SLS Las Vegas to restore familiar Sahara identity with name change

Sahara Las Vegas Is Back
Alex Meruelo, founder of the Meruelo Group and owner of SLS Las Vegas, is flanked by showgirls during an event celebrating the return of the Sahara name to the SLS Las Vegas Thursday, June 27, 2019. Launch slideshow »
SLS Las Vegas is going back to the future.

The casino-hotel property announced Thursday night that it will switch its name to Sahara, which is what it was known as from 1952 to 2011.

The announcement took place following an elaborate fireworks and drone light show above the property’s outdoor pool area.

“Sahara is such a recognizable name,” said Paul Hobson, SLS’s general manager. “I drive to work every morning on Sahara Avenue. It’s a name that’s embedded in the city and in the lore of the city, but we’re not looking back so much as looking forward.”

Ownership of the resort on far north end of the Strip transferred last year to a company owned by businessman Alex Meruelo.

Once the new ownership group took over during spring 2018 — which is when Hobson came aboard — the idea of a name change was almost immediately floated, Hobson said.

“It was one of the first conversations we had,” Hobson said. “We landed on Sahara as being a very appealing option. A lot of people speculated that it was going to be Grand Sahara Resort because that would match Mr. Meruelo’s Grand Sierra Resort property in Reno. We just thought that Sahara, without any modifiers, was powerful.”

The moniker change is coupled with a $150 million renovation project that Meruelo said will take two to three years to complete. Meruelo said “every detail” of the property will be looked at during the process.

“I had a dream of owning a casino on Las Vegas Boulevard and, through a lot of hard work, that dream came true,” Meruelo said. “Vegas is a very special place. It’s always been great to me, and it’s in my DNA.”

Thursday night’s cutting-edge light show seemed to impress guests — among the throng were entertainers Nick Cannon and Eddie Griffin — as a small army of drones created images and spelled words in the sky, finishing with "Sahara."

The drone show was an Intel creation.

“That light show was phenomenal — I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cannon said.

Hobson said the resort will continue to operate as SLS for the next few months while the nuts and bolts of the renaming process are worked out.

“There’s a lot pieces and parts that will have to be installed,” Hobson said. “We’ll have to, of course, badge the exterior, so we have a massive sign and light project coming that should be done sometime in September or October. Once that’s done, we’ll start selling the property under the name Sahara.”

Meruelo’s group last month requested permission to change or add a number of signs to the Sahara name, according to documents filed with the Clark County Comprehensive Planning Department.

As part of the filing, the group requested permission for more than 114,000 square feet of signage space, which would be nearly a 10% increase from what the property has now.