call upon the skills of Gus Greenbaum to have a look. He’s the guy who helped take over the Flamingo after Bugsy Siegel was murdered and turned it into a money machine. Coming out of retirement with a bit of persuasion (a dead in-law is good incentive) Goldbaum returned to Vegas and despite some pressure from the gaming commission took over the reins and got the hotel on financial track. For his efforts he and his wife had their throats slashed in the winter of 1958.

The 1960’s were good on the hotel, who welcomed Barbra Streisand to Vegas for the first time and signed on Dean Martin as a headliner.  All the while the hotel kept adding towers and more rooms to keep up with the newer hotels being built along the strip. This consistent up-grading and adding popular talent is what has kept it going strong up until now.

While you can’t compare it to the luxury of the new SLS hotel or the Cromwell it still holds its place as a popular mid range hotel on the strip. And the only one where a 50 year logo still graces its pool. What makes the Riviera so unique is that it has held on to much of its past, even while growing with the times.

The Sale of the Riviera

Many Vegas publications reported that official sources have confirmed the sale of the Riviera. Not to another entity interested in holding on to the heritage with an updated hotel, but rather to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority who will use the space to expand the business district. That doesn’t sound like much fun.

Make a point to spend a few nights at this iconic landmark before it is gone. Touch your toes to the same pool tiles that Elvis once did, and be a small part of Vegas history that while slightly tainted is still a huge part of what sin city is today.

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