Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014 | 3:02 a.m.
SLS Las Vegas grand opening/Christopher Rauschnot @24KMedia on Twitter
After eight years and a $1.2 billion investment ($800 million for the Sahara and $400 million for the renovation), Sam Nazarian, the founder, chairman and CEO of SBE, the parent company of SLS Las Vegas, ended a Friday-morning news conference at his new Strip casino resort with the following instruction: “Let’s go have some fun!”
In the hourlong gathering led by SLS President and COO Rob Oseland, who was onstage with Nazarian and financier Terry Fancher of Stockbridge at the former site of the Conga Room in the Sahara, the north-end-of-the-Strip property was introduced at Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue with multiple thanks and praise.
Oseland, who was a guest columnist in July, in his opening remarks called SLS a “catalyst for investment on the north end of the Strip,” praised Gov. Brian Sandoval and Steve Hill, the executive director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, for their commitment and persistence, and said that SLS employs 3,400 people and started as a grass-roots effort in a depressed area that is now one of opportunity and the “doorstep to downtown.”
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani quipped that SLS stood for Sipping Liquor Slowly, said that she lived 1 mile away and would be at SLS often, talked of two projects in the area (one of them Rock in Rio) and deemed SLS “the jewel on the Strip” in praising it bringing economic vibrancy to the area. With a Key to the Strip, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak and Giunchigliani declared Aug. 23, 2014, as SLS Day, with Sisolak deeming SLS as Service Luxury Style and revitalizing the area.
Oseland praise contractor Penta for finishing SLS — a renovation of the bones of the Sahara — on budget and a few days early. Beth Campbell of design firm Gensler said that SLS “embraced the maverick spirit” of Las Vegas. KT Corp. designed the digital and automated art installations. Paul Blum of Fred Segal, who has 30 years of creating retail experiences, said that the seven Fred Segal outlets at SLS are “authentic and individual places” and that SLS is “a series of experiences.”
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful day,” Fancher said as he took the podium. He praised the historic Sahara, which opened in 1952, and said that it fell into disrepair when it lacked money, freshness and ideas. Despite the worst recession Las Vegas had ever seen in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Fancher said SLS succeeded because of “the great heart of the Sahara.” Stockbridge owns 90 percent of SLS.
Fancher said that they aimed to make SLS affordable and approachable and had reasonable goals for its success. Congresswoman Dina Titus, the “mama of the project,” was praised for her friendship and council and in returned praised SLS for its leadership, faith and investment in the heart of her District 1. “Las Vegas is coming back, and SLS is a great community partner,” Titus said, who revealed that veterans were sought as employees. “You are indeed legendary,” Titus said.
Sen. Harry Reid deemed Fancher and Nazarian an all-star team and shared an anecdote about Steve Wynn, “who has an ego that we all admire” — when Wynn asked Nazarian what SLS stood for, Nazarian replied, “Sam Loves Steve.” Of SLS, Reid said, “This area needed a shot in the arm, and this is the shot in the arm.” He said SLS is “a good, important part of the new Las Vegas” and praised chef Jose Andres, who has Bazaar Meat and Ku Noodle at SLS — “this man is a champion.”
Nazarian was the last to take the stage, and he thanked Reid and the room of dignitaries and cited Wynn, Sheldon Adelson, Jim Murren and Alex Yemenidjian as supporters and leaders he admired. He said that Murren and Wynn had emailed him Friday morning saying that they were rooting for SLS. He said that SBE has an obligation to give back to the community.
“SLS is the flagship for us, and we are going to give back more than we take,” Nazarian said. “Now let’s go have some fun!”
Friday also included tours of SLS and a round-table discussion before the grand-opening celebration. SBE Senior VP of Restaurant Operations Matt Erickson led a tour of SLS’ restaurants and nightlife venues — the buffet, Bazaar Meat, Ku Noodle, Cleo, Katsuya, Umami Burger and Beer Garden, Griddle Cafe, Life Nightclub, The Sayers Club and Foxtail — and impressively greeted many employees by first name during the tour.
Exiting the grand-opening party — where George Maloof, Victor Drai, Mio Danilovic, Rick Fox, Brittany Snow, Sabina Kelley, Rick Moonen, Elizabeth Blau and many more were spotted — after the fireworks at midnight, when SLS opened to the public early this morning, the line of foot traffic was around the block to enter SLS, and traffic on I-15 N was at a standstill starting at Flamingo to exit at Sahara.
Check back later today for a report from the grand-opening celebration and photographs, including the star-studded red carpet Friday night.
Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.