The Riviera Hotel and Casino was the first high-rise on the Las Vegas Strip, opening in 1955 with Liberace serving as the ribbon cutter and first resident performer. “The Riv” closed its doors 60 years later in 2015 and is finally set to be imploded later this year.
There has not been an implosion in Vegas since the New Frontier went down in 2007 just south of where The Riviera lived on the Strip. The Riviera had more than 2,100 rooms and was an iconic casino in Sin City, also featuring one of the most famous topless shows called “Crazy Girls” that saw its run end when the lights went out.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recently approved the implosion of the Riviera’s two hotel towers at a cost of $42 million. Each tower will have separate implosions in June and August, with the space cleared eventually being used for the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center that resides across the street on Paradise Road.
Asbestos found in the Monte Carlo Tower needs to be removed before the implosion and increased the amount needed to demolish the hotel by $5 million.
The Riviera was originally built in four phases at a total cost of $38 million between 1954 and 1975. The first phase was the construction of the Mediterranean North Tower, which was nine stories tall and had 291 rooms for $10 million. The second and third phases added the 12-story, 420-room Mediterranean South Tower, completed in 1968 for $8 million.
The fourth and final phase was the Monte Carlo Tower, with 17 floors and 361 rooms for $20 million. The cost will end up being higher to implode the Riv than what it took to build it, not including any additional debt accrued through bankruptcies.
The LVCVA purchased the Riv and the surrounding land for $182.5 million in 2015 and will be building the Las Vegas Global Business District on the site as part of the Convention Center’s bigger expansion project. This prime real estate should continue to revive a downtrodden area of the Strip that also saw the Sahara Hotel and Casino reborn as the SLS (denoting Style, Luxury and Service) in 2014.
The SLS conversion cost a reported $415 million, and the property has since been taken over by Starwood Hotel & Resorts, which ironically at one time was invested in by the Starwood Capital Group that helped bail out the Riviera during a 2010 bankruptcy.
Most of the recent implosions have taken place at the northern end of the Strip, including the El Rancho (2000), Desert Inn (2001), Castaways (2006), Stardust (2007 and New Frontier. Of those properties, only the Desert Inn has transformed into a successful space with The Wynn Las Vegas taking over the area in 2005 at a cost of $2.7 billion.
Businessman Steve Wynn had bought the Desert Inn for $270 million in 2000 before building his signature hotel and casino there and later adding a second sister resort called Encore adjacent to it for $2.3 billion in 2008.