The history of the Tropicana Las Vegas, closing after 67 years


LAS VEGAS (AP) — From its lavish opening in 1957 on a Las Vegas Boulevard surrounded by wide-open desert, to its sleepier years amid a boom in megaresorts, the Tropicana Las Vegas has been a familiar landmark home to colorful events in a city known for constant reinvention.

Now it’s a jewel of Sin City’s past. After 67 years, the Strip’s third-oldest casino shut its doors for good on Tuesday. Demolition is slated for October to make room for a $1.5 billion Major League Baseball stadium for the relocating Oakland Athletics — part of Las Vegas’ latest rebrand as a hub for sports entertainment.

Take a look back on some key moments in the Tropicana’s vibrant history.

THE ‘TIFFANY OF THE STRIP’ DEBUTS

Before it opened on April 4, 1957, a sign erected at the Tropicana’s construction site on a dusty Las Vegas Boulevard teased that a “desert oasis” was coming.

When the Tropicana finally arrived, it was the most expensive and lavish casino on the Strip. Local newspaper reports from the time say more than 12,500 people attended the grand opening.

Nicknamed the “Tiffany of the Strip” for its opulence, the Tropicana cost $15 million to build. It was three stories with 300 rooms split into two wings, creating a footprint shaped like the letter “Y.”

Each room had a balcony. Between the resort’s wings was a half-moon pool surrounded by lush landscaping and towering palm trees.

A 60-foot (18-meter) tulip fountain greeted guests at the front when they arrived. Flags from different countries lined the casino’s entrance. There were mosaic tiles and mahogany-paneled walls throughout.

Later, the Tropicana underwent two major hotel expansions: The Tiffany Tower opened in 1979 with 600 rooms. It was renamed the Paradise Tower. In 1986, the Island Tower opened with 800 rooms.

THE MOB

Behind the scenes of the casino’s opening, the Tropicana had ties to the mob, largely through reputed mobster Frank Costello, according to Sin City historian Michael Green, who also serves on the board of The Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas.

Weeks after the Tropicana debuted, Costello was shot in the head in New York. He survived, but police found in his coat pocket a piece of paper with the Tropicana’s exact earnings figure. The note also mentioned “money to be skimmed” for Costello’s associates, according to a post on The Mob Museum’s website looking back on the Tropicana’s storied past.

By the 1970s, federal authorities investigating mobsters in Kansas City would charge more than a dozen mob operatives with conspiring to skim nearly $2 million in gambling revenue from Las Vegas casinos, including the Tropicana. Charges connected to the Tropicana alone resulted in five convictions.

THE FEATHERED SHOWGIRL

On Christmas Eve in 1959, the Tropicana debuted “Folies Bergere,” a topless revue imported from Paris and featuring what is now one of the most recognizable Las Vegas icons: the feathered showgirl.

During its nearly 50-year run, “Folies Bergere” featured elaborate costumes and stage sets, original music that at one time was played by a live orchestra, line dancers, magic…



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